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Posted by Chris Font

An Employee Owner’s Look Behind the Curtain at the Board of Directors

October 17, 2019

Intro

Every couple years Hallam-ICS invites an employee to be a part of the Board of Directors, as the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) Representative. This individual is equal to other members of the board during this time, regarding voting, having their voice heard and providing ideas about what direction the company should head.  To be selected you first need to nominate yourself and explain why you’re interested in the position. The existing board selects a handful of candidates to be interviewed and invites one individual from the pool.

About a year and a half ago I remember getting the email asking for people to nominate themselves, I was interested but wanted to make sure I knew exactly what this role entailed and if I felt I could contribute meaningfully. After some advice and recommendations from my past manager and other past members of the board, I decided to apply and was selected.

More Meaningful Company Involvement

I’ve been with Hallam-ICS about 5 years, and throughout this time I’ve learned many of the ins and outs of the organization.  Being on the board has provided a platform to learn more about the organization we are a part of. The other members of the board, including the outside members, are all very helpful making things clear and are willing to spend additional time explaining something in more detail later if it wasn’t crystal clear to begin with. What was also surprising, and reassuring was that most, if not all, of the discussion topics from the meeting are delivered to the rest of the company at the corresponding company-wide quarterly meeting. This should have been expected because Hallam-ICS prides itself as being “transparent” which I can now attest to.  If it is important and brought up at the board meeting, it will be shared with the rest of the company.  This makes the role of the ESOP representative fairly simple.  Most of the questions people asked me about were along the lines of “how did that come about”, not necessarily the content.esop

So far during my term there are two things that I am really glad to be a part of that I may not have had as big of a role if I was not the ESOP Rep. The first, is helping with the development of our company succession plan.  There are many reasons why this is important but fundamentally, I like how it provides an orderly view of the company.  The succession plan has gone from an idea to being put on paper and developments in the plan have been regular discussion topics during my term.  The second is the (re)establishment of the ESOP Committee.  Together with a team of other dedicated co-owners, we have laid a solid foundation for all-things ESOP. This group is comprised of three subcommittees (Celebration, Education and Improvement) which allows each subgroup to focus on a specific piece of the puzzle.  This results in a better experience for the rest of the organization. Of course, I wanted to be a part of the Education subcommittee, this seemed like the group that would be most receptive to putting out fun videos year-round!

Getting to Know the Whole Hallam-ICS Team

Hallam-ICS TeamIf it isn’t already obvious, I am a people person and I’ve always had the desire to know everyone in the company, hovering around the 100-employee mark I felt this was not something outside my reach. However, I am a part of the North Carolina office, with 80% of the rest of the company not in NC, this made for an interesting challenge. The hard part has been finding something that warranted reaching out to someone new so the conversation wasn’t short and forced. Plus, people are busy, sending emails and even phone calls just don’t have the same effect as popping in and saying hi. As a board member I was given the option to be physically present at each meeting.  This was great! I’d get to go and meet all these people face-to-face and realize how different many of us look from our Skype pictures (Fun Fact:   Michel Bernier is not actually a bike but Jemma Brisbin is actually a dog!). 

Outro

Being the ESOP representative has been very rewarding so far and I am sure it will continue to be for the remainder of my term.  There are many things I like about the term restriction for the ESOP Rep.  It provides a channel for new ideas, from a completely different perspective that regularly exists on the board. It allows individuals of various experience levels to “peek behind the curtain”, and experience how our organization operates. It ensures new issues, or issues that might not be experienced by the regular members of the Board are able to be addressed. 

The experience I am most appreciative is that it provides a ‘reason’ to start up a conversation with anyone in the company.  For people that don’t like small talk, that’s fine, you ask if there is anything going on at work that you think could be going better. Ask if there are any concerns about the way things are looking. What I have found so far is that people are generally happy and excited to be working at Hallam-ICS.  There were still a few awkward moments, many went something to the effect of: “Hi, I’m Chris how’s it going?” “Good.” *look at each other while nodding heads*.  This position would not exist if our company was not owned by its employees and I think it is important to know the people we represent.  Knowing who they are, what they do, and what their concerns are is ultimately better for the organization.  It also allows for an opportunity to make meaningful change and helps the ESOP Rep be more effective in their role!

 

About the author

Chris Font is an Electrical Design Engineer and has been with Hallam-ICS since 2015. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is part of our North Carolina Team. He truly enjoys taking on challenges.

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About Hallam-ICS

Hallam-ICS is an engineering and automation company that designs MEP systems for facilities and plants, engineers control and automation solutions, and ensures safety and regulatory compliance through arc flash studies, commissioning, and validation. Our offices are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and North Carolina and our projects take us world-wide. 

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Topics: Culturally Different, Employee Owned Company, Employee Ownership, ESOP, employee ownership month

Chris Font

By Chris Font

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October 17, 2019

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