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Updated: March 2, 2020

Transparency, role clarity engender employee loyalty at Cooperative Systems

(Top photo) Cooperative Systems employees volunteer at Connecticut Humane Society and hold several team-building activities (shown above), including an annual family summer outing like an Essex Sail.

Winner: Small/Medium Companies

Headquarters: Windsor

Industry: Technology


Twitter: @coopsys

Top executives: Robert J. DeLisa, Founder Bob DeLisa’s father literally wrote the book on managing a company: “The Unforgettable Boss: The Seven Fundamentals of Managing and Motivating,” published in 2014.

In the book, the veteran business consultant outlines strategies for effective leadership in enterprises of all sizes, with a focus on communication and clarity of roles.

The younger DeLisa has applied his father’s lessons on how to optimize employee performance to great success in his own firm, Windsor’s Cooperative Systems.

“His book is a foundation for what we do,” Bob J. DeLisa said. “This company is just running on all cylinders, and it’s because of the people.”

Founded in 1993, Cooperative Systems provides IT consulting and technology services to small and medium-sized businesses. Key to the company’s growth has been attracting and retaining highly skilled engineers, salespeople and service staff despite Connecticut’s tight tech job market.

The company keeps its talented people happy by providing clear performance metrics for both employees and the company itself, said President Scott Spatz. Managers create a development plan for each worker with discrete steps for advancement.

“By way of personal development and skills development, we have a path for growth for everybody in the company,” Spatz said.

“It’s very difficult to retain the talent if you don’t provide ways to grow,” DeLisa said. “You’re going to lose your best people.”

Performance-based bonuses help motivate excellence and employees see a clear path for advancement, he added. Many staff members start on the service desk and then move on to positions in systems engineering, account management, sales and marketing.

Hiring is done based less on a resume than on the company’s core values: Employees should be personable, accountable, adaptable and dedicated to success. Applicants are interviewed by entire departments that evaluate candidates on those values.

“We’re really transparent in our interview process,” DeLisa said. “If someone comes across that really fits our core values, we’re going to do our best to fit them into a position.”

Once at the company, workers benefit from a generous work-from-home policy and perks like weekly massages and a break room stocked with healthy snacks. Team-building events include outings like axe-throwing, virtual reality experiences and “Bring Your Kids/Furbabies to Work Day.”

Transparency is also crucial to Cooperative Systems’ success, the executives agreed. The company’s performance and goals are explained in detail to all staff, along with metrics outlined for the next quarter, year and five years.

Performance goals are broken down into attainable segments under Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) methodology and workers are encouraged to appreciate the impact of their individual efforts.

Since implementing EOS, Cooperative Systems has seen a dramatic difference in employee engagement, Spatz said.

“The biggest change is that [employees] all have a sense of participation in it now,” he said. “They know how their individual daily efforts are contributing to goals and objectives that benefit everybody … . They are seeing results.”

A motivated workforce is needed to adjust to a rapidly changing technology sector, DeLisa said. The company has shifted its focus over the years from consumers to businesses seeking to optimize their use of technology like database services.

“When we take on a client we’re making a long-term commitment to that client,” DeLisa said.

Even small tweaks to the workplace can improve staff morale, DeLisa added. Employees are encouraged to take part in a short monthly survey on the work environment that has 80% participation. The survey results are then reviewed by the management team, which creates action items to address employee concerns.

Recent actions have included the purchase of ergonomic office furniture and changes to the heating and cooling systems to make workstations more comfortable.

“Communication and transparency have been a big push for us to ensure that every employee’s got a voice,” Spatz said. “Everybody’s invested in ensuring that the company is run well and that there’s effective collaboration within each of the departments. It benefits everyone.”

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