Best Places to Work: #3 Small Employer is LAN Systems

Earth Day 2015 PR1Allison Shirreffs,

LAN Systems CEO Mary Hester wasn’t convinced her company’s top three finish in last year’s Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Best Places to Work competition wasn’t a fluke. “This is a tough business,” she says of the IT solutions business. “We can’t always make our employees happy.”

Don’t tell that to LAN Systems employees. It appears Hester and LAN Systems’ senior leaders have created an environment where employees are happy more often than they’re not—because they’re back in the No. 3 spot in the small employer category in the 2015 Best Places to Work contest.

“I work with a team of dedicated people that I can count on, even when we are busy and more importantly when the stress levels are high,” said a LAN Systems employee in a survey taken as part of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Best Places to Work program. “Our leadership and peers are always looking for ways to harness the opportunities we have to make us better at our job, and to offer the best solutions available to our clients.”

So why does Hester think LAN Systems is back in the top three for a second year in a row? “Because we worked so hard to work together.” Technology, Hester explained, isn’t only intimidating to non-techies, it’s intimidating to tech people as well. “Because it changes all the time,” she added. The company has an in-house technology lab so that employees can get up to speed on the latest technology without doing so on a client’s server. LAN Systems also launched a “Sherpa program” late last year: New hires are assigned to a more experienced staff member so that they can bounce ideas off of others and have a safe way to learn industry best practices. “The Sherpa program has helped people to feel comfortable and to learn more,” said Hester.

LAN Systems’ employees are encouraged to identify areas of focus that interest them and let senior management know so they can help employees chart a course to get them there. “People are more engaged and successful if they’re doing what they want to do,” Hester said. “It’s not totally altruistic. There are things we ask them to put their effort toward.” There are training opportunities, including online courses, for employees to get up to speed on new technologies.

Because it’s a small company, LAN Systems employees often cross paths on projects and, as a result, the company decided to put their heads together and design a “best practice analysis” template for LAN Systems clients. In order for the template to be meaningful, it needs to be uniformly implemented and evaluated. To accomplish the task, Hester needs “everyone on board,” she said. “People are so invested in tech and they need it and need to understand where the benefit is. We help [clients] find a competitive advantage through tech.”

All qualified potential hires meet with Hester before they talk with anyone else. “People who work here have to believe that a rising tide raises all boats,” she explained. “We’re all in it together.” Potential hires are also given a short cognitive test. “Not to test people to death,” she said. “Just to get a baseline.” It’s not just new hires that get tested. To improve work productivity, teamwork, and communication, Hester launched interpersonal skills training last year using DiSC personality assessments. This year, she had a college professor come out to help employees with emotional intelligence training.

LAN Systems has worked with several non-profits and Hester herself donates her time to outreach with women via groups such as Women in Technology. “Tech is changing our future. It’s here to stay,” she said. “There’s no better way for women — for anybody — to have a rewarding career or be successful climbing the ladder than to have technological ability.”

About Mary

Mary is the CEO of LAN Systems. She is an electrical engineer who feels her greatest strength is the ability to connect with people. LAN Systems provides IT managed services and solutions to growing companies and non-profit organizations. You can contact Mary at mary@lansystems.com.

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