Xenium Wins the ‘Organizational Excellence in HR’ Award at the 2013 HR Leadership Awards

Xenium Wins the ‘Organizational Excellence in HR’ Award at the 2013 HR Leadership Awards

On March 21, 2013, Xenium was honored with the Organizational Excellence in HR Award—the only company-wide award given out at the Portland Business Journal’s 2013 HR Leadership Awards.

In an event that recognizes three top individuals and one company, a business leader may ask the question “what does it take to earn this award as an organization?”

Short answer: It took a lot of hard work and buy-in from everyone in the organization.

Tana Thomson and Anne Donovan after accepting Organizational Excellence in HR Award

Tana Thomson & Anne Donovan with Organizational Excellence in HR Award

Furthermore, developing a culture of excellence began with leadership developing a vision for our company. The vision for our HR services company is that we continue to deliver high-touch and high-quality HR services to small and medium-sized employers. Given that we are a service company, we can only accomplish that through attracting, retaining and developing high-quality people. So that’s what we sought out to do through various initiatives.

The XCITE Team

Xenium developed a committee called the Xenium Culture Integration & Team Enhancement (XCITE) committee to organize company functions, team-based activities, employee of the month recognition, decorating workstations for employee birthdays & anniversaries and many other activities that contribute to the positive enhancement of the company’s culture.

In an interview with the Portland Business Journal, Director of Training at Xenium, Suzi Alligood said this about the XCITE committee:

“The XCITE group was formed four years ago as a way to give non-management employees the lead in recognizing, appreciating and developing employee relationships across the company. XCITE has evolved into a cultural influence, helping ensure Xenium’s values are kept alive starting with the welcoming of new employees to the implementation of ongoing, creative team building and recognition programs.”

Unique Benefits

Xenium’s growth over the past three years has challenged leadership to come up with creative and unique benefits outside of typical compensation packages (e.g. compensation, benefits, PTO). Since the employee base at Xenium is very family-oriented, there is great value in flexible schedules. In 2011, for example, Xenium began offering “half-day Fridays” during the summer months to show appreciation for its employees and to show support in spending time with family. The wonderful aspect of the “half-day Friday” benefit is that it is above and beyond PTO an employee already accrues. Needless to say, this program took off and is still in place as of 2013.

Additionally, although not a specific benefit program, employees have the flexibility to work autonomously and remotely in some cases. For employees, this type of benefit shows that leadership has a lot of trust in the employees to get their work done.

Recognition Programs

With a team-oriented culture, coming up with creative recognition programs can be challenging. In 2011, and in to the years that followed, Xenium found something successful in the “On-the-Spot Bonus.” This form of recognition doesn’t necessarily have to stem from a manager, rather, it can come from anyone in the organization for any reason at all. If someone goes way above and beyond their normal duties, we felt that anyone should be able to recognize the efforts by handing over a $50 bill and public recognition in an ‘all-company’ email with the story of why the employee earned that bonus. Each employee can give away two during the calendar year.

Professional Development Programs

New in 2012, Xenium implemented two programs which have gained a lot of success from high participation among employees: The Xenium Mentorship Program & Book Club.

The Xenium Mentorship Program began in September, 2012 and is a six-month commitment for mentors and mentees. The program focuses on the personal and professional development of the mentee by setting goals with regular check-ins and meetings in between. The objective of the program is to have someone other than a direct manager be a mentor to someone in the program; therefore, the program does a great job of intermixing participants from all departments, which also promotes cross-team communication.

2013 HR Leadership Awards Panel

Anne Donovan (far left) participates on HR Panel at 2013 HR Leadership Awards

When talking about unique professional development programs, the Xenium-sponsored book club would likely come up in the conversation. Led by a group of book-crazy employees, the book club meets every two months to discuss a book on HR or leadership. Past examples are Fierce Conversations, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Delivering Happiness. The unique aspect of this  program is that Xenium purchases all the books and gives employees the flexibility to choose paperback, ebook or the audio version of the book. Xenium also purchases the coffee for the discussion. As the HR panel moderator mentioned during the awards banquet, “coffee and books do go very well together!”


Xenium has taken steps to keep employees healthy, physically and mentally. The formal wellness program, launched in April, 2012, leverages activities in the physical, nutritional, mental and financial wellness categories to keep employees well-rounded in each of these areas. In addition to the activities, Xenium offers an annual biometric screening and health risk assessment at no expense to the employee.

All of the programs mentioned above are meant to contribute to the success and well-being of every individual in the organization. Xenium President, Anne Donovan put it very eloquently in an interview with the Portland Business Journal, “Our mission is to ensure our team members feel supported, engaged and fulfilled in their work. All of these programs aim at the goal of attracting and retaining top talent for the organization. Most of the programs have characteristics of recognition and development programs. Our people are most important to our company.”

Xenium team after 2013 HR Leadership Awards

Xenium team after 2013 HR Leadership Awards ceremony


Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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