Posts tagged ‘human resources issues’
The legalization of marijuana use in Colorado and Washington is causing an uprising within the A/E marketplace. It has been reported that firms are trying to determine policies that take in consideration federal and state laws while being mindful of employee and client safety. Speaking with operations and human resources executives on the legalized use of marijuana by employees, I am receiving one unified comment:
Marijuana use will not be tolerated-whether legal in the state the employee works or not.
Civil engineering and architect employers believe that any potential impaired judgement could lead to fatal design issues or poor decision making. I asked several executives how recreational use of the drug during personal hours is any different than staff consuming alcohol on their own time. Additionally, I asked “If an employee goes on vacation to Colorado or Washington, then smokes marijuana, returns and tests positive- what will happen?” I received a variety of responses to both these questions, but no clear answer. “Too many shades of gray. Employees need to take responsibility. If they are smoking in a legalized state on vacation, chances are they are smoking at their homes too.” Emotions are running deep on this topic.
The Department of Defense has reported that contractors who test positive for any drug use may lose their security clearance. Similarly, other federal agencies require contractors/engineering firms to drug test staff working on their projects. This would clearly direct firms providing services to those agencies. Liability insurances for many firms are expected to rise.
NORML (www.NORML.org) shares “marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Our public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.”
Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion
More A/E firms are adding behavioral and personality assessments to their interview process. These tests or inventories “show” tendencies or ways that you are most likely to respond to your surroundings. Proponents say results from the assessments when used with a face to face interview will help predict a good “fit” between you and the job for which you are applying. These evaluations are standardized and carry statistical analysis to add to more commonly used conversational interviews. It has been reported that, unlike a normal interview, it is impossible to “cheat” on an assessment; impossible to answer questions that you think will give you a profile that an employer is seeking. And, you should not try to cheat. Eventually, your true personality will show itself. Firms believe the more they can discover about a persons strengths in personality as well as technical knowledge, the better the chance for a long term employment fit.
Recently I heard a story that shocked me! An executive shared with me one of his behavioral and personality assessment stories. After multiple interviews for a key leadership role in a mid-sized firm, the CEO asked him to meet with a psychologist for an assessment. As he entered the psychologist’s office, the CEO entered also and sat down. The psychologist began with his very in-depth assessment and the CEO remained. This is unethical and highly unusual. I asked the executive why he didn’t ask the CEO to leave or just stand up and walk out! Easy to think what we all would do but tougher when actually in the situation. Afterwards the executive candidate did tell the CEO it was inappropriate for him to have been in the assessment and he withdrew as a candidate.
Back in my graduate school days (many years ago) I recall writing a paper on the worst personality assessment tool I had come across. The test results were based upon which color you liked the best. The test had the validity of a newspaper horoscope. So as I was contemplating this blog, I took one of the common assessments utilized in our industry: The DISC assessment. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize: It was accurate. My chosen profession as an executive recruiter working with architects, engineers and scientists is a good fit!
In my experience, I have seen that when used accurately, various assessments can be helpful. However, often I have witnessed these tools to be used to knock out otherwise good candidates. Readers of the results often “see what they want to see.” They turn a positive attribute into a negative one. It is important that interpreters and users of the collected data be EDUCATED on how to use the information correctly and to weigh the results accurately!
Have you taken any assessments as part of an interview process? Which ones have you taken? Do you think it is invasive, helpful or neither? Do you think you were not offered a job because of testing?
By Bruce Lynch, Vice President of Publishing, PSMJ Resources Inc.
For over 30 years, PSMJ Resources, Inc. has offered publications, educational programs, in-house training and management consulting services to A/E/C professionals worldwide. PSMJ Resources conducts more than 200 educational seminars and conferences annually, supported by major professional societies, including AIA and ACEC. Headquartered in Newton, MA, PSMJ Resources provides more than 150 titles in book and audio, and publishes three newsletters about A/E/C firm management. PSMJ Resources also produces the industry’s preeminent annual surveys on management salaries, financial performance, fees and pricing, and benchmarks for the design firm CEO. On the web:http://www.psmj.com/
I have spent the last few weeks interviewing the PSMJ Circle of Excellence Class of 2009. Circle of Excellence firms ranked in the top 20 percent of firms participating in PSMJ’s Financial Performance Survey that achieve the best overall performance in 13 benchmarks that measure business operations in terms of profitability, growth, cash flow, overhead control, business development, project performance, and employee satisfaction.
Virtually every executive I have spoken with from this exclusive group of design firms has told me that they have used the economic downturn to improve the overall quality of their staff. Many super-talented people with very impressive resumes – as well as star students coming out of design schools – are available and obtainable for firms that have the muscle to make it happen.
Are you one of these people that’s going to add value to a firm that is prospering in the face of tough economic times? There are a number of factors that determine the answer. In general, firms that are looking to upgrade staff try to improve their overall position in specific geographic locations, in services offered, and in markets served. To upgrade at the management level, firms are looking to hire market and/or thought leaders. In upgrading staff, firms are looking for people with direct apples-to-apples experience with a specific market or service offering or that bring valuable knowledge on the latest technology.
Here are some examples: If you are a project manager and you are a super client champion in a specific geographic area, research firms that may be interested in expanding their services in your area. Sell yourself as someone who comes to the firm with a ready-made base of new clients. If you are a K-12 program manager, look for healthy firms that may want to expand into the K-12 market – your addition to the firm gives them the opportunity to hit the ground running. What if your expertise is in a market that is currently sluggish like residential construction? Sell your value-add expertise. Do you have relationships with zoning boards or permitting authorities? These are tangible benefits that can elevate the profile of a firm overnight.
For non-management design professionals, sell your direct experience with a specific market or service. If you design health care facilities, get letters of reference from health care professionals with whom you have worked directly. Having direct experience using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software like Revit is a huge selling point as more firms work on BIM-designed projects. If you have recently graduated from design school, sell your facility in new software applications and your ability to train up your peers in these applications.
It’s also helpful to have a relationship with a professional recruiter – even if you end up finding an exciting new job on your own, these people have the experience to serve as a sounding board and alert you to opportunities you didn’t know existed.
If you are good and you have the skills and experience that other firms see as an “upgrade”, you will always be impervious to the ups and downs of the economy.
All the best,
I recently received this email from an experienced civil engineer: “I don’t care where the company is located or what types of civil engineering projects I will be working on. After 3 months of being unemployed, can you just help me find a civil engineering job?”
By now, we all know the difference that a couple of years can make.
It wasn’t that long ago that candidates would turn down good opportunities for a variety of reasons: too far of a commute; didn’t like the workspace (“I want my own office”); job title wasn’t right (“I want a Department Manager title”), etc. An upcoming CivilEngineeringCentral.com newsletter author spoke with me about an excellent article he wrote for us entitled, “Advancing Your Career.” Specifically, he lists “Top 10” ideas that one can use to help advance his/her career. Among the 10 bulleted items, the article suggests assessing where, and for whom one works. It is suggested that you then evaluate whether you are in the right company with the right people to help you reach your professional goals. I question whether many of our readers have the luxury to make these types of assessments at this stage in life.
On the company “gossip” websites, employees of A/E firms complain in great detail about their employers. In many instances they report that they will leave their employers as soon as the market allows for them to identify another job. But, for today, they will stay employed and endure their perceived incompetent management, demotivating work environment and inadequate compensation. Most are saying “any job will do”– for right now.
When the market bounces back, companies who are ignoring management training and evaluations will find voluntary turnover rates skyrocketing! Staff at all levels will leave in droves and recruiting to replace them will be a financial and logistics nightmare. Hopefully, HR leaders will keep an eye on employee comments and hold technical managers accountable during the current market.
Until then, while job security is more important now than in the recent past, there are still a lot of good opportunities out there to consider. Don’t stop evaluating your career goals– just be more selective in your search. And, make sure to either talk to your HR representative OR use your anonymous employee feedback system to alert management that you don’t just want “any job” located “anywhere.” You deserve to take an active role in making the one you have much better.
One definition of Gossip is “a form of communications that an individual(s) participates in for the purpose of discussion, or passing onto to others, hearsay information.”
Office gossip sites are the next wave in sites for job seekers to review. Some of these sites are: Glassdoor.com, Jobvent.com, Vault.com. Many civil engineers are visiting the sites and writing, some say “critiquing”, the civil engineering firms that they work for or have worked for. These sites allow employees to confidentially and/or anonomously post information about company interview processes, company culture, specific management styles, benefits, salaries, bonuses, workspace and anything you can think to comment about. Comments range from “great company with strong benefits” to “avoid manager of highway design, based in corporate office, as he micromanages.”
Should companies be concerned…yes. Should employees take the time to comment on their company’s culture, management style, benefits, salaries, etc…sure. Should job seekers review these sites…yes, with caution.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Should companies be concerned?
Initially it seemed these sites were similar to the CivilEngineeringCentral.com (CEC) Forum “Ventilation Station”; a place to just let it all out. These sites have now evolved to include happy, satisfied employee reviews of their employers as well as the direct, not so positive critiques. Companies need to regularly monitor these sites and make sure that information posted is relevant and not just a disgruntled employee looking to slam the company. Companies can use the information as informal employee surveys ~ a way to take a pulse from the anonymous group. That being said, anonymous reviews should be read with a questionable eye. I’ll address this again under the value of these sites to job seekers.
Should employees take the time to comment on companies?
Yes, if you, as an employee, can write an honest evaluation of your current or past employer then you should. Discuss the interview process, company culture, benefits, bonuses, etc. Is your work space comfortable? Does the company encourage and pay for additional training? Do they encourage involvement in professional associations? What did you want to know about a company before you joined them? Try to be constructive, but honest, in your critique.
Should job seekers review these sites?
Yes, as long as you understand that what you are reading may be incorrect. Anonymous reviews are questionable ~ not necessarily false. Many of these sites have built in systems to weed out false reviews. Site editors review comments for trends and inconsistent information. So, job seekers shouldn’t avoid a company that receives some negative comments. Instead, they should use these reviews to prepare for interviews at the companies. Compare feedback on multiple sites, talk to alumni from your school who may be at the mentioned company. Do your homework. These sites should be viewed just as another tool for gathering information and preparing for interviews.
Can you recall the children’s game called “PASS IT ON?” Rarely does the comment at the start of the game end up as the same comment at the end of the game. REMEMBER, not only are there at least two sides to every story….those stories over time aren’t always remembered accurately!