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Greenville Business Magazine

Top Workplaces CEOs Discuss Their Employee Engagement Strategies

May 13, 2022 10:13AM ● By Donna Isbell Walker

Keeping employees engaged and interested has been a major concern of corporate leaders during the Covid-19 pandemic, and especially in the wake of the Great Resignation.

Business leaders whose companies are ranked in the Top Workplaces survey understand what it takes to keep their workforce connected. Some of the CEOs and other officials from these companies discuss their tactics and strategies for employee engagement. 

Q. What’s in your toolbox that helps you invest in your team, helping them to stay focused and feel productive and supported?

A. Employee engagement is a leading contributor to FNB’s success. We invest in a rewarding and inclusive experience where everyone can learn, grow and excel — with a positive, productive environment where team members are recognized for their contributions and can take care of their priorities at work and at home. Over the years, we have been at the forefront of the industry, developing a comprehensive, family-friendly benefits program that includes generous paid parental leave, financial support for new parents, and caregiver leave, as well as vacation and flex time and one of the most attractive 401(K) matches in the industry. We also want to make sure that all of our employees have the opportunity to be fulfilled professionally, and we offer development programs that focus on giving people the tools to grow their career with FNB. In addition to leadership development for high-performing employees, we provide a wide array of learning and growth opportunities, including networking events, mentoring, and tuition reimbursement for continuing education.

Vincent J. Delie Jr., chairman, president and CEO

FNB Corporation and First National Bank

A. We live and work in alignment with our core values daily in the office – excellence, professionalism, proactivity, integrity, and collaboration. Team members know what is expected of them, and they strive to always approach our clients and their teammates in this way. Leadership is accessible, engaged and reliable, which offers employees stability. We invest time in enjoying each other’s company socially as well, with both in-office and offsite team building activities throughout the year.

Tara Kennedy, firm administrator

Stokes & Company, CPAs

A. We have a unique and comprehensive employee recognition program called the WOW program. This initiative allows team members to be recognized and celebrated for going above and beyond the call of duty. Our Difference Makers receive kudos internally and externally, including social media, and also are gifted specialized Interim swag. Each nominee is then placed in a drawing for an annual grand prize. Educating, nurturing, coaching and cultivating relationships is key to the growth and success of individual team members. It is taking time to ask open-ended questions and listen to ideas and input. Developing their career path within the organization and sharing the mission and ultimate goals and allowing the team to collaboratively develop the pathway to project success. This strengthens ownership and builds team confidence. And lastly, amidst all of the hard work – celebrate smaller wins along the way, not just the big ones. Look for valuable contributions and build a positive, winning culture. --

Magen Shelton, VP of Marketing and WOW

Interim Healthcare of the Upstate

A. A happy workplace is a successful workplace. I’m all about celebrating the wins of each member of our team and focusing on what’s going right. What’s wrong is always available, but so is what’s right. By looking at the positive, we keep our team feeling up for any challenge.

Matt O’Neill, CEO

Matt O’Neill Real Estate

A. The best tools in my toolbox include my ability and commitment to create a leadership culture that is collaborative and empowering. These tools help build a strong team that is engaged and motivated. The collaboration takes time, as trust must be built and time must be given for others to be heard. It takes diligence and time on the front end but saves time in the end, and creates a positive culture that embraces change.

Gayle Aycock, president and CEO


Q. How do you thrive amid constant disruptions, especially during the last two years of the pandemic?

A. The world continues to change very rapidly, and we have endured many new and challenging events over the last few years, requiring frequent and transparent communication, decisive leadership, and collaboration – all of which are necessary to succeed during uncertain times. These qualities depend on a very high level of employee engagement, and FNB has come through strongly thanks to our seasoned and experienced leadership and the resolve and dedication of our team. Our leadership team has a proven track record of successfully navigating challenging environments. Coupled with our solid foundation and unified culture, we are well-positioned to act on our responsibility to protect and support all of our constituents, even during unpredictable times such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vincent J. Delie Jr.

A. We handle transition and disruption as gracefully as possible. Staffing has been, and continues to be, a challenge. We genuinely only want to add the most experienced and positive people to our team, so searches can take a little extra time to find the right fit. We just focus on the work in front of us, keeping our clients happy, and knowing that commitment to those things will yield positive results.

Tara Kennedy

A. Our success through the pandemic is attributed to the same reasons we were successful before the pandemic: Focusing on solving problems for our customers and creating a place the best want to work.

It can be easy to complicate projects with technology and finding the simplest solution can be a challenge, but the Kopis team has always been focused on figuring out the “why” behind client requests so we can ensure we are providing them the right solution. Pre-pandemic, we focused a lot on building a great company culture, and Covid just reinforced our commitment to be a great place to work. Software development has a large industry turnover, but we’ve managed to stay well below that threshold by engaging with our team, understanding their needs, and making sure each person has an active role in building the company.

Andrew Kurtz, CEO


A. We don’t have constant disruptions. Every person in the company is asked to provide anonymous feedback on a quarterly basis, and they know that we take action on the feedback to keep making our company a great place to work. We also meet every week to discuss our strategy proactively. This proactive approach keeps the disruptions away.

Matt O’Neill

A. Disruption in its purest form typically has a negative connotation, and while the last two years have been anything but smooth, the healthcare industry has evolved amongst the chaos. The initial shock of navigating a global pandemic in the healthcare industry was heavy as it significantly shifted care delivery in a matter of weeks. Communication channels were developed to assure that process changes were effectively disseminated with a plan of action – at times this occurred twice a day. We rallied around our clinical teams to support and encourage them. The disruption started conversations and the conversations led to creative solutions to challenges we have never faced. The engagement of all team members and the camaraderie is what allowed us to persevere in a time of constant disruption – we all had a shared purpose. As the dust has settled and we look around at what has transpired, healthcare has evolved rapidly, and as a result our teams are more adept at navigating change.

Magen Shelton

A. The last two years have certainly been a challenge from all fronts. It seems like every day brings a new issue of some kind. We have found it’s best to keep pushing through and stay upbeat because every problem has a solution, and we lean on each other for support. The hardest issue to overcome has been the amount of time it now takes to get everything: equipment, materials, permits, parts, and even repairs. Most companies are now short-staffed and couple that with higher-than-normal demand, and you have a wildfire out of control. We have made some major adjustments to account for this, like keeping a lot more inventory on-hand of materials and parts. Some items that have to be special-made for each project now dictate the schedule. We have to explain to our clients the potential wait times up front.

Michael Bishop, president

Bishop Mays Inc.

A. The past two years have brought on new challenges and opportunities as it relates to workforce culture. Prior to the pandemic, most of our team members valued the in-office experience. The pandemic forced us to learn new ways of working together remotely, and I’m proud of how the teams at BoomTown have adapted the way we work to stay productive through the pandemic. We have evolved our thinking at BoomTown to a work-from-anywhere approach, where we value our people and purpose over place. We still believe that in-person interactions are key to building trust and camaraderie between team members, and we are in the process of implementing ways to do this with a more globally distributed team. We are excited to embrace the change that this brings and continuously improve the way we work together now and in the future.

Grier Allen, co-founder and CEO


Q. What has been your biggest learning experience with creating a great workplace culture? 

A. We are very purposeful with our culture, knowing that employees are our No. 1 asset. We strive to create a great employee experience, starting with our four-day onboarding program, to the various activities in the office that create engagement. We bring in coffee baristas to kick off the week, so employees can mingle and catch up on what everyone did over the weekend, while waiting for their lattes or cappuccinos. We used to have Beer Cart Thursdays, where leaders would push a cart around to offer a cold beverage, but as we have grown we have found that opening the beer fridge for a couple of hours in the break room every Thursday allows people to get up from their desks and interact with people from various departments. It isn’t about the coffee or the bagels or the beer. It is about creating the opportunity for employees to come together and build upon their relationships with each other. At Lima One, it is very easy for people to make friends, which is such an important element of making work more engaging and fun.

Annmarie Higgins, chief human resources officer

Lima One Capital

A. Understanding that a great culture isn’t a “set it and forget it” type thing. The leadership team has to regularly invest the time, and commit the personnel and financial resources, to keeping the team engaged and happy with their work home away from home.

Tara Kennedy

A. Emotional health has been the biggest thing I have learned as a leader of a 100-person culture. I teach “Mindset with Matt” training sessions, and they are designed at helping our team have high emotional health.

Matt O’Neill

A. Learning that as a leader and leadership team, you don’t need to figure everything out from the top down. Leadership should research ways others are addressing change, but I think don’t think that leadership knows exactly what is right for the organization. Instead, engage your team in addressing changes needed. Bring ideas to the team, but make them a key part of the process of identifying change. You might think you have the best idea, but if the team disagrees, it will fail. Use team engagement to vet ideas for change, improve ideas for change and own the change.

Andrew Kurtz 

A. Ray and Charyl Schroeder, founders of Interim HealthCare of the Upstate and Midlands, were our biggest learning experience with creating a great workplace culture. They lived out our mission and lead our company in a such a way that we’re never satisfied to settle for good and always striving for great. Culture, of course, is not learned but rather modeled through the leadership of the company. Ray and Charyl understood this concept, and both personally and professionally, were dedicated to honoring God through the enrichment of human life. Our mission statement is something that every employee hears from day one. We not only tell them the mission but the meaning and heart behind the mission, which sets the tone of our culture. We share stories and personal convictions about the core values the company is built upon, and how those values and the mission shape everything we do. When we experienced challenging times Ray and Charyl would come alongside us and empower us to remember our purpose and the difference makers we are in the lives of our patients, employees, and communities. … Our success in navigating the Covid challenge was largely a result of the strong culture that was crafted so many years ago and remains today. Our current CEO, Charles McDonough and the leadership team is committed to living out this same culture and carrying on the legacy of our mission.

Magen Shelton

A. Everyone would like to have time to talk about their performance on a regular basis, to discuss what’s going well, and what can be improved on, personally and as a company. They want to see that they have an impact on the shape and direction the company takes. Everyone has personal goals and the company is most successful when we can stay connected with each employee and help them reach their goals.

Michael Bishop

A. My greatest learning in building a great workplace culture is understanding that it’s all about people. Our people, “Boomers,” are the heart of our culture, and as more team members are added, our culture evolves. When we were 25 employees we made the decision to establish our core values. We included every BoomTown employee in the process of developing our core values, which created a culture that was truly built from within. Involving all team members in that process has created a culture at BoomTown that is genuine, authentic, and not forced. … I’ve also learned that we have to adapt more quickly based on employee feedback. Historically, we conducted valuable annual engagement surveys, and during the pandemic, we increased the frequency of capturing employee feedback in snackable surveys called “Remote Life.” This enabled us to quickly gauge the well-being of our Boomers in a quantitative way and make it easier for them to share their ideas for maintaining and improving our culture.

Grier Allen

A. The last two years have made staying connected and ensuring the happiness of our team members increasingly difficult, but never impossible. With incredible support from the Atlantic Bay corporate office, our South Carolina employees have been afforded opportunities to stay connected, have fun, and prioritize family and wellness. As things have become safer, we have returned to working where our team members feel most comfortable, resumed team activities, and returned to many of our pre-2020 industry engagements. Through it all, the thing that has mattered most are the genuine relationships we have built with one another – on a human level.

Frank Roberts, sales manager

Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group

Q. How should companies respond to employee concerns that have led to The Great Resignation? Has your company made any changes in response to the trend?

A. We haven’t shifted to remote working, as we believe strongly that our team benefits and learns from working together in our four offices in Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina. But certainly, we try to be flexible and generous with employee needs when it comes to balancing family commitments, professional development courses, etc., as we know those things contribute significantly to overall employee satisfaction.

Tara Kennedy

A. We have seen wages increase, and our goal has been to stay ahead of the wage-increase curve. We love our people, and we love to keep them happy here, and that means paying well compared to the market.

Matt O’Neil 

A. It is no longer sustainable for companies to provide an average work environment, decent pay, and mediocre culture. Companies must elevate their commitment to their employees now more than ever. Our efforts to retain and recruit our workforce include competitive benefits package, sign-on bonuses, and industry-leading compensation, along with a family-focused culture that promotes work-life balance. … We are laser-focused on providing ways for employees to give feedback in real-time and responding to their evolving needs. We accomplish this through various vehicles including internal newsletters, surveys, and our collaborative intranet.

Magen Shelton

A. If an employer feels that an employee is dissatisfied or looking for another job, they should meet with that employee and try to access their feelings and concerns, and then address the concerns of that employee while keeping the best interest of the company in mind.

Michael Bishop

A. Companies need to be focused on understanding the dreams of the people who are the right fit for them and leaning as much as possible into helping people achieve those dreams. In the end, it cannot be all about money. While money is great, being fulfilled every day and being part of a team you love working with is, in the long run, more important. So I don’t think there is a single answer for every business. Understanding your workforce and investing in the right culture for them is the right answer, but that has always been the right answer.

Andrew Kurtz

A. This is a great question and one we are all trying to figure out. My industry is behavioral health and substance misuse. The stress on our staff and the people we serve has been immense. There is a pervasive and, in general, burnout effect for our workforce and our patients. Everyone is “sick and tired.” So far, the most impactful things we have done are listen, listen, listen, and support our staff in every way possible. We have emphasized work-life balance, and maintained the flexibility of work times and places that we learned actually worked well during Covid.

Gayle Aycock

Q. What personality traits make a good leader? 

A. It is critically important for leaders to listen. We have an open door policy, where employees are encouraged to check in with leaders, offer suggestions, tell us what could be done better, or where we need to make some changes. And our leaders are good listeners. We are fortunate to have people here who really care about our employees and about each other. Each month, our CEO Jeff Tennyson and I hold an employee roundtable where we invite employees below director level to join us for a catered lunch during the month of their birthday. It gives employees a chance to know others from different areas of the company, and provides a chance for us to listen and hear what is working well and where we need to improve, or where we need to do a better job with communications and creating transparency.

Annmarie Higgins

A. Seeing the possibility in challenges; a lot of problems, roadblocks and challenges are thrown at an entrepreneur, and it is very important to see the possibility instead of being paralyzed be the pressure. I frequently remind my team that we will make lemonade out of lemons. Vision – it is important to not just be able to see what is, but to see what could be. Focus – one of the challenges of having vision is having too many ideas. So I think to be a successful entrepreneur, it is also important to be able to stay focused on and strategy long enough to give it a chance to be successful.

Andrew Kurtz

A. A great leader is surely smart but more importantly, wise. The personality recipe really rocks when liberal doses of compassion and grace are mixed in. Other traits that I really respect in leaders are the following: integrity. creativity, inclusiveness, along with a genuine love of staff, their service, and a passion for their organization’s mission.

Gayle Aycock

A. Be a good listener and clear communicator. Be a constant student of your profession. Be honest. Be open to other opinions and respectful of challenges of your own opinion. Be accessible to your team.

Tara Kennedy 

A. A servant leader: Someone in leadership who understands that the people they are leading are not there to serve them, but the other way around, that the leader is there to be ‘of service’ to the people they are leading is the best type of leader.

Matt O’Neill

A. Being willing to listen with humility, trying to see things from others’ perspective, honesty, treating everyone with respect, being able to prioritize tasks, communicate clearly, being able to show people you care about them.

Michael Bishop 

Q. Will you be hiring employees in 2022? If so, what types of positions will you have open?

A. We plan on adding dozens and dozens of new teammates in 2022, in positions across the company. Anyone can visit to see positions that are open now.

Annmarie Higgins

A. Yes. Payroll Specialist, Accountant, Accounting & Tax Manager.

Tara Kennedy 

A. We are in active hiring mode and are hiring a variety of positions currently ranging from administrative office positions to clinical roles. Examples of administrative office openings are intake, scheduling, billing, and human resources. Examples of clinical openings are nurses, therapists, social workers, chaplains, and aides. Due to the company’s rapid growth, we are constantly looking for talent and adding to our team.

Magen Shelton

A. We are hiring employees in 2022. We have learned that if the right person walks through the door looking for a job, we need to be ready to hire them even if we have to make a spot for them. With that said, we are currently looking for CDL drivers, construction laborers, and heavy equipment operators.

Michael Bishop

A. We are always looking for talented mortgage bankers and operational support such as processors, underwriters, and closers, to join our team. Atlantic Bay allows for many positions to work remotely from an environment that feels safest and most comfortable for team members, whether that be from home or in one of our office spaces.

Frank Roberts 

A. Yes, we do have open positions and we encourage qualified applicants to visit our employment portal at

Gayle Aycock

A. Yes! We have been a growing company for the past 15 years, and we have grown every year since we opened. 2022 will be no different. We hire people who have always wanted to get into real estate, we train them how to be top agents, and we coach them to become the best in Charleston.

Matt O’Neill 

A. Yes, we are always looking for talented developers; senior software engineers, mid-level software engineers, and software database engineers. You can find all open positions at

Andrew Kurtz