Talent, that is. We test drove a major job recruiting board last year, which included analytics about the availability of Professional Engineers within a reasonable commuting distance from one of our Branch Offices. The data was startling.
We were looking for a Project Manager with a P.E. in a particular service line. At that moment there were 68 individuals with a P.E., living within commuting distance, who had registered profiles on that very popular job board, and there were 234 job postings seeking someone with those qualifications. One technically-qualified candidate to fill 3.4 openings. Who even knows the ratio when you start interviewing for culture and fit to your firm?
How do you help your firm land the talent when it’s so scarce? Reputation and employee engagement!
TALK. Focusing on the engagement side, it’s important that a clear and consistent message be sent across the company that you care about how engaged and satisfied the employees are. The message must be relentless until employees finally joke they’re sick of hearing it. That’s when the message is sinking in. Of course if this is just lip service to the employees it will only serve to create a negative result.
WALK. Take your words beyond talk and put them into action. Do you measure the engagement of your workforce? How? Hopefully you didn’t answer only through Exit Interviews, because then it’s too late. Implement an Employee Engagement/Satisfaction Survey. There are vendors that conduct these outside of your company’s systems who gather and report back the information anonymously. You can use online survey tools and conduct this in house but candor and participation, the exact two things you want, are reduced if employees think the data might be used to target them for providing critical feedback. Some employees even still feel that way in the anonymous approach.
ANALYZE. If you chose a third party, the service should include data analysis with an overall Executive Report and a report for each manager provided the minimum number of respondents (usually two or more) submitted a survey. Here’s where you listen intently, read diligently and sometimes filter the results. For example, if five employees out of 300 make the same comment or rate something very low it’s unlikely you’re going to act on that at a firmwide level. But, what if those responses are all from the same department or about the same manager? The analysis stage helps you to move towards action.
Avoid attempts for some executives or managers to rationalize low responses. If a misconception or the employees not fully understanding something has resulted in critical feedback then perhaps informing and educating to correct for misinformation becomes part of the Action Plan.
ACT. The most-critical part of the process is to actually do something with the results and create an Action Plan. When firms plead for candor, get it, and then do nothing with it the next survey turns into a game for employees to see if they can make smiley faces out of the response circles. I’ve seen it, and it’s tragic and funny at the same time. All of the steps to this process should have been communicated across the company well in advance of the survey itself. Share the overall company-level report with everyone at this stage. Own the results, good or bad, but most importantly own the commitment to improve. Where you have clear, actionable data at the firmwide level choose no more than two Action Items that you will commit to changing and improving in a significant and lasting way. Each manager should debrief with their staff and collectively create at least one Action Item with them.
Where the data is vague or contradictory it is helpful to conduct Focus Groups with the respondents to tease out details to better understand the results. Then take 12 months to implement meaningful improvements. It takes time for change to really stick so make sure you’re not skipping rocks with too many improvements and make fewer of them but at deeper, lasting levels. Then, re-survey the workforces and do it again. When you get 100% participation and 100% satisfaction please call me. I want to learn how you did it!!!!
So while there definitely isn’t enough talented technical staff for everyone, you can ensure there’s enough for your firm if you build a solid reputation and really care about the professional development, engagement, and satisfaction of your workforce by measuring and working to improve it. Our industry has experienced full-employment for many years no matter what the national, state, or local unemployment rates may be. There are simply never enough talented technical people, and if you don’t work hard to win them over, and continue working hard to keep them, we can always find a good home for them here at LDG.
About the Author: Mark K. Morgenfruh is the Vice President of Human Resources at Larson Design Group, Inc. In that role, he is responsible for establishing the strategy of the Human Resources department in support of the organization’s larger vision and strategic plan. Mark is an active member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) where he is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).
For more human resources and hiring tips, check out PSMJ's free ebook, Finding, Recruiting, and Keeping the Best, which provides advice from the A/E/C industry’s most successful, forward-thinking HRs leaders on how to grow—your people, your leaders, and your business—in this global economy.
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