The new kids on the block
Rapid hiring during the recovery has changed the complexion of many firms
The rapid recovery in the A/E industry has led to unprecedented growth for many firms. Most firms have rebounded, surpassing their pre-recession revenue and staff levels in a relatively short amount of time. This has put tremendous strains on all areas of the firm, especially those related to new staff. The new kids on the block have the potential of changing the complexion of your firm. To put his into context, we are working with firms that have as much as three quarters of their current staff with tenure of three years or less. For many this is an employee mix never seen in the firms’ history. This is presenting tremendous internal and external challenges. On the internal side, those challenges come mainly in the form of cultural issues, and they turn into branding problems.
Rapid hiring often introduces new people into the organization that may not be the quality of traditional hires. Let’s face it, recessions offer an opportunity to clean house. Those with the lowest contribution get put on the street. Fast-forward to 2016 and the market is extremely tight, already absorbing everyone that has previous experience in the industry, good or bad. With that comes a potential imbalance among your staff. The long-termers have been with you through good times and bad. They understand and reflect your culture. And in the near future, they could also be the minority in your firm.
The best way to get new employees to adopt a new culture and to make them productive is to put them through an immersion onboarding process. This goes beyond company literature and a new-employee orientation slideshow. This is about immersing the employee in the culture and getting them to “drink the Kool-Aid” as quickly as possible. Make your current employees accountable for being welcoming to new employees. Organize social events aimed at accelerating the new hire’s ability to plug into the company and people.
Assign a mentor that spends a set amount of time per week with the employee helping them with everything needed. Make sure your mentor pool is composed of only those who are fully engaged in the company vision and are the most positive folks in your culture. The mentors can have a set number of weeks they do this and then if the relationship continues naturally after the onboarding is over, then that is even better. Also, immediately set goals for the new employee that tie into the overall firm vision and also foster teamwork with their new colleagues. Get serious about protecting and preserving your culture and make integration of new staff a priority and a long-term commitment. A major added benefit of an extensive onboarding process is you can improve an employee that may have been historically an under-performer.
On the external side, rapid increases in workload can cause client service issues that threaten the brand. Currently, firms are hiring as fast as they can and they are still behind. Recent client surveys we have conducted are showing more and more discontent with A/E firms among their clients in 2015. There are many comments indicating that firms are too busy and becoming less responsive. Do you know what your clients think of you right now? I have a warning for you: if your firm is struggling with workload issues, you are likely having lapses in client service. You may not realize it, but your clients feel it. If this is happening in your firm, it is rapidly eroding your brand. As the market softens and the work starts to thin out, your clients will show preference for those firms that are consistent in meeting their needs, regardless of economic cycles.
It is important to constantly reinforce your firm’s commitment to client service, regardless of how busy you are. Make sure everyone knows it is a priority. As you bring in new talent to backfill your people in client service, make sure they know your firm’s commitment to provide responsive and superior client service. Everyone needs to understand the power of your brand name and that it’s sensitivity to lapses in service. Turn your new kids on the block into rock stars and maintain a high level of client service while your competitors are struggling to meet commitments. Protect your brand and your culture with aggressive recruiting and immersive onboarding.
Chad Clinehens is The Zweig Group’s executive vice president. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was taken from Issue # 1138 - The Zweig Letter, Published Feb 08, 2016. Click here for subscription information.
There's an all new seminar designed just for A/E/P Firms who want to learn how to recruit better. Check out Becoming a Better Recruiter
worth 4.5 CEUs.
Zweig Group has a brand new survey all about recruitment and retention in the A/E/P industry. The 2016 Recruitment & Retention Survey.
About Zweig Group
Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.