Vaco Richmond prioritizes employee autonomy
2023 BEST PLACES TO WORK — LARGE EMPLOYERS WINNER
The pandemic put a damper on workplace culture, which was particularly difficult for service-oriented organizations like Vaco, a Tennessee-based national staffing and consulting firm with an office in Richmond.
Recruiters and salespeople are typically more social and outgoing, so adjusting to a remote — and now hybrid — working environment has been a challenge for the firm.
“Trust was put back into the employees’ hands,” says Amy Miller, a managing partner with Vaco Richmond. “We’ve had to get creative with our culture because of people working in that remote or hybrid environment, not traveling as much, and not getting that face time with leadership and other teams.”
What hasn’t changed in the 17 years that Miller has been with the company, though, is Vaco’s willingness to invest in its employees. Today, this includes a focus on wellness, fitness, community service and even special vacation time.
“We’ve always invested in the whole person — professionally, personally and mentally,” Miller says. “Our commitment is to continuously develop, including our communication, our collaboration, as well as encouraging our team to create their own ‘magical moments’ for themselves, for their direct teams, for their clients, for their candidates.”
On the fitness and wellness front, Vaco Richmond sponsors outings such as hot yoga classes, walking challenges and plant workshops. Plus, the company’s office space includes a massage chair for employees. While Vaco operates on a hybrid work schedule, the company remains flexible on working hours and days employees are expected to be in the office. Most employees work remotely but have the option to come into the office.
Nationwide, Vaco also offers employee memberships to Calm, an app that includes guided meditations. “It’s a focus nationwide to avoid burnout and to make sure that we’re all understanding of each other’s mental space,” Miller says.
Community and philanthropic service are also core to Vaco’s workplace culture. The company operates its own employee-funded 501(c)(3) organization, Vaco Cares, which was “born from the overwhelming desire to help someone in their darkest moment,” Miller says. Vaco Cares provides funding to support colleagues, their immediate families, candidates, consultants and clients in times of need such as natural disasters, fires, deaths, unforeseen illnesses, or debilitating accidents.
Vaco also hosts volunteer days with Richmond organizations such as RVATECH, Junior Achievement of Central Virginia Inc., We Heart Harlie & Friends Foundation, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
A lot of companies tout a “work hard, play hard” mentality, but Vaco takes this a step further by offering multiple trip opportunities. Each year, Vaco offers three trips: Engage the Region, Engage the World, and Vatopia. These trips give employees the chance to meet up with other offices in the region, to meet nationally in Las Vegas with more than 800 other Vaco employees, or for top performers to enjoy a luxury vacation incentive, respectively.
“It’s a service company, so we’re all fairly outgoing and social and enjoy being at networking events,” Miller says. “It’s nice to be able to work from home, but it’s also nice to get back in [person] together.”
While the Engage the Region and Engage the World trips are more like work conferences, Vatopia is a true vacation. Employees set goals with leadership, and if they meet them, they are rewarded with the Vatopia trip and can even bring a plus-one. The company also extends its flexibility to goal setting; if an employee has a major life event such as new parenthood, then their work goals are adjusted accordingly, Miller says. This year, qualifying employees will travel to the Bahamas.
“Employees are the foundation of the success of the company,” Miller says. “Leadership at all levels is really committed to nurturing an environment that invests in our employees.”