Best Companies to Work For: 2014
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Terso Solutions: Taking Inventory
When you’re operating in the competitive technology sector and you must find the skill sets you need, it helps to operate in the growing technology cluster that Madison is working to develop. And when you offer a long-overdue solution to a problem that has bedeviled an industry under duress, the workforce development stakes are high. Joe Pleshek, president and CEO of Terso Solutions, runs such a company, and that’s why he’s put a great deal of thought into the company’s benefits package.
Thumbs up to Joe Pleshek (front right) and his staff at Terso Solutions for crafting a benefits package that competes in Madison’s hot IT sector.
As a small employer, Terso Solutions is not subject to the ACA’s employer mandate, but the pressure to provide a good benefits package comes from another source. Terso employs 29 people, 26 of them in Madison and three in a subsidiary in Mannheim, Germany. It might be a small workforce, but it’s a broad one because the information technology-centric company has both mechanical and electrical engineers as well as people who assemble hardware in a manufacturing capacity, and it places a major emphasis on software development and software engineering.
Pleshek notes that these roles, particularly IT roles, are highly sought after, but Terso is competing for talent with many well-known technology firms in Greater Madison. It must therefore be competitive in terms of salary and benefits in a high-paying sector while creating the right culture to attract and retain employees with the skills it needs.
Given the company’s modest size, Terso Solutions’ score on the health care portion of the Best Company survey was very impressive, but its perfect score in the wellness category is what really set it apart from other small companies. Terso doesn’t have a cafeteria or a café at its facility, but the company brings in fresh fruit on a weekly basis, and it’s free for employees to snack on. Once per month, it offers a catered, healthy lunch, and it has brought in a nutritionist to conduct a seminar on healthy eating. The company offers employees the chance to work with her, free of charge, on an initial consultation, and then it’s pay as you go from there.
Terso Solutions also provides Fitbits to employees to help them monitor the number of steps they take, and it has arranged some fitness challenges around that.
The company’s focus on wellness and the basics of living a healthy life isn’t prohibitively expensive, and Pleshek sees cost benefits from the investment. “From a wellness perspective, with the Affordable Care Act and all the things that are happening with helping to educate people on the changes that are happening in health care costs, if you are living a healthier life you are probably going to pay less for health care in some way,” he stated. “If you are not, you are probably going to pay more.”
The willingness of U.S. hospitals to pay more for inventory is the reason Terso Solutions was founded. The company provides automated inventory management products for tracking high-value medical and scientific products in health care and life sciences. The company has deployed more than 1,400 RFID-enabled cabinets, freezers, and refrigerators around the world, and business continues to be good, with hospitals, medical device companies, and other health care industry players trying to remove costs from their systems in a low-reimbursement environment. Better inventory management could play a role in removing those costs.
“What has happened in the past, and rightly so, is that being out of stock of a high-value medical product was not acceptable,” Pleshek said. “It just can’t happen from a patient safety perspective. So the old way of doing things has been just to overstock hospitals and clinics with inventory to ensure that nothing runs out of stock.”
Hospital nursing staffs have traditionally tracked and counted this inventory manually. Nurses have devoted precious time to counting inventory and making sure none of the products are past their expiration dates. “Our solution is being looked at as a way to automate those processes and to bring visibility to the inventory on hand, and what’s just been consumed, so that you can put less inventory in the supply chain, thus reducing a lot of cost and then just saving people time, especially nursing staff,” Pleshek explained.
When it comes to employee attraction and retention, Pleshek believes time is better spent on one-on-one professional development. To stretch employees professionally and expose them to different areas of the business, the company gives them projects that might be out of their comfort zone. As a result, Pleshek has seen employees not only grow professionally but also grow in value to the company.
With health care transformation driving a real growth opportunity for Terso Solutions, the company expects enough growth to add staff. Without its approach to employee benefits, Pleshek noted that it might have been impossible for Terso to have approved an expansion plan to add 10 positions across the organization in the next 12 months.
“This is why it’s so important to have good benefits and an overall program because as you grow, it’s all about finding and retaining good talent that wants to be part of a growth organization.”