Dog Days of Summer

July 2004 » Editor's Comment
Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

Every summer in my life has had a theme, an activity or goal that has taken up the majority of my thoughts and time. As a youngster, I was focused on typical activities such as swimming. For example, one summer, which I consider the "Summer of the Slide," the defining moment was when I passed the test to allow me to use the infamous water slide. Another summer was the "The Mile-long Summer." For this one, I was determined to complete a mile swim in the bay. I finished and was proud, and laughed at the fact that I was one of the last and came in with a one-armed man of 70-plus years.

Some other summers involved money-making endeavors, including "Seashell Sales Summer" and "Golf Ball Stand Summer." We lived on a golf course and would spend our evenings painting seashells collected at the beach or hunting for golf balls, which we would sell from a lemonade stand. Of course, we also tried to sell golf cart driving services, but no one ever took us up on it because, let's face it, driving the cart is fun.

Later, my summer themes became more monotonous, with a few repeat themes, including "Dirty Diaper Summers I and II," during which I babysat constantly, and "Savage Tan Summers I and II," during which I acquired more than a paycheck from my time on the lifeguard stand. Then I had the "Walking Man Summer," when I was an intern working on a stormwater infrastructure mapping project and walked about 3 to 5 miles per day. I played James Taylor's song, "Walking Man," every morning as I started my trek.

This summer I have deemed "Dog Days of Data," as I am entrenched in our Best Civil Engineering Firm To Work For Contest and a comprehensive research project associated with it. For the contest, I have been busy ranking the firms based on information provided by firm leaders and by the results of an employee satisfaction survey.

In addition, I am working on a first-ever research effort to develop metrics for civil engineering firms' human resources practices. Using the data collected for the contest (if permission was granted), this analysis will provide information about what top firms provide their employees, how their employees rate those offerings, and how much they value these offerings in general. For example, we will be able to show how much most firms budget for training staff, whether employees feel this amount is sufficient, and how important training is to employees in general. The analysis will yield data about compensation and fringe benefits, employee/management relations, firm culture, recognition methods, and many other aspects of firm management that support and motivate staff, from various perspectives.

Following the Dog Days of Data, this fall will be much more interactive since we will host the inaugural Best Firm To Work For Summit in San Francisco during September 23-24. A highlight of the summit will be the announcement of the top 50 firms in the contest at an awards banquet. Additionally, an educational program - geared for all firms, not just those that entered the contest - will focus on creating a great workplace. The event will include presentations of the metrics and best practices generated from our research, which will serve as talking points for interactive panel discussions. Attendees will learn from leaders of firms named among the Best To Work For during this comprehensive program focused on human resource management.

The summit will be valuable to every firm trying to recruit and retain quality staff, which I'd say is every firm. Look for more information in this and future issues.

Shanon Fauerbach, P.E., Editorial Director of Merdor Media, Inc's Enginering Group cna be reached at One Premier Plaza, 5605 Glenridge Drive, Atlanta, GA 30342; editor@cenews.com; tel. 404.497.7890, ext. 7891.

 


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