How ATEC Spine Enhanced its Company Culture

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When the medtech company wanted to improve the experience for employee leave, they turned to Sparrow.


ATEC Spine is a California-based medical device company focused on developing new standards for spine surgery, regardless of surgical approach. A self-described Organic Innovation Machine, ATEC’s mission is to revolutionize the approach to spine surgery by developing new technology and treatment methods.

“ATEC had used third-party leave admins in the past, but they didn’t have that personal touch, or the thoroughness of handling every single aspect of a leave including collection and filing of paperwork. When we found Sparrow, we knew it offered exactly what we were looking for.”

Emily Beach
Director of People and Culture

To advance its mission, ATEC recently acquired two software technology platforms—SafeOp Surgical and EOS Imaging—to assist the surgeons who use ATEC’s products. In the process, the company grew significantly, going from 180 employees to just over 600. Knowing these acquisitions would merge a variety of company cultures, ATEC knew they would need to be unified. One need area was to create a consistent employee Leave of Absence experience. ATEC came to Sparrow to deliver a concierge level service that would provide a world-class, full-cycle leave process and facilitate a successful return to work.

Transforming the ATEC Spine culture

ATEC has been around since 1990, but the past five years have brought a dramatic transformation. “Through all the changes, we’ve created a vibrant new culture,” said Emily Beach, Director of People and Culture at ATEC. “Our culture is entrepreneurial in spirit, fast-paced and collaborative, which sets us apart from most competitors in our industry.”

ATEC is dedicated to improving patient care and making a lasting impact in the world of spinal surgery, but to do so requires passionate, high-performing employees. “Our people are the backbone of our culture, so it’s really important that we’re taking care of them,” said Beach.

As part of its culture transformation, ATEC asked employees for feedback and input. “We asked, and more importantly, we listened to what our people want,” Beach explained. “We’re trying to get an understanding of any needs our teams have, so we can proactively address them.”

A wholistic approach to caring for employee needs includes supporting them both professionally and personally. In addition to healthcare benefits like medical, vision, and dental insurance, ATEC’s benefits include tuition reimbursement, 401k matching and a generous employee stock purchase program. And while ATEC had a paid leave policy prior to Sparrow, the employee experience has been enhanced with the Sparrow partnership, while providing ATEC with the knowledge and confidence that every aspect of leave management is being handled in a stress-free manner. “We reassess our benefits plan every year and conduct employee surveys to find out where we can better serve them,” she added. “That’s one of the reasons we found Sparrow.”

“Sparrow reviewed our employee handbook with regard to leaves, and went above and beyond to provide us with feedback on our policies.”

Emily Beach
Director of People and Culture

The challenge: Providing personal support with limited resources.

Before ATEC found Sparrow, its People team handled employee leave administration in-house using manual record-keeping methods. “There were a lot of obstacles as we tried to manually perform leave administration ourselves,” Beach said.

Staying compliant with state laws was challenging, but ATEC’s main obstacle was figuring out how to track dates efficiently and calculate payroll accurately. “There was a fair amount of trial and error, in terms of finding what worked,” she explained. “We’d occasionally have to go back and retro-pay because we weren’t fully aligned with employees.”

When ATEC finalized its acquisitions, the company’s employee demographic shifted, and the need for better paid family leave options became clear. “Going on leave can be so uncertain,” Beach said. “You’re dealing with so much paperwork and change.” ATEC wanted to ease its employees’ stress during leave, but the company didn’t have the resources to offer everyone personalized support.

“We had a small team of three, and the paperwork and tracking started to become laborious. We were growing so fast, and felt like we weren’t serving our employees at the level we wanted,” said Beach.

“That’s what led us to Sparrow,” she explained. “ATEC had used third-party leave admins in the past, but they didn’t have that personal touch, or the thoroughness of handling every single aspect of a leave including collection and filing of paperwork. When we found Sparrow, we knew it offered exactly what we were looking for.”

The solution: Partnering with a full-service end-to-end leave management solution that also utilizes technology.

ATEC teamed up with Sparrow for a more personalized, high-touch employee leave management experience—not just for employees taking leave, but for the HR staff and payroll teams, too. “It’s great to find a partner we have full confidence in,” said Beach.

Sparrow handles the complete leave administration process, from end-to-end, including the complex and ever-changing compliance component. “When we were expanding and hiring sales reps based all around the United States, it was great to have an expert to handle leaves at different levels and with different state laws,” Beach explained.

In addition to compliance, Sparrow does the heavy lifting with payroll calculations, leave date coordination, and fielding employee questions. “There’s no guesswork anymore,” she added. “We don’t have to follow up with employees. We get everything we need with Sparrow, including really fast responses.”

Beyond day-to-day administration, Sparrow also provides big-picture input. When ATEC wanted a change, Sparrow Leave Specialists helped the company reform their employee leave policies. “Sparrow reviewed our employee handbook with regard to leaves, and went above and beyond to provide us with feedback on our policies, which was really valuable to us,” Beach said. As a result, ATEC was able to give its employees a better, smoother leave experience. “It made everything seamless.”

ATEC’s employees appreciate the one-on-one guidance and thoughtful touches they get with Sparrow Leave Specialists. “We’ve heard great feedback from everyone,” said Beach. “I used Sparrow for my own leave this past year, and it was great to see it both as a user and as a backend administrator.”

Help from Sparrow, Beach said, reduced the stress of going on leave and gave her more time to spend with her family and baby. Beach’s Sparrow Leave Specialist was always one step ahead, taking the time to correspond with her doctors and provide helpful resources for her spouse, too.

“Having someone completely in my corner made me feel comfortable with the whole thing,” she explained. “One of our core values at ATEC is being familial, and it really felt that way with Sparrow. They weren’t just focusing on my experience; they were addressing our whole family unit.”

Putting their values into practice

Outsourcing leave management to Sparrow takes the burden off of ATEC’s People and Culture team. Instead of spending time updating records and tracking numbers, they can focus on developing their company culture and finding new ways to support their high-performing employees.

“From a People and Culture standpoint, I really feel like Sparrow is an extension of us and our team,” Beach explained. “Our culture is so important to us. Sparrow has gotten to know us, and has a similar culture and feel when interacting with our employees. Our team doesn’t feel pushed off to an impersonal third-party provider, but instead feels like Sparrow is a tool and a resource.”

With one less thing to worry about, ATEC is excited to continue evolving as a company and furthering their mission of revolutionizing spinal surgery.



Want to learn more about how Sparrow simplifies leave management? Check out our services.