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HR Magazine, July 2004 - Analytical Graphics Works for It's Workers

Leon Rubis  7/1/2004
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HR Magazine, July 2004

Vol. 49, No. 7

Analytical Graphics Inc.
220 Valley Creek Blvd.
Exton, PA 19341

Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI) of Exton, Pa., works hard to ease the intense work lives of a staff loaded with the proverbial “rocket scientists.” It's aerospace, electrical and software engineers develop mission-critical software that helps analyze and visualize data from missiles, jets, rockets and satellites for commercial and military aerospace uses, including NASA’s space shuttle.

Revenues at this fast-growing 15-year-old company soared 47 percent last fiscal year to $42 million, yet employees describe management as “relaxed,” “laid back” and “easy to talk to.”

“There’s lots of hard work, but it doesn’t feel like work all the time,” says software engineer Bill Williams. The company “treats you with respect and appreciates the work and effort you put in.”

Employees often describe the company culture as “like a family.” AGI encourages that feeling by providing free food, generous services and a personal touch in dealing with employees. The company serves daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners, to which family members are invited. Its kitchen and pantries offer free snack foods and drinks. The entire headquarters staff meets Friday for hot lunches and “story time” -- during which the CEO and other employees update everyone on company performance figures, activities and news.

The free-flowing food encourages teamwork and camaraderie, employees say, while making their work lives easier and more productive. Other free family-style perks include a laundry room with free washers, dryers and supplies; a well-equipped fitness room; and free holiday gift-wrapping. For nominal fees, employees can take advantage of other services, such as dry cleaning, oil changes, car washes, flower delivery and shoeshines.

CEO and co-founder Paul Graziani justifies the generous perks by pointing to the staff ’s productivity, citing 3 million total lines of net computer code written and current sales per employee of $260,000. “Someone said to me one time: ‘You serve dinner to get people to stay late,’ ” he recalls. “My response was: ‘Absolutely not—we serve dinner because people are staying late.’ ”

Williams says he often spends 12 hours a day at AGI, but acknowledges some of that time is spent doing laundry, socializing over meals and using the fitness center. The company’s willingness to go the extra mile for employees extends beyond benefits. Eric Stallmer, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist and Army reservist who has been with the company for three years, praises the care he and his wife received during his year-long call-up to Korea, Kuwait and Iraq. Company officials frequently called and visited his wife, sent him care packages every other week, and gave him a laptop computer and a hand-held GPS locator that was better than his Army-issued equipment.

Other employees say they get a warm-and-fuzzy feeling from the special attention they receive on a daily basis. “HR gives a damn,” says aerospace engineer Wes Bradley. “They really try to go out of their way to do the little perky things” that ease employees’ lives.

HR Director Lisa Velte says she consciously strives for the personal touch. “We’ll do anything to make it easy for employees—handholding, filling out forms. We have a very different mentality than [that of] employee self-service.” For example, managers have the option of administering performance reviews and raises either on employees’ anniversary dates or all at once, annually. “We try not to force things on the managers,” sparing HR the “police” image it has in some companies, says Velte.

—Leon Rubis

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