Posts tagged ‘human resources issues’

Legalized Marijuana Use Grounds For Termination Within A/E Firms?

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.”

Many states and many more A/E firms will be dealing with this issue in months ahead. What do you think? Carol new profile

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

March 19, 2014 at 9:48 am 2 comments

CEO or Project Engineer: Value Of Behavioral Assessments

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?

Carol new profile

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

April 30, 2013 at 10:53 am 6 comments

Use the Downturn to Make Yourself Part of a Winning Firm

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,

Bruce

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July 22, 2009 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

Civil Engineering Jobs – Will Any Job Do?

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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.

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July 15, 2009 at 4:23 pm 17 comments

Questions Of The Month – Final Tallies Revealed

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Each month at CivilEngineeringCentral.com we have a Question of the Month.  This question is posted on our home page and is included in each issue of  “The LinkedIngineer” as well as our monthly e-newsletter which is sent out to nearly 10,000 members of the civil engineering community (If you would like to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter please click HERE…sorry, couldn’t pass up that free plug).   It’s been a while since we have posted the results, so in light of that (plus the fact that I have struggled to come up with anything else),  check out the results below.   If you see any surprising results in there or feel the urge to comment about any of the topics please feel free to do so.

MAY 2009

DID YOU SEE AN INCREASE IN PROJECTS IN YOUR COMPANY DURING THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2009?

83.1%     No
16.9%     Yes

Just yesterday I was speaking with  a colleague of mine who commented on a report he had just watched on MSNBC. They were discussing the question “where did all the stimulus go?”   Most of it of course is going to construction; all those projects that we have come to love and know as…shovel ready. What seemed like a lot of money initially, when spread out over the entire United States, seems to be spread pretty thin.

APRIL 2009

HAS YOUR FIRM CUT IT’S BENEFITS PACKAGE AS A RESULT OF THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE?

67.6%     Yes
32.4%     No

It’s expensive out there folks.  Our health insurance has gone up 50% over the past four or five years…everyone is feeling the pinch here.

MARCH 2009

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT SEARCHING FOR A JOB?

42.9%     Networking
25.0%     Not Knowing Where To Start
17.9%     Updating My Resume
14.3%     Nailing The Interview

The way I see it, assuming you are a talented engineer, if you are able to effectively network throughout the course of your career, that, in-and-of-itself, takes care of the the remaining three obstacles.  You see, if you are a great networker, you easily know where to start, and because you have networked so well and know so many people very well, there is no need to update your resume because they have seen you in action and your stellar reputation precedes you.  Your noticeable performance within your industry over the course of your career has coincidentally been an ongoing interview.  All that being said, a hand shake over a cocktail, beer, sparkling water or other beverage of your choice should be all that is needed to nail down your next job.  A little tongue in cheek maybe, but there is some validity to my theory.

FEBRUARY 2009

HOW OFTEN DO YOU VOLUNTEER IN YOUR COMMUNITY?

50.0%     8 or more times per year
23.1%      Not at all
15.4%     1-3 times per year
11.5%     4-7 times per year

One half of our respondents give back to the community 8 or more time per year…that is AWESOME!

JANUARY 2009

HAVE YOU EVER MISLED OR EMBELLISHED EXPERIENCES ON YOUR RESUME?

77.8%     No
22.2%     Yes

One should always be truthful on their resume, that goes without saying.  But sometimes resumes can be misleading as different titles mean different things to different companies and different people.

DECEMBER 2008

WHAT CONCEPT WILL MAKE THE GREATEST IMPACT ON SOLVING OUR ENERGY CRISIS?

40.0%     Nuclear Energy
23.3%     Wind Energy
20.0%     Solar Energy
13.3%     Bio-Fuels
3.3%       U.S. Oil Digging
0.0%      Coal

I think our economy will need to stabilize and re-establish itself for a while before we begin to see any of these technologies really begin to flourish.

NOVEMBER 2008

DOES YOUR MANAGER ALLOW FOR YOU TO WORK A  4/40 OR 9/80 WORK WEEK?

65.5%     No
34.5%     Yes

I think the civil engineering industry,  prior to “The Great Recession,”  had actually come accustomed to the 6/60 work week – that is Monday-Saturday/60 hours week!

OCTOBER 2008

WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WILL YOU VOTE FOR ON NOVEMBER 4th?

49.4%     Barack O’Bama
42.9%     John McCain
6.0%       Undecided
1.2%        Other
0.6%       Ralph Nader

Not bad, not bad.  The final results in total votes for the Presidential election in November was Obama 53% / McCain 46%. Our participants were nearly dead on here…sorry I can’t say the same for the Question of the Month which we ran in August 2008; see below!

SEPTEMBER 2008

WITH HIGH GAS PRICES, HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR COMMUTING HABITS BY OPTING FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?

73.5%     No
26.5%     Yes

This poll was posted at the time when gas prices were averaging $3.74/gallon.  We have come a long way over the years in mass transit, but you know what?  People love their cars and it would take a lot more  than higher gas prices for them to drop their keys and take to mass transit.

AUGUST 2008

WHEN DO YOU BELIEVE THE LAND DEVELOPMENT MARKET WILL BEGIN TO PICK UP?

30.6%     2nd Quarter of 2009
26.5%     2010 or Beyond
14.3%     3rd Quarter 2009
12.2%     4th Quarter 2008
10.2%     4th Quarter 2009
6.1%        1st Quarter 2009

As of today, just about 50% of our survey responders are wrong and there are another 26.5% who will likely end up on the wrong side of the fence as well by the end of this year.  Seems to be an ol’ case of “if I only knew then what I know now.”

I would like to thank you all for answering our Questions of the Month and look forward to your continued participation.

Got Comments? Got Questions? Got Insight? Got Speculation?  Got Inside Information?  Let us know, we would love to hear from you on any of the subjects of our recent polls.


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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

June 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm 1 comment

Company “Gossip” Websites

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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!

August 27, 2008 at 11:44 am 2 comments

Cross Training In An Uncertain Market

By Carol Metzner, President, The Metzner Group, LLC and Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Hurricanes, tornados, wild thunderstorms, earthquakes…..devastation.  It is apparent that the civil engineering community has become firemen; rushing to suffering areas to put out fires here, there and everywhere.  FEMA engineers, water resources specialists, geotechncial investigators, and everyone in between make their way to evaluate, report and advise.  Add Mother Nature’s wrath to our much talked about “crumbling infrastructure” and we have a deadly mix.

With our continuing civil engineering staffing shortage, how can we design infrastructure to meet tomorrow’s needs, let alone today’s, while repairing yesterday’s designs (successful ones as well as the failures)?

The number of daily calls from civil engineers in down markets in states across the US amaze me. They apply for jobs outside their specific area of knowledge. We see  experienced civil engineers applying for jobs as structural engineers. Companies do not want to cross train, so they won’t even interview the engineer.  I understand that cross training costs money, but how much money is that open job costing you in the long run?

When business is strong and everyone is overworked and stressed, perhaps the idea of cross training is too much to handle. With the market slow down, could now be the time to review programs? We are not a community that has fully embraced staff planning or staffing predictions. Cross training shows loyalty to your staff, preparing for these days of uncertainty that are certain to arrive! Cross training can only help your company and your clients. It can eliminate the band-aid approach when employees resign.

Does your civil engineering employer have a cross training program? Let us know!

June 19, 2008 at 1:39 pm 1 comment


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