Courtney Scott, Director of People and Culture at INCOG BioPharma Services, shares what they do to engage their employees and why they do not look for candidates to fit in with their culture.
As a start-up organization, they applied for the award without the intention of making the list. What they have learned about their employees on this journey has been more beneficial than they ever expected.
We discussed the impact of what earning their first award has had on recruitment, what they do to keep top talent, and what Courtney has learned along her award application experience.
What do your employees say makes INCOG BioPharma Services a place your employees want to work?
INCOG opened approximately 18 months ago. Since then, they have been working to build their values and define what those values mean to the team, and to each individual employee. During their launch into 2022, they asked their employees to share what working at INCOG means to them:
- True team concept – Everyone is pointing in the same direction and has a shared purpose and mission which is to create lifesaving drugs.
- Opportunity to create an impact – Employees are eager to produce products and to be a part of this start up and be involved from the beginning.
They have set their organization up for significant growth, and their employees want to be part of the journey to be in service of the broader community.
“Our employees joined to make an impact on many different levels.” said Courtney
How do you know when you are speaking with a candidate if they are going to fit in well with your organization?
Due to the technical nature of the roles for which they hire, Courtney screens for skills prior to a candidate coming in for a conversation. They do treat their interviews as more of a conversation than an interview. As they are assessing candidates for their potential fit within the organization, they are looking for key terms such as a “we”. INCOG BioPharma is still in the start-up phase and that requires employees to wear multiple hats, which is why a “We are a team” versus “I” approach is so what Courtney is looking to hear.
They also look for an understanding behind the candidate’s “why”, and ask candidates, “What is your WHY for joining?”
Most employees do have a different “why” for joining this organization, but they all do celebrate a common theme of wanting to make an impact or wanting to join a team where they have an opportunity to work alongside all-star colleagues. Several of these team members have worked together previously and welcome working with these talented individuals again.
Lastly, Courtney utilizes a tool called Predictive Index to help them understand the natural drives and needs of the individuals they are looking at bringing on the team before they extend an offer. They want to create an environment where their candidates will be successful and have found that Predictive Index supplements those hiring decisions.
Tell me about the strategies you are using to retain key talent after you have hired them.
As INCOG has grown to a team of 56 in 18 months, with projected growth to 100 in the next six to nine months. Courtney anticipates that retention strategies will evolve over time.
Their focus today has been to foster a “build” or “dream” state from production, services and facilities. They are building and testing their dreams up until this point and will be moving to a production state. Their focus will be shifting from how they will help their “dreamers” move into full operation mode.
“How we get our dreamers to move into execution is a very different retention strategy than when we’re in full execution mode and we’re trying to get people aligned with either our growth strategy, adding on additional lines or changing products, or continuing to improve the environment in which we’re in.”
Retention now is helping dreamers keep dreaming, and also focus on growth. And for those who are builders, ensuring they are in an environment where they are best suited to perform.
“Thinking about placements of people going forward, we are putting folks where we believe that they can be successful and where their aspirations match the belief by the organization that’s going to take a lot of finesse to work through.”
As you are going through your growth, how do you make sure you are keeping your employees engaged?
“We look at engagement through the lens of our values.”
INCOG has 3 values:
- All In – Whether it’s the little things like taking out the trash or raising their hand to help on a project, it’s how employees step up to help.
- Lean Forward – Leaning into challenges at a start-up can be a constant. They look to employees to lean into conversations around problem solving.
- Peer Recognition – They hold All INCOG conversations meetings for all employees. Employees here recognize others based on their corporate values. This gives Courtney a strong indication on how engaged their employees are.
“I can tell you who is engaged. I can tell you who is not engaged. We’re working to figure out for those folks that we’ve identified that aren’t engaged, what can we do to help. If someone’s not engaged, it’s our fault, it’s not theirs.”
How would you define your workplace culture, and how do you evaluate what is or is not working?
Courtney says their workplace culture is based on their values, and she believes that their culture is embedded. How do they know if things are working? They base it on employee behaviors.
Employees talk about their values. Their values are not posted in the building, they are shared with the new employees during orientation. They would like to improve upon promoting the values, but the values are commonly known and communicated.
Social hubs, such as their cafeteria, are open environments where employees can gather to socialize or talk about work projects. They look to these behaviors to evaluate how the culture is doing.
Their C-Suite and VP teams are visible, approachable and interact with the teams. They involve themselves in employee conversations and work hard to listen more than they talk. They do these activities intentionally to promote a healthy workplace culture.
“We’re not looking for people to fit into the culture. We want them to accelerate it.”
INCOG looks for talent to accelerate their culture, not someone who will conform to it. They do want talent to bring their unique experiences, diverse background of ideas to the organization to help accelerate the culture, not just to fit in it.
How are your executives intentionally driving a growth culture?
“We all own culture”, said Courtney
Everyone on the INCOG team has a shared goal, and that is to accelerate the culture. They do this by living the values of the organization and empowering the people on their teams to do the same.
They do see ways in which they can improve in this area, and they ask the people of the organization often, “How can I help?” Courtney is very passionate about their organization having a service mindset. They work to be servant leaders not only to their customers, but within their organization to their colleagues, peers and everyone on the org chart.
You have earned your first Best Places to Work award. How did you get your leadership team on board with applying for the award?
INCOG has an aspiration to be an employer of choice. They did not set out to win a best workplace award. As their organization was growing, they questioned what they could do to set themselves on the path to becoming an employer of choice.
Courtney shared a story of when they were in their first facility, and the special feeling you could sense when you entered their location at Launch Fishers prior to moving to their current location. As they prepared for their move, and their desire to maintain that ‘feeling’, they decided to see what happens when they apply for Best Places to Work.
As mentioned, their goal was not to win the award. Their goal was to capture the information of their employer competition in the Indy area. They wanted to get an insight into what other organizations were doing as they set a foundation to become an employer of choice. They felt their best-case scenario was that they would get information so that they could compare what they offer to what other organizations offered.
Courtney and the leadership team were completely surprised when they went from a “Let’s see what happens” approach to being named a Best Place to Work in Indiana!
“We had never planned to be there. The fact that we landed where we did, I mean just blew us out of the water. It just blew our expectations away!” Courtney stated when describing the Best Places to Work in Indiana awards banquet.
Now that you have earned a Best Places to Work award, what do you plan to do to maintain this status?
Courtney humbly replied that they are still figuring this out. They do have ideas of changes they need to make, but what she knows for certain,
“Earning the award was the easiest part, although we never intended it. Maintaining it is going to be the hardest part.”
As their team grows from 31 employees when they applied, to now nearly 60 employees, they have nearly doubled the number of employees along with growing changes to their organization. Courtney and her team are consistently looking to understand what their teams need. They are doing little things like bringing in food and chair massages for employees working long hours but also empowering their people leaders to provide for their team in other areas that may be needed.
“We are hopeful our people leaders will lead us down the path to helping keep us a Best Place to Work.”
As INCOG continues their aspiration to become an employer of choice this will hold true as they are continuing to recruit top talent. They want people to know the story of INCOG BioPharma. They want candidates to want to be part of their ongoing story.
Their hope is that candidates will run to work at their organization, not run away from somewhere else. They want candidates to intentionally choose INCOG just as much as they are intentionally choosing the candidate to join them.
How did your employees respond when you told them you were applying for Best Places to Work in Indiana? And how did you share the findings of the survey?
The employees were happy to be part of it! They want to be an advocate for INCOG. They employees were proud to be a part of the journey.
“It was more fun to tell them that we won.”
Courtney and the leadership team did share the survey findings with the employees, and asked questions about how they could get better. Their focus was the employee experience and how they could make the process better for them in the future.
Celebrations are always fun, and it was important to INCOG to include their teams with the celebration. They did invite employees on a first come basis to attend the banquet. Courtney also sent a message out to all employees as soon as they found out the award results.
As an HR professional, what have you learned the most about applying for a workplace award?
Courtney is learning that her employees are culture accelerators, Courtney has also learned that winning this award is absolutely possible. And, she is also learning, “It’s not just an ‘HR thing’.”
She has also learned that there is more growth for them to learn about how to maintain a Best Place to Work status. She is concerned that they may have underestimated the amount of work as a people leader it takes to maintain this award status. Courtney plans to reinforce this consistently and to lead her team to focus on this initiative, even when times get busy, and priorities overlap.
“It’s learning that we just have a lot more work to do as we think about cultural ownership and how we embody it going forward. How do we continue to adjust and make our culture to fit our organization, recognizing that our organization’s needs will change, and the culture has to be stable enough that we continue to stay rooted in our values, but adaptable enough it can mold to the needs of the organization.”
What is the one biggest benefit to INCOG by being named a Best Place to Work?
Earning this award has helped INCOG recruit talent that they may not have otherwise been on the radar. It has helped them also solidify their culture. As candidates ask about their culture, earning this award has helped them to validate what their employees say about working at INCOG.
“It’s not about winning. It’s about the acknowledgement of what we’ve attempted to build.”
As one of the first employees at INCOG, Courtney helped build the team at INCOG. They focused on finding culture accelerators and continuing to grow the organization. Even early on, with that small team, Courtney felt NCOG was going to be something special.
In closing, I ask all organizations being interviewed for this Award-Winning Workplace series this question…What is your success story that you want the striveHR audience to know about INCOG BioPharma Services, and how you have not only earned, but maintained an award-winning workplace status.
Courtney shared a story of she and her CEO selecting paint colors for the new facility. They laughed as they were spending a Thursday afternoon deciding what colors to select. Before they knew it, their estimated 27 employees at the time were all in the paint colors discussion. They quickly learned it wasn’t about selecting paint colors. She recalled as she took a step back and watched all 27 people gathered around to make these decisions. It solidified for her “all in” and “being of service”. They were concerned about the experience employees and customers may feel when in the space. She said it may have seemed silly at the time, but it cemented the team. It didn’t matter your role. It didn’t matter how long you had been with the company. They were collective, and “all in” on decisions to be made. Their values were clearly displayed that day.
As proud as Courtney and the team at INCOG were to win their first Best Place to Work in Indiana award, they also realized that maintaining that award may be their biggest challenge ahead. This organization has one thing specifically working for them and that is their dedication to their corporate values, which they will be leaning towards during their journey. They did the first critical step, which is to share the findings with the teams. Organizations that involve their leadership team and employees in setting goals based on those findings are more likely to succeed in maintaining their award status. This isn’t an HR or leadership initiative. It’s an organization initiative. The more people you can involve in reviewing, goal setting, idea generation and execution, the more ownership all employees will take in making changes, and the more empowered your employees will feel in earning and maintaining your award-winning workplace designation.
Did hearing this success story motivate you to learn more? Check out the 6 Perks to Becoming an Award-Winning Workplace.
If you would like to nominate your organization to be interviewed on our blog, email striveHR to start the conversation.
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