Sam Reed says that your employees need to know they’re good at what they do.
The president of architectural and engineering services firm BSA LifeStructures Inc. believes that, too often, businesses focus too much on the areas in which employees need to improve and not enough on their strengths. And while you have to identify and address shortcomings to help employees reach their full potential, Reed says you should also consistently point out ways in which your employees are excelling and let them know that management wants to help them make their strengths even stronger.
“That is something that has really helped us differentiate ourselves, and it’s something that has given our new employees the confidence to interact with our clients,” says Reed of his firm, which had $44.7 million in local billings last year.
Smart Business spoke with Reed about how to keep your employees focused and confident.
Communicate your expectations and focus on strengths. Employees need to understand the values of the organization that they’re a part of. If they don’t, they’re just sort of out there in a canoe by themselves and not really a part of an organization headed in a singular direction.
Second, it’s everyone understanding their strengths and how those match up with the strengths of others in the organization. Some organizations might ask their people where they need to improve and try to help them become better at that. Conversely, we ask what they are good at and how can you become great at that.
When we ask them what part of the role they struggle with, it’s usually because they don’t have quite the passion as they do in an area that they’re very good at or great at. ... If they’re not so good in a certain role or struggling with it, there are probably others who enjoy that, and we encourage them to partner with one another.
Third, it is important that everyone understands what is expected of them. If you are in a role and really wondering what is expected of you, you’re going to take up a lot of time and energy trying to figure that out instead of taking care of clients.
Fourth, in any organization, most people become satisfied in their work if they feel and truly believe that someone is there who can help them be successful [and] really cares about them. The communication and discussions we have here really goes a long way to showing our people that we really do care about them, we want them to be successful and are providing them with the equipment and resources they need to be successful.
Envision success. We have visioning sessions with our staff about where do they see BSA LifeStructures going, what is the future that they personally want to be a part of, what are the different possibilities that they can see. We have those types of sessions throughout the entire firm; we have small group meetings of 10 to 15 people at the most. They’re great meetings because the staff knows their ideas will be respected, so they openly share their goals and thoughts, and even I’d say they share their dreams, not only for themselves but for the firm.
Help people understand themselves. We’ve had meetings with many of our senior staff who have created the concept for these visioning sessions. We talk to them about how they describe success in their current role and how they think that should be measured.
We also have discussions with them about what is it they think makes them as good as they are at what they do. ... We also talk about, on the flip side, what part of their current role they struggle with and what that might tell them about their skill, knowledge and talent.
We also talk about what would be the perfect role. We do a kind of imagining session, where we talk about what they would be doing. These are powerful discussions because we’re not just sitting there as many organizations do, telling the staff what it is we think they need to do.
It’s helping and assisting our staff to begin to understand themselves. If they don’t understand their skills and talents, they don’t know how to leverage them for our clients in their projects.
Start at the beginning. On the subject of a new employee orientation process, there are lots of things I’ve seen read and heard from other business folks who have talked about getting people oriented on the inside looking inward. But I haven’t heard a lot of talk about how you get your new employees looking outward and how you treat your clients when they are calling for help, when you’re out working with them on an existing project.
Most companies go through formal orientation processes, and we do, as well. They help employees get to know different leaders of the firm, which we do, as well. We have one-on-one meetings with many of the employees, many of the leaders of the firm, including ourselves. But what we also talk about is how we treat and work with our clients. I think that is a huge differentiator for our firm.
Focusing your employees from the start is important. If you don’t have a focus as a business, you’re spinning your wheels, looking at moving into other markets that you may not know much about.
The markets we’re in right now, we’re able to move into those markets very powerfully. Without question, we know those markets inside and out.
HOW TO REACH: BSA LifeStructures Inc., (317) 819-7878 or www.bsalifestructures.com