How Vector CAG transformed its organization in the face of the challenges of remote work

Vector Controls and Automation Group has made the Houston Chronicle’s Best Workplaces list more than any other small business.

Pearland is a distributor of equipment for the oil, gas and petrochemical industries. It has 130 employees, mostly sales people, who work with manufacturers to sell their products and provide simple on-site services such as equipment assembly and calibration. Most of Vector’s work takes place in Texas, but he also does business in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.

Vector ranked 47th this year among small businesses, up from 49th last year. John Blake, the company’s Director of Human Resources, spoke about how the company has become a better place to work over the past year and the work that still needs to be done. This article has been edited for more space and clarity.

Q: In your opinion, what have you done well in the last year? What do you think has earned you points with your employees?

A:
We opened our leadership development program to all levels of the organization, which was new. In previous years, we only trained the managers, the leadership team and maybe a few high potential people. This year, we are doing it with all levels of the organization.

It also helps that we’ve had record year-over-year results, and being part of a winning team has generally been self-reinforcing.

Q: When did it start getting better?

I think it was coming out of COVID that you saw the biggest uptick. 2020 has been pretty awful. That said, we did not lay off any employees. The management team took a pay cut to try to make ends meet. Many of the employees’ friends were laid off and we didn’t. This was much appreciated, although we have to remind them of this periodically, as they all want giant raises now that we are in the big resignation, whatever name we give to this current period.

Q: What was the thinking behind the expansion of the leadership program?

A:
Generally, in most companies, the best forklift driver becomes a warehouse supervisor; the best salesperson becomes a sales leader. And if you give that kind of training from the start to people who may or may not be managers, if they make it into some sort of leadership role, they already have the training – at least the basics – to get into it and to succeed.

Q: Can you explain to us why it feels good to be part of a winning team?

A:
We’ve doubled in size over the past nine years, and added another 30 this year. We’re going to be a 200-person company, and then we’re going to be a 400-person company. This comes with plenty of opportunities for advancement, promotion, and salary increases. There is this progression that happens naturally. It’s very exciting for people, because I can look them in the eye and say, hey, there will be five managers in your department by the end of next year. Do you want to be one? And they watch it happen. We promote people from within all the time.

Q: What do you think are some things that could help make Vector’s workplace even better in the coming year?

A:
The big project is the formal (worker) recognition plan that we will be rolling out at the start of the year. We’re still haggling over what that looks like. The other thing: everyone who works in the Pearland and Houston area is really tight-knit. The problem is that we have an equal number of people working in the field, they are remote, they do not see their managers — there are improvements we can make there.

We know we are in the middle of the pack. We would like to be ahead of the pack. We will research and determine where we are deficient outside of what the survey tells us, and see if there are any unique things we can do. We’re working on some of those things just naturally, like improving overall compensation, benefits design, a bunch of low-hanging fruit in my area of ​​responsibility that we’re going to be getting into next year.

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Aubrey L. Morgan