In April 2023, AMSG President and CEO Jim O’Farrell instituted his once monthly Java with Jim, a 30-minute face time call with AMSG employees around the U.S. The irony? Jim is allergic to coffee. But the titles Water with Jim and Tea with Jim didn’t jive, so he went with alliteration and that made sense at the time.
Initiating the calls was in response to a friendly joust with fellow CEOcircle comrade Joe Punaro. A Marine Veteran and CEO of IronArch Technologies, Joe boasted about hosting regular team meetings as a way to express his gratitude and love for his team.
Jim piggybacked off of the idea and personalized it to fit AMSG’s DNA. And what began as a model and friendly competition between CEOs morphed into Jim’s signature style of breaking down bureaucratic barriers. From Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Bowie, Maryland, employees join from all over the country to interact with Jim and casually converse sans formal meeting agendas.
When Jim stepped into the role as President and CEO three years ago, he set out to transform AMSG’s culture. So far, he’s accomplished what he set out to do. Among AMSG’s recent firsts, Jim and his leadership team led AMSG’s first rebrand since its founding 15 years ago, and formed AMSG’s first Employee Engagement Team (EET), which has initiated several programs designed to boost morale and support employees beyond their 9-to-5 careers.
To connect with employees on a personal level and bring remote teams together, Jim also began texting employees and allocating stipends to fund local team outings. Later, he established the AMSG Cares Hobby Program funding up to $1,000 a year toward employee’s extracurricular activities, sponsored a Ukrainian initiative through an employee’s stand-up comedy gig, and has organized and participated in countless corporate volunteer events in and around Washington, D.C.
Laden with unexpected $50, $100, and even $500 gift cards, Java with Jim emulates Oprah energy and acknowledges employees for their hard work. The forum also welcomes AMSGers to share updates, have their voices heard, and ask questions they may not otherwise have a chance to ask.
“Are there AMSG scholarships for college students?” asked one AMSGer during the first monthly call. “What if we plan a Kings Dominion corporate outing,” suggested another AMSGer during last month’s call to action for corporate team building ideas. There are also moments when Jim reinforces AMSG’s philanthropic endeavors, encouraging employees to raise initiatives that AMSG could sponsor in the future.
When asked about the calls, Team Lead and Senior Functional Analyst Brian Smith said, “I love them. They bring ideas and everyone together, especially since we’re so spread out across the country. It helps to hear straight from Jim what’s going on within the company, and they’re a great tool for employee engagement and hearing from other AMSGers.”
Gallup research shows that CEOs are crucial to employee engagement, as employees look to their CEOs to set expectations and the corporate tone. Gallop also estimates that employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.
In government contracting, the client-facing-first structure can be challenging for consulting firms to execute solid employee engagement structures. But having consulted on government contracts for over 20 years at big name firms like KPMG Consulting and Booz Allen Hamilton, Jim understands the need to engage employees beyond 40 hours and a paycheck to prevent disengagement.
So rather than fuel meeting fatigue, send impersonal emails, or deplete employee energy reserves needed to tackle client-facing tasks and meetings, Jim’s arsenal of engagement initiatives is strategically personable. His latest initiative, Java with Jim, is a timeout from the mundane, inviting employees to connect and convene over coffee (or not). With coffee as optional, water and tea are welcome, along with the unexpected giveaways and everything in between.
By: Juania Owens, Investment Analyst Lead