From left, Compass CEO Gary Holcomb, Gray Manufacturing CNC Mill/Turn Machinist Anthony Palermo, and Gray General Manager Jacob Trahan
Compass Precision began its Employee of the Month program in March 2020. It happened just a few months after the company was founded. Compass was born in October 2019 with the simultaneous acquisitions of Advanced Machining & Tooling in Salisbury, NC; Quality Products & Machine in Charlotte, NC; and Tri-Tec Industries, also in Charlotte.
Why do this so quickly, with many other pressing demands of running a brand-new organization? To get some answers, we recently sat down and chatted with Compass CEO Gary Holcomb.
Why was it important to start Compass’s Employee of the Month Program so soon?
To be successful in our business, you need two things – great equipment and great people. These are like an NFL’s team franchise quarterback. Everyone wants one and you can’t win without it. Same with us needing “franchise” machines and employees. But employees walk out the door every night. It is like free agency every day. So we wanted to recognize and applaud the accomplishments of our people on a regular basis.
How did people react when you told them about the program?
Honestly, not everyone was excited. Some thought it was a corporate gimmick, a PR stunt to make the company look good. But a few managers supported it, so we concentrated initially on their parts of the organization. After a few months, people realized we were serious about recognizing and rewarding great performance. I think by the end of 2020, the Doubting Thomas’s had largely gone away.
How do you select the Employee of the Month?
Even though Compass has grown to include seven operating companies, we are still pretty small with about 150 employees. So most of us tend to know who does what and how well. Each month, I talk with our operating company Presidents and General Managers to get nominations. I don’t actually nominate anyone myself, but I always have a few names in mind. Through a collaborative discussion, we pick someone. We tell the selected employee and interview him or her for the announcement story.
Has anyone declined to be Employee of the Month?
Actually, yes. A couple of our top performers thanked us for their selection, but asked that we pick someone else. I was disappointed, but we honored their wishes. Everyone is different, and some personality types shy away from individual recognition. Our culture at Compass recognizes that performance excellence comes in many shapes and sizes. We avoid a one-size-fits-all reward system. I like to think these two individuals went home feeling really good about themselves, even if their accomplishments were not recognized publicly. Informing them accomplished our objective of rewarding great performance, even if we never told anyone else.
With so many good employees, how did you select the very first Employee of the Month?
Actually we didn’t – we picked the first two at the same time. They were Al Farrer and Anthony Palermo, both from Quality Products. Al is an exceptionally talented and experienced employee (who recently was promoted) while Anthony (pictured in photo above) is an up-and-coming rising star. We wanted everyone to know there is no single profile for this honor. The program recognizes outstanding performance, period. I think the diversity of our selections after Al and Anthony shows that.
One last question for now. Do Employees of the Month get automatic raises or bonuses?
Great question, but the answer is no. However, anyone receiving employee of the month recognition, publicly or otherwise, will be at the head of the line when we pass out pay increases and bonuses at year end. But in the meantime, some of our operating companies have elected to give honorees thermally insulated mugs with the individual’s name engraved on it. Actually, the picture of Tri-Tec’s Travis Eudy (October 2022 EOM) that went with his article shows him holding his mug.
For more information about Compass’s Employee of the Month program, or anything else about the company, please contact Compass CEO Gary Holcomb directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.