Among the many elements that define a great firm to work for, one that stands out to me is the cultural philosophy that a firm must constantly strive to improve. Firms that practice such a creed are models for other firms in the industry.
Last year, firms that participated in the CE News Best Civil Engineering Firms To Work For ranking told us about many improvements they planned. For example, an astounding number of firms share plans to improve communication, especially by hosting "town hall meetings," improving intranet functionality, and implementing video conferencing. Many firms cited plans to increase philanthropic activities such as corporate matching for charities and company-planned outreach and community service activities. Recognizing the need to build camaraderie among staff and provide mechanisms for stress relief, numerous firms planned to host more staff social events.
Furthermore, firms were making plans for vast improvements to the physical office environment, such as updating typical office space, as well as adding break rooms, kitchens, and exercise rooms. Other frequently mentioned improvements were adding healthy lifestyle programs such as gym memberships, smoking cessation classes, and weight management programs to their benefits offerings and benchmarking compensation by job functions and geographic regions. Many firms were exploring ways to recognize and reward exceptional project team performance. In terms of recruiting initiatives, many firms shared plans to be more actively involved with universities, offering internships, leveraging alumni to recruit students, providing scholarships and internships, and more. Additionally, a popular trend among participating firms was to create stronger relationships between generations of employees by strengthening protégé-mentor programs.
Certainly, all of these goals are commendable, and I anxiously await the submittals from this year’s Best Civil Engineering Firms To Work For applicants—which are due April 4, 2008—to see which objectives were met and what is planned for 2008.
But just so you are aware, firms nationwide weren’t the only ones making improvements during the past year. We made several improvements to the Best Firms To Work For ranking program. For example, this year, civil engineering firms will find new requirements to apply that specifically allow smaller firms than ever before to apply. Under the new requirements, civil engineering firms interested in participating must employ a minimum of five full-time civil engineers and a minimum of 10 full-time employees.
Furthermore, for the first time this year, environmental consulting and engineering, remediation/industrial services, testing and analytical services, and hazardous waste management firms have opportunity to earn recognition for maintaining a great workplace and achieving high levels of employee satisfaction on a new Environmental Business Journal/CE News Best Environmental Service Firms To Work For list. This is an exciting opportunity for many firms that have applied to the civil engineering list in the past; now they can apply (at the same time) for a second honor. Additionally, we expect that the pool of first-time applicants will expand.
As in past years, the final rankings for ZweigWhite’s full suite of Best Firms To Work For lists—which now includes the CE News Best Civil Engineering Firms To Work For, the Structural Engineer Best Structural Engineering Firms To Work For, the ZweigWhite Best Architecture Firms To Work For, and the Environmental Business Journal/CE News Best Environmental Service Firms To Work For—will be presented at the Best Firm To Work For Summit. This two-day conference will be held Sept. 18-19 in San Francisco, where firm leaders and industry experts will unite to explore the best practices of creating a great workplace and attracting and retaining top talent.