Employee retention is a two way street, requiring trust between both the company and the employee.
Stephen Schwind joined the ranks of the RLG Consulting Engineers’ civil department after being recruited through a job fair during his senior year at Texas Tech University in 2006. RLG appealed to him because he saw a lot of potential in the firm. At the time, RLG didn’t have many young engineers on staff. Schwind saw it as an opportunity to find a mentor and establish himself in his new career.
Engineering runs in the family. Schwind’s dad was an engineer. His three uncles were engineers, too. A career as an engineer seemed chosen for him, but Schwind was interested in more than just engineering. He chose civil engineering for the people. Whether it be the people who were impacted by his work or the people he worked with and worked for.
Throughout the years, Schwind moved up the ranks at RLG, first as an EIT, then a project manager, an associate, senior associate, and now a principal. At 41, Schwind is the youngest principal at RLG.
“I worked hard, stuck it out, continued growing, and continued to learn,” Schwind says.
He didn’t do it alone. Schwind found a mentor at RLG, a fellow civil engineer and principal (now CEO), Stuart Markussen. Markussen taught him everything he needed to know – about design and client management. Markussen would sit down with him regularly to talk through issues directly and also allowed him to be independent to figure problems out on his own. Those learning opportunities made Schwind the engineer he is today.
As a leader in the company, Schwind knows the importance of different types of skill sets required from every position/role in the company, as well as retaining talent. All roles, from technician to senior project manager are pivotal to the success of the company. He looks for motivated new hires with good verbal communication skills and strong personalities to increase employee morale. RLG encourages all employees to participate in business development. It is important for RLG’s engineers to develop relationships with clients who like the firm and trust its work. Once employees are hired and join the team, Schwind takes time to really get to know them. He hates being called a “boss,” and would rather be viewed as a friend and mentor. Schwind and the civil team rely on team lunches and happy hours to maintain their personal relationship. He also tries to keep the atmosphere as stress free as possible in the office, while maintaining professional client relationships and producing top quality work.
“This personal relationship is key to growing and maintaining trust in the team and to the success of the individual and company,” Schwind says.
He makes sure that the atmosphere is conducive to creative growth and prefers not to micromanage. He has learned over the years that it is very important in employee retention because it shows trust in his employees. Because he spends so much time getting to know his team, he knows when to motivate them or test their limits. He also knows when one of his employees might need a break or someone to talk to.
He says, “I’ve been lucky with the team that we have collectively built in the civil department. I enjoy the team both personally and professionally and I am always willing to listen to anyone on the team. We don’t shy away from new ideas or different approaches to our work. We want every employee to have a voice and be heard.”
Employee retention is a vital part in maintaining the stability of the company. Schwind has seen talented engineers start their career and grow as engineers and into young professionals. He wants to show the young engineers that RLG Consulting Engineers has more to offer them than other firms. Work-life balance is vital. Schwind has seen that a healthy work/life balance increases employee productivity and morale. He’s focused on the overall health and wellbeing of the team.
“You can see a difference in an employee who knows when to take a break and comes in refreshed and ready to go the next day.”
He has built a team of hardworking, talented people that he sees as peers, not as employees. Trust is key to keeping talented employees engaged and happy at the firm. At every level, they are encouraged to develop a client base within the firm and continue to grow with RLG. Employee retention is a two way street, requiring trust between both the company and the employee. Schwind understands this and so does his team, making RLG the place they look forward to working every day as they grow in their career.
Stephen Schwind is a principal at RLG Consulting Engineers in Dallas, Texas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.