ISO More than a Job: Why Today’s Workers Want a Supportive Workplace Where They Can Put Down Roots

Today’s workers experience more conflict between their work and personal lives than their mothers and fathers did. In 1977, 34 percent of workers reported some kind of conflict between their work and personal lives. By 2008, 46 percent were experiencing that conflict. Some companies, however, are bucking the trend.

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During her career, Air Force veteran Rebecca Helms has worked at some “really great companies and some really horrible companies.” She has found what she hopes is her forever job at MIL.

“On their website, it really stuck out to me that MIL is a government contractor that did not sound like a government contractor,” Helms said. “I pursued MIL pretty hard to get an interview.”

Key MIL benefits for Helms are tuition reimbursement, opportunities to grow, camaraderie similar to what she experienced in the military, the optional family-friendly corporate events, a diverse workplace, and support from management.

Helms took advantage of MIL’s tuition reimbursement to earn certifications in SharePoint and other Microsoft platforms. That enabled her to earn a promotion from technical writer to systems administration specialist. Now, she’s leveraging the program to earn her doctorate.

“I’m working on my Ph.D. in educational leadership right now,” Helms said. “The fact that MIL offers tuition reimbursement is amazing.”

Across MIL, there are numerous stories of employees who have earned college degrees while working there. Within reason, the company helps employees meet both their work obligations and their class schedules, COO Marisa Daley said.

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“When my assistant came to MIL, she was working toward her bachelor’s degree,” Daley said. “I’ve been able to work around her class schedule every semester. She graduates this May.”

Another employee on one of Daley’s teams started as a proposals and public relations coordinator and then earned a second master’s degree via through tuition reimbursement program. “She told me she never could have done it without the flexibility and support,” Daley said.

Helms, who has worked at the company’s South Carolina location for almost five years, is impressed with the company’s commitment to retain talented workers.

“On one of my first days, a senior vice president told me, ‘If you ever feel bored, not challenged by your work, please talk to me before you leave, and we’ll find you something else,’” Helms recalled. “For a senior vice president to talk to an everyday worker—that’s a first. They try to keep talent. The message is: we take care of our people, and our people take care of the company. They give you wings to do your job to the best of your ability. I have no intention of leaving.”

That commitment held true for the proposals and public relations coordinator who earned a second master’s degree. “When she finished her degree, we considered it, as well as the work she put in, and gave her a raise,” Daley said. “She could have taken her degree and her experience and walked into another firm. Rather than have that happen, we said, ‘Why don’t we pay you what you deserve.’ MIL would much rather figure out ways to retain people.”

Daley, who worked for a number of big firms before coming to MIL, said staff members at these other companies sometimes leave because of the expectation to work unpaid overtime.

“At one company, we had about 400 hours of expected overtime a year with training, networking, and business development,” Daley said. “I had employees who were very capable and experienced tell me, ‘I’m tired of giving 400 hours of free time.’ The culture at MIL is very different.”

Early in her MIL tenure, the president told the executive leadership team to avoid sending emails at 5 p.m. on Friday that required action—even if there was no expectation the worker would begin work on the task until Monday, Daley recalled.

“He told us, ‘What person wants to leave for their weekend with this long email requiring action to think about. I’d prefer you wait until Monday to send it,’” Daley said.

Company leaders are clear about their expectations, Helms said. “You know what you’re supposed to do,” she said.

Helms also appreciates the optional after-hours concerts, special events, and other team-building exercises that help build workplace loyalty and cohesion.

“The unity and the camaraderie feels like my previous Air Force units,” she said. “There’s a feeling of, ‘No matter what, we’ve got your back. We’ll get through it.”

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