When it comes to doling out perks, civil engineering firm Soltesz usually likes to keep its employees on their toes.
“The impact is better when it’s just sort of random, out of the blue,” said Jim Soltesz, the firm’s chief executive.
Sometimes that means doling out a $50 or $100 gift card for good work, other times that means raffling off tickets to a ball game or a theater production.
But in addition to those sporadic, surprise offerings, there’s one annual perk that staffers can count on to kick off the summer.
At its Rockville headquarters, Soltesz employees gather for a parking lot cookout. One of the firm’s engineers who fancies himself a barbecue expert takes a lead role in the cooking: He tows in his own grill and smoker, which can hold up to 50 pounds of charcoal or seasoned wood. The contraptions are so heavy he has to haul them to the office via trailer.
And he arrives at 3 a.m. to get an early start on the cooking.
“By 12:30, 1:00, everybody’s just gorging themselves on barbecue,” Soltesz said.
Each of the company’s five local offices puts its own spin on the event. In the Leonardtown and Waldorf locations, for example, staffers typically opt for a Chesapeake Bay-themed menu, with Maryland crab as the main course. The company foots the bill for all the food and drinks.
Xin Yi, a project manager in the Lanham office, said the annual event is always a welcome break from working in a cubicle.
“When it’s the summer, it’s just nice to be out because we spend a lot of time indoors,” Yi said.
Soltesz said that the parking lot cookouts are an important way of showing appreciation for his employees, particularly at a time when the economy is not growing robustly.
“What we try to do is let everybody know constantly that we think about them, their well being,” Soltesz said. “That we try to do what we can to ease up on stress.”