March 26, 2012 | last updated June 4, 2012 11:56 am
Best Places To Work 2012

Acsys Interactive puts focus on professional, personal development

The team from Acsys at one of the Hartford Marathon Foundationís X-Treme Scramble Series at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza in Hartford.

At Farmington's Acsys Interactive, a full-service digital agency, management doesn't just talk about work-life balance — it practices it. The company's focus on encouraging both personal and professional growth has created a culture where employees feel supported and respected.

Stan Valencis, president and CEO, said employees get a positive vibe from the work atmosphere, and there's a reason for that.

"If you want to have a good culture, it needs to be authentic; our senior management really cares about the people," Valencis said. "People can sniff out if something's phony. If there's not a genuineness behind it, people feel it."

The employees are clearly happy. Last year alone, the company hired 25 employees, growing 50 percent to nearly 75 people.

"We didn't use any outside recruiting firms to do that," Valencis said. "It was all through employee referrals."

About two and a half years ago, an employee approached management, asking to go on sabbatical in order to spend six months hiking the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. Management agreed to allow him to go, without pay, while assuring him he would have a job when he returned.

"The day he came back, he came in with all his gear and announced he had just completed hiking 2,176 miles and everyone cheered," said Deb Peterson, vice president of human resources. "It was something we wanted to help him do. We thought it would be an experience of a lifetime, and it built up a lot of teamwork, discussions in the hall."

Health and wellness is a priority at Acsys. The company offers a program which includes fitness classes conducted by a company-paid trainer four times a week, fitness and wellness competitions, campus flu shots and health and wellness screenings.

Peterson said the fitness classes are offered both during the workday and in the early evening, allowing employees to take a class before heading home. And, Peterson said, the trainer goes above and beyond just classes.

"If you want to go for a run, he'll get some people together," she said. "People really take advantage of this. They have access to a personal trainer — that's huge."

Other fitness activities include a cycling club, a women's golf group, a kickball league and a tennis tournament. There are bakeoffs, barbecue cooking contests and a beer and wine club, as well as annual outings, parties and picnics.

"I tell them company events are optional, but our participation at these events is 99 percent," Valencis said.

"People are there because they really want to be there with each other. It's kind of like coming to work with your friends every day; it helps you do your best work."

The company's paid time off is lumped together, so employees can use any of their time for any reason, rather than having set vacation, personal and sick days.

"Lunch and Learns" offer employees the opportunity to learn a new skill, either work-related or not, while having lunch with their colleagues.

Employees often offer to teach colleagues about their own outside hobbies, such as photography and cake decorating.

When they're not expanding their horizons outside of their regular work duties, Acsys employees are rewarded for hard work. Every quarter, top performers are recognized with peer-nominated bonuses.

"That's a big thing to get that peer recognition," Valencis said. "They can't just be at the year-end Christmas party."

Art Director Nick Manning, who has worked for Acsys for five years, said Acsys wants its employees to work hard, but also recognizes that they have lives outside of work too.

"They're definitely more flexible," he said. "Home life is a priority for them. They're very flexible by saying, 'Do what you need to do,' (because) there's always someone to pick up the slack for you."

Manning said the company's culture and steady growth have kept him there.

"It's nice to work for a company that seems to be going in the right direction," he said. "There was no growth at my previous company, and here there's so much potential. It's been a great experience for me."

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