2016 Best Places to Work in Baton Rouge: No. 1 small and medium-sized company
Sigma Consulting Group celebrated its 29th anniversary recently with a cook-out and party for employees. Photography by Brian Baiamonte
SIGMA CONSULTING GROUP | 10305 Airline Highway
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: A privately owned civil engineering and surveying company headquartered in Baton Rouge, with a regional office in Pensacola, Florida. Sigma has been serving governmental, industrial and private sector clients along the Gulf Coast since 1987, providing innovative ideas and sound solutions to engineering challenges that improve communities and enhance quality of life. The firm offers a variety of engineering, surveying and project delivery services including civil, structural, transportation, coastal, program management, water resources and land development, as well as control, topographic and boundary surveying.
TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 35
STANDOUT BONUS OR BENEFIT: Project performance and Christmas bonuses.
WHAT EMPLOYEES LOVE: Open communication with management, an excellent pay and benefits program, a flexible work schedule, fully vested 401(k) contribution by company, profit sharing and three social events each year.
Sigma Consulting Group has built a team of fiercely loyal and highly engaged employees by empowering them to succeed—and rewarding them handsomely.
Fourteen of Sigma Consulting Group’s 35 employees have worked for the firm for more than a decade. Four of them have been with the company for more than 25 years, and six for more than 15 years.
High retention rates are a point of pride for the Baton Rouge-based engineering consulting firm—and an obvious indicator of its successful company culture. Not only are employees treated as valued team members and given their fair share of financial benefits, but they also feel their work at Sigma positively impacts the local community.
Sigma serves governmental, industrial and private clients along the southern Gulf Coast, but most of its work is done in the public sector and includes major local projects, such Interstate 10 studies in Baton Rouge, the parishwide sewer upgrade program and parts of the comprehensive Green Light Plan for roadway improvements.
“From my perspective, it’s a pretty neat work environment, and there is important work being done,” says president Miles Williams. “I think that’s one of the things that keeps people here. It’s fulfilling.”
The company also strongly believes that if it’s productive and profitable, those profits should be shared with all who help generate them. That translates into excellent pay and financial benefits, and happy employees. Benefits include comprehensive health care, profit sharing, bonuses and fully vested 401(k) plans with a 3% company contribution.
On top of financial perks, Sigma touts flexible work hours. A number of employees work four 10-hour days each week and have Fridays off. During the summer, they can adjust their schedules to accommodate arrangements with their kids.
Having trusted employees and open communication with management makes flexibility at Sigma possible. Building a staff of trusted and loyal employees starts with good hiring practices.
“We’re selective in our hiring process, so we really think we’re getting quality people who want to be part of a team,” says chief engineer Greg Sepeda. “Everyone pulls their own weight.”
When companies have the kind of quality employees that Sigma does, they can focus on managing their work instead of managing people. “We’ll guide them and mentor them, but we’re not having to micromanage individuals,” Sepeda explains. “That goes a long way.”
Sigma’s robust hiring process has also produced a relatively diverse workplace, Williams says. Two of Sigma’s 11 engineers are women, and 20% of employees are minorities.
“When you set out to build a business and a culture based on quality production, it’s amazing how you end up with some diversity at the same time,” Williams says.
And when new hires join Sigma, they tend to stay. The company had a 13% voluntary turnover rate last year, compared to a 31% industry average.
Sigma, founded in 1987, has developed a reputation that has even attracted a few high-profile figures, Williams says, such as a former director of the Department of Public Works and a former chief engineer at the Department of Transportation and Development.
“When they had plenty of choices of where to work,” he says, “they decided this is the best place for them.”
Sepeda decided Sigma was the best place for him after a friend continually urged him to consider joining the team.
“My college roommate worked here, and he kept approaching me once a year, saying, ‘Hey, I work at this good place. I think you would fit right in. Why don’t you come talk to them?’” Sepeda recalls. “And I’ve been here 19 years now.”
Michael Somme, project manager and business development coordinator, says what impresses him the most about Sigma is the firm’s collaborative environment. Everyone is involved in working on projects, even when they have to stay late to meet deadlines. He recalls a particular project that didn’t wrap up until 1 a.m., and everyone stayed to get it done.
“Doesn’t matter rank or title,” he says, “everyone was here.”
The collaboration between employees contributes to a cohesive company culture in which employees truly feel like they’re part of a team. The company is close-knit and family-oriented, Williams says. It hosts a number of annual social events, such as a spring crawfish boil and a Christmas party, and employees sometimes go out to dinner together after completing a big job.
Sigma has now placed in the top three of Business Report’s Best Places to Work three years in a row: finishing third in 2014 and second in 2015. Of the many awards Williams and his firm have received through the years, he says he’s most proud of this one.
“One thing that makes me proudest about this specific award is I never once initiated it or pushed us to do it,” Williams says. “It came through the employee ranks. That’s one of the coolest things.”