Many companies hire for need, then lay off employees when the work dries up. But Crislip says that treating your employees like short-term commodities isn’t the best way to build a strong team.
“If we’re real busy with something and we think it’s a little hill in the road, we’ll just all band together, work a little overtime and get over the hill,” says Crislip, who also serves as one of three principals at the 90-employee architecture and design firm.
But if the hill starts to look like a mountain, it’s time to make some hires.
Smart Business spoke with Crislip about how to get to know your employees and how to build excitement among new hires.
Q. How do you build strong relationships with your staff?
It comes down to being able to see things through your individual staff members’ eyes. You have to get to know them and find out what motivates them. Sometimes, issues at home can affect work performance or attitude.
I personally try to interact as much as possible with all of our employees, which is difficult because we have 90, but I still sit in on every interview. That’s usually the first time you have the opportunity to learn a lot about a person.
Q. How do you get to know your employees?
Try to find out what people’s personal situations are so you have some empathy to what they’re going through. Try to find out how they solve problems or what motivates them.
The first job I got out of school, I was there a year, and the president of the company never spoke to me once. I think he squeezed my elbow once at the drafting board.
So I try to go around and say hi to everybody and remember things about people.
Q. How do you motivate employees?
We typically pair new interns with our experienced staff and have them work together on projects.
We’ve got a variety of work, from large shopping centers to small retail projects. We try to get people operating on their own and independently as quickly as we can and as they’re comfortable. These small retail projects offer a lot of opportunity to a new employee to do their own small projects with the mentor-ship of a senior staff member, but they get to work autonomously.
So, they get to work fairly independently, and that motivates people because you feel like you’re your own boss.
They’re not just doing a piece of a large project, they’re doing what they would consider to be their own small project. And if they do well in the small project, they move up to a bigger project, then a bigger project.
Q. How do you develop a plan for the organization?
We work as a management group, and we discuss business direction and opportunities. Years ago we did a master strategic plan, but what we do now is yearly strategic planning to focus on short-term visions. (It is) pretty much a strategic plan for the coming year. We all put a rough draft of it together and then we work together to refine it. That kind of gives us our marching orders for the year.
We’re careful to remain opportunistic, so if an opportunity comes along that may not be part of the master plan, we allow ourselves to deviate from it if we need to
Q. How does going from a master plan to a yearly plan change the company’s strategy?
The master strategic plan is the master road map, and the yearly strategic plan is using your tracking system to see how you’re going to get somewhere. You’ve got your road map, but now you’ve got to figure out where you want to go on that road map and how you’re going to get there.
Q. How does the decision-making process work?
If it’s an issue (that) comes up that is just an issue that the partners can decide, we usually get together and reach consensus. If it’s an issue that’s affecting the business, we’ve got three associates that are part of our management team — we get them involved.
They don’t necessarily make the decision, the partners do. But we get input from them and make them part of the process.
By making them part of the process, it’s easier for them to buy in, as opposed to saying, ‘We made a decision, and here’s where we’re going.’ They’re part of the strategic plan, so you’ve got some additional opinions and input.
You’re grooming your next generation of leaders and making them feel like part of the future.
HOW TO REACH: Herschman Architects Inc., (216) 223-3200 or www.herschmanarchitects.com