A client, in practice for over 50 years, is a nationally recognized, fully integrated architecture, engineering, interior design, and planning firm of more than 400 professionals in six locations across the United States. The primary focus of their work is on public buildings and creating spaces that positively impact communities such as sports stadiums and healthcare institutions. The client reached out to Exude’s Human Capital Consulting group in 2016 with concerns over increasing turnover and attracting new talent, particularly within their women engineers and architects. The firm had lost some key talent in the past year and wanted to understand what actions could be taken to retain talent more effectively. Some of the attrition was due to individuals leaving the industry which appeared to be a growing trend. The client sought Exude’s assistance to identify underlying issues that may be impacting their ability to attract and retain key talent. The client stated that talent attraction and retention were critical business objectives to support the company’s business strategy.
Exude’s consultant conducted an extensive assessment of the organization to better understand the cause of turnover. First, the consultant met with key stakeholders of the firm to understand the current situation as well as the business strategy for the company. Initial intake conversations with the client revealed a unique company structure that includes multiple equity partners and a leadership rotation every six years. As a result, the consultant expanded the key stakeholders group to include focus groups with partners. The consultant also learned that there was not a clearly defined work culture that could be shared to prospective job candidates. Each location appeared to have its own culture driven by the culture of that unit’s leadership. Offices outside of Philadelphia shared that there were communication challenges and that they felt disconnected at times.
Next, the consultant conducted an assessment of the firm’s human resources function. Key findings included that human resources was housed in the finance office and consisted primarily of tactical functions such as compliance, processing new hires and handling employee benefits enrollment and questions. Key functions such as recruitment and selection, performance management, internal communication and training and development were decentralized and led by department heads. Decentralization of these key functional areas resulted in inconsistencies and effectiveness across practices in the delivery of these key functional areas.
The consultant then conducted a survey of all staff that focused on better understanding the company’s culture and identifying areas of opportunity. There was a high response rate to the survey with solid representation across multiple demographics including location, gender, length of service, and level of responsibility. Findings pointed to key areas for improvement that included effective communication at both the firm and department level, performance management, clearly defined career paths, manager effectiveness in key competency areas of communication, and performance management across the firm. The consultant also conducted several focus groups post survey to share key findings and gather more specific feedback around identified areas of opportunity. Focus groups offered valuable insight into potential solutions to address some key communication concerns as well as shed light on underlying issues around controllable issues impacting culture.
The Exude consulting team presented key findings to the executive leadership team and worked with them to identify focused objectives for action that included defining an internal communication strategy to ensure company information was shared to all levels of the firm in a timely and consistent manner; an overhaul of the performance management process that would include a technology platform to have more effective manage; defining career paths; addition of a human resources leader to focus on centralizing certain HR functions in areas of recruiting and performance management.
The Exude lead consultant served as interim human resources lead to begin to build a basic HR infrastructure including updating job descriptions and identifying career paths. Then, the consultant led a cross practice work team to redesign the performance management process and select a technology platform to effectively track process. Exude’s team conducted management training sessions to build skill and competence in managing performance and conducting performance conversations. The consultant also created and worked with separate organizational Employee Communications, Culture, and Rewards & Recognition committees to define a firm wide communication strategy, in an effort to highlight key accomplishments, share updates on projects and to create a stronger sense of firm culture. Finally, the consultant worked with the executive team to identify a job description for the permanent lead HR role, provided guidance in filling the role and served as a coach to the HR leader so support continuing to build out and lead an effective HR infrastructure.
At the end of this twenty four month process, the client reported an increase of $30 million in revenue, an increase in staff of 100 employees, improved communication throughout the firm, and a decrease in voluntary resignations due to career pathing. The HR department has grown by two additional staff members and the department continues to support the continuously growing needs of the firm.