The radical power of listening

Jul 17, 2022

Companies that place a high value on listening to and investing in their employees have been more effective at attracting and retaining top talent.

Work has changed. Not just in the advances of technology driving innovation in infrastructure, but the relationship that employers have with their employees. “Employee experience” has become an essential element in building a successful company, and those companies have been more effective at attracting and retaining top talent by placing a high value on investing in their employees.

At Garver, we’ve taken that a step farther. We’ve gone beyond professional development programs, a world-class wellness program, and an annual companywide Summit; we’ve done something truly revolutionary – we’ve listened.

On the surface, that might seem far from novel – but listening to our employees has allowed us to build the foundation of Garver’s award-winning culture and made Garver one of Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For for eight years running. From these conversations, we’ve learned what matters most to our people – and we’ve taken those elements to build the best employee experience in the industry.

  • Our people, no matter who they are, want to give back. In previous generations, people felt as though they needed to have significant financial resources before they started giving back – donating time, donating money. But this new generation? They’re wanting to start earlier. They’re wanting to spend their entire lives giving back. They want to know their employer is going to take that extra step toward empowering them to give back to their community in a significant, meaningful way – and so we’ve made that a fundamental part of our company’s culture with GarverGives, our corporate giving program.
    What does that look like in practice? Well, since 2015, our people have supported more than 500 organizations, invested more than $1.2 million in funding, and devoted more than 5,200 employee community service hours.
    That might seem like a lot, but it makes sense based on what we’ve heard from our people. As engineering, architectural, planning, and environmental professionals, our work – the infrastructure that we design and oversee construction of – is centered on the safety and welfare of the public. But people want to know that they’re not just making a difference professionally, but personally. They want fulfillment that comes from serving local communities on a personal level. And with GarverGives, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
  • Our people want to be recognized for their work – and they want opportunities to grow. This point might seem simple. That’s because it is.
    Of course, people are here because they love Garver. They love our award-winning culture. They love the opportunities we provide to help them give back to their communities. But we know that’s not the only reason they’re here.
    Our people have families. They have children and pets and homes and mortgages. They have lives outside of everything they do here at Garver. That’s why we compensate and reward our people for the hard work they do – with competitive salaries, with bonuses, with time off, with recognition, whether that’s financial recognition or verbal recognition. We believe it’s important to have those things in a culture of the greatest employee experience.
    More than that, however, we’re providing them with opportunities to grow. We achieve this through mentoring programs, career path development, and training tailored for each employee, all of which contribute in no small measure to the best employee experience that we offer them. After all, we know that a career path isn’t always linear, so we give them paths to follow their passions – and to grow where they want to grow.
  • Our people want to be part of a community, something bigger than themselves. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Garver is the Garver culture. It’s one of the main reasons people come to work for us. It’s also, however, one of most difficult things to describe about working at Garver. Because it’s doesn’t come from the top. It’s something that has taken shape over our 103-year history. It’s organic and woven throughout our company. But even though it’s difficult to describe, there’s one thing that we can say about it for certain: Culture begins as a community.
    It’s why we’ve established a range of companywide initiatives, ranging from GarverGives to Garver Connect to GarverU to Garver Summit. Because we know these initiatives foster collaboration and cultivate culture not just within our business lines – whether that’s aviation, or transportation, or water – but all across our company.
    Because ultimately, that culture has to grow on its own. Our corporate structure provides opportunities for that culture to take root, develop, and flourish on the local level – in the day-to-day interactions that people have with one another.

All of this comes down to something fundamental: If we’re building people, we can build teams. If we can build teams, we can build a company. It all starts with people. 

Frank McIllwain, PE, is director of aviation at Garver. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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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.