An Award Winning Culture Explained: A Look into Innovative Employee Solutions

by Feb 6, 2017

Innovative Employee Solutions has an amazing culture! How did a local, San Diego company who offers an Employer of Record payrolling service that most people don’t know exists develop into one of San Diego’s best places to work 9 years running? It’s simple really – Empowered employees, trust and transparency.

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. 3 years ago, I was frustrated and unfulfilled in my current role selling credit card processing services in a B2B outside sales environment. One day after work I had an epiphany – I am great at sales and I love doing it, why don’t I forget all of my previous experience and seek out a sales role at a really great company. Who cares what industry they are in, I just want to work for a company who cares about its people and where employees are happy to come to work. The aforementioned SDBJ Best Places to Work list was the first search result in Google and the next thing I knew I was headed down to IES for interview.

Fast forward and I have had 3 amazing years with many accomplishments and growth both personally and professionally and have been able to demolish sales goals and help contribute to big strategy projects along the way. For me, culture is everything, and a conversation with our VP of HR, Tania Fiero, who played a pivotal role in hiring me pulls back the curtain and reveals some of the magic behind IES’ culture.

How did you create such an amazing culture in a niche business that hardly anyone knows exists?

“The IES culture is not created by HR, but rather it grew organically from our employees who feel empowered to add to the culture in any way that they like. HR’s role is to protect the culture, not create it. Our leadership team has a huge role in helping the employees feel empowered to create a culture that they truly love, not one that was designed for them.”

What are some of the key drivers or things that you do to ensure that employees feel this way?

“We have an unprecedented amount of trust. People are generally accepting of one another as human beings and we are 100% transparent with our employees about all aspects of the business. We actively share and talk about our financial standing (good or bad), forward looking strategies, and offer our employees direct access to the leadership team. All of these facets create and build trust amongst our employees. Once trust has been established, empowerment follows and our employees take a lot of pride in the ownership and values of what we have all built together.

What are some of the unique or progressive things that IES is doing from a culture standpoint?

“We completely redesigned our performance management system. All employees have monthly 1 to 1 conversations with their managers and once per year build and Individual Development Plan. This way there are no surprises about goals, objectives, where they stand and where they are headed. We truly want to design a career in partnership with our employees, that asks them where they want to grow, and then we act upon our duty to make the right investments in them to help to get them there. Additionally, collaboration is rampant – We have E.D.I.T. (Employee Driven Innovation Teams) that are made up of cross functional employees who work on big picture, and sometime abstract strategy for the company and present their work to the Leadership Team. This promotes interdepartmental connections with our employees and also allows them opportunities for growth and development working in areas that may not relate to their job role.”

What happens when someone engages in behavior that is outside of your culture (e.g., bullying, not being a team player, not producing, etc)?

These cases are extremely rare in my tenure at IES, however we have always maintained a proactive approach to employee relations. Training and development is something that we take very seriously and continuously seek to level up our managers through a variety of in house and external trainings each year. All managers are trained to handle a variety of scenarios like bullying, that fall outside the scope of what is acceptable in our culture. We also encourage collaboration when seeking to address and/or handle difficult employee relations scenarios. There truly are no cookie cutter instances when it comes to bullying so we train our team to complete full due diligence and investigations before taking any action.


Sean Ring is an avid surfer and world traveler, constantly striving to gain knowledge, perspective, and experience from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life. Sean earned a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in International Business from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005. Sean is currently chair of IES Cares community outreach program and has earned his CCWP (Certified Contingent Workforce Professional) accreditation from Staffing Industry Analysts. Sean was also recognized as a top millennial in the staffing industry by Staffing Industry Review Magazine in 2016. Sean is currently Vice Chair for the ASA (American Staffing Association) Social Responsibility Committee.

Innovative Employee Solutions is a San Diego-based B2B service provider of Employer of Record Payrolling services for their clients nationwide and internationally. IES provides an outsourcing solution for their clients’ contingent or project based workers who they have sourced internally. Contingent self-sourcing strategies have saved companies vast sums of money when compared to using traditional staffing firms.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

Do you have formal buddy system in place for your new hires?

New hire buddy systems fail when expectations of buddies are not clear, and agendas aren’t provided, so people don’t really know what to do.

As someone who specializes in coaching abrasive and aggressive leaders, I’ve noticed some patterns. Topics that continue to come up in my coaching sessions time and again. Get this. There are things your organization could be doing that actually facilitate bullying. I...

Resolving Conflict: A Case Study

One of our clients had two employees who were struggling to get along. Both employees were key contributors, and the business owner was desperate for them to resolve their differences. It all started when one employee (I’ll call her Susan) was quick to email out...

Four Steps to Dealing with Difficult People

Difficult people are everywhere. It’s likely you have encountered someone at work who struggles to connect with others in a positive way, whether because they are a downer, a one-upper, a gossip, or other reason. While difficult people come in many forms, they all...

Latest book, SEEKING CIVILITY, is released!

I have just released my latest book, SEEKING CIVILITY: How leaders, managers and HR can create a workplace free of bullying and abusive conduct. I thought I'd throw up a few excerpts for interest: What Bullying Is Bullying is repeated abuse that creates a...

What Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Really Mean

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are essential to creating a positive work environment where employees are happy and thriving. We work with organizations to assess and address any issues related to DEI, and we provide training and resources to help create a...

5 Action Items for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Building a healthy workplace where employees feel appreciated and respected requires, among other things, making it diverse and inclusive. It is essential for organizations that want to attract and retain top talent, foster innovation, and stay competitive in today's...

Toxic Work Culture: Three Behaviors That Contribute

Way before working at Civility Partners, I suffered from a toxic work culture. Even though I loved my job, it was very tiring—emotionally, mentally, and physically. The work environment was very unhealthy, and because of that, I made the best decision of my life by...

15 Tiny Habits To Kick Off Your New Year

If you’re anything like me, you kick off your New Year with all the lofty resolutions you can think of. In theory, it’s a great way to be intentional about your future. My problem in checking off those resolutions (and maybe yours, too) is twofold. First, I set...