Employee owned, SEL pushes quality during growth


Sulaiman Ambusaidi

Kate Wilihite, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories senior program manager, said “you get one of these jobs just out of high school and have that career growth if you come on board and work hard. It’s cool to have that level of opportunity.”

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. (SEL) soared 18 spots past its previous ranking on the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) top 100 list.

The company now sits at No. 34 on the list, which annually recognizes the nation’s largest companies that are at least 50 percent employee-owned.

Grant Godfrey, a recruitment specialist in SEL’s human resources department, said the NCEO recognition is highly encouraging.

“We’re very thankful to be recognized,” he said. “It just reaffirms that we’re doing a good job.”

The NCEO is a private, not-for-profit research organization that collects information on employee stock ownership plans, compensation plans and ownership culture.

SEL became 100 percent employee-owned in 2009 in an effort to sustain their growth, stability and customer focus.

“Over the last few years we have grown quite a bit,” Godfrey said. “Because we are employee-owned, we do have a focus on quality.”

SEL has grown from 1,800 employees worldwide in 2009 to almost 3,700 today.

In a company press release, Chief Operating Officer Luis D’Acosta said, “Employee ownership leads to a unique culture. Whether it is improving processes, making decisions or developing new ideas, employee owners are invested in the company’s success.”

Godfrey said when interns become employee-owners they gain a sense of pride in the company, which in turn boosts quality and productivity.

Public Affairs Manager Tammy Lewis said the effect is like the chicken and the egg. If employees are invested in the company, their work will improve.

Research by the NCEO shows employee-owned companies grow more quickly, have lower turnover and are more financially stable.

According to SEL, employees of these companies accumulate about two to three times more in their retirement plans than do typical employees.