To show appreciation to employees for the hard work they do, the Wauconda, Ill.-based Alliance Laser Sales Inc. leadership team started holding team lunches every month. The lunches are also a way for leadership team to share the direction of the company, accomplishments, work anniversaries and "just use it as a celebration time," Alliance Laser Sales Marketing Manager Tony Demakis said.
"We don't talk about anything negative at that point of our day because … it is a way to say 'thank you' to the team that works there and to let them know that they're appreciated and we have gratitude for everything they do on a daily basis," Demakis said.
Alliance, ranked the No. 12 Best Place to Work for 2019, calls itself a "leader in laser welding and laser engraving for the plastic injection industry."
The lunches started about a year and a half ago, but one day the management decided to add another component: an MVP belt for Employee of the Month, similar to the championship belts won in professional wrestling.
When a person wins each month, the belt is engraved with the person's name and lives at the chosen person's desk or department for that month.
There is no precedent that says everybody must win at least once before somebody can win twice, Demakis said.
"If you are putting in the effort and are showing that you care and are committed to what we're trying to do to bring value to customers, then you should win every month," he said. "We really want to recognize the outstanding effort that other people are doing, and that gave us an opportunity."
The leadership team decides on the winner each month; it's not voted by the employees.
"Honestly, most times it's unanimous on who it should be," Demakis said.
Food is also served at the monthly meeting, where it kicks off the event. Cuisine is either grilled by the team or brought in from a local establishment.
"We bring everybody together; you can't just get your food and go walk back to your desk or work area. … We want everybody to sit and eat together and break bread together as a work family," he said, adding that Alliance has had customers showing up lately because they like seeing the way the team members interact with one another.
Alliance recently rolled out its Box of Awesomeness.
"Instead of looking for negativity in people around you, we want people to find and appreciate the positivity of the things that we do," Demakis said. "We have a box and then sheets of paper next to it. What you do is if you see somebody doing something awesome, you write your name on it, write what they did, put it in the box, and then at the end of the month at the team lunch, we'll go through those and just talk about the different things people did, and the person that had the most awesome stuff of the month will get a gift card to a restaurant or something like that."
"Positive" and "stress-free" are emphasized throughout the company.
"I think the company culture is one where we want to eliminate the stress," Demakis said. "Everything in the plastics industry is a high-stress environment, I feel like: tight tolerances, quick deadlines, high demands. There is not much room for error. We really try to be a family company and understand that family comes first."
Alliance employees participate in community efforts such as 5Ks and golf outings to support iWarrors, an organization that provides personalized iPads to injured members of the Armed Forces. The leadership team is also lenient when it comes to time off and unexpected family issues.
"One of the things we stress is trying to make a difference. … It's not about getting another sale or breaking through some huge barrier," he said. "It's just being a person who strives to make a huge difference in the lives of others."