Investing in employees
SNVC rewards effort and makes commitment to training
- January 28, 2012
Toward the end of each month, most of the employees at SNVC, a Fairfax County-based IT and network solutions company, gather for lunch and an awards ceremony. Occasionally, representatives from corporate clients or contractors who are working with an honoree join the pizza-and-cake party.
The awards presented at these luncheons range from handwritten thank-you letters with a $25 gift card to the Spirit of Innovation Award and the CEO Platinum Coin, awards of more than $1,000 each. “We set aside a pretty good chunk of money to recognize employees for their efforts in alignment with our business objectives,” says Tom DeWitt, CEO, president and founder of the veteran-owned business. These awards recognize innovation and exceptional performance, and there’s even a way for employees to nominate their peers for their work. “It’s part of our culture,” says DeWitt. “You can’t expect people to do an outstanding job and then not recognize them for doing it.”
Employees who are marking their first-, third- or seventh-year anniversary with the company receive a catalog from which they can select a gift. Employees marking the milestone fifth- or 10th-year anniversary each receive a $1,000 cash bonus, says Beth Miller-Herholtz, the company’s vice president of strategic development, marketing and communications.
SNVC has primarily served government agencies, but with the April 2011 acquisition of Virginia Beach-based Advanced Data, the company has been making more inroads with the private sector.
DeWitt, a retired Army major, says the military focus on getting the job done carries over to a service-based business such as a network solutions provider. “People are a big piece of the puzzle,” he says. So DeWitt continually thinks of how he can improve their experience. “Some time ago, I was driving in to the office and stopped to fill up my gas tank. Gas was about $4 a gallon, and I was thinking about how that was impacting our employees,” he recalls. He decided to create a $50 a month allowance for gas, which was added to paychecks until the price of gas began dropping again. “All the profits can’t go into the bank. Some need to go to the people who work for us,” he says.
One result is a work force where the employees also look out for each other. After the death of an employee’s 4-hour-old infant, for example, SNVC employees since 2007 have formed a team each year to walk for the charity March of Dimes, Miller-Herholtz says. The collective total for the five-year effort has been nearly $50,000.
SNVC, which takes its name from a common acronym for innovative tech upstarts — “a small Northern Virginia company,” — invests in its employees in several ways, including upfront payments for continuing education. “Many companies reimburse for education, but we provide the voucher so there’s no need for an employee to lay out any cash. For a young work force, with employees who have college debt, we want to remove the obstacle of getting their technical certification,” says DeWitt. The company recently finalized an agreement with Learning Tree International, which will provide access to IT and management certification classes.
SNVC established the Institute for Leadership Values in March 2010 at Longwood University, DeWitt’s alma mater. SNVC employees attend two-day programs at Longwood based on Stephen Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
In 2008, the company began a nonprofit organization, the Aurora Foundation, which works with various educational programs and universities to help veterans get college degrees and move into the civilian work force.
One of those veterans is Robert Frese, who, after five years in the Marine Corps, graduated from the University of Maryland with a business degree last year and is now pursuing a master’s degree in Persian studies.
The Aurora Foundation matched him with the Washington Scholars program and a summer internship at Military Families United. Each week, he rotated through departments such as media relations, account management and finance. Frese spent his winter break completing a second internship in the business and finance department of SNVC. “Working with the Aurora Foundation means I didn’t have to apply to umpteen jobs. I sent in my résumé … they responded to me within hours,” he says.