Engineering success Featured

7:00pm EDT March 23, 2006
When Jeffrey Banning started Banning Engineering, he thought he’d own a small engineering firm with five employees, tops.

Twelve years later, the company — with annual revenue of more than $4 million — can’t find enough qualified employees to keep up with its fast growth, and Banning has turned down customers because he couldn’t meet the demand.

To help offset that problem, the president and CEO recently moved his company into a larger building and is experimenting with ways to make better use of his employees.

Smart Business spoke with Banning about the challenges of finding employees and how he is reorganizing the structure of his company.

How do you find quality employees?

One of the challenges we have from a growth standpoint is there is a lot of work that we could do, that we just can’t do or won’t accept because of a lack of qualified employees. What we are trying to do is become more streamlined and more efficient in-house and then look at growing the company after we get the processes and procedures in place.

We are trying to reach out to colleges or high schools and find good people and even train them in-house. A big push of ours this year is increasing the amount of training we do internally, and then we will be able to promote people within the office.

In the long run, that will benefit us as a company, and maybe we won’t have to hire as many people because we will be better trained and more efficient in what we do in-house.

How are you restructuring your business to make better use of employees?

We tend to put a square peg in a round hole and make, in our case, engineers and surveyors into managers, and I’m not sure that’s really what they want to do. I think they would be happy doing engineering and surveying.

So how can we make them better engineers and surveyors? Give them the assistance they need with someone who can do more of the administrative things and they can do the technical things. I see a lot of good technical people that are put into administrative roles, and it probably doesn’t work as well as it could or should.

We recently hired a couple people and put them in charge of specific items. To promote the continued growth of the company, you need people to help keep the technical people focused on what they can do. They help the technical people, whether it’s performing contracts or client development or follow-ups with clients.

The engineers and surveyors are still going to need to do that, but if we can get some administrative people to help out with some of those responsibilities, I see that as more beneficial — having people that are comfortable doing that do that, and then have our technical people do what they are good at.

How are you retaining the quality employees already have?

We have tried to develop an atmosphere that is very beneficial to them. When I hired my first employee, one of the things that I told my insurance agent is, I don’t want to be in the insurance business. Therefore, I want insurance for the employee, as well as his family, paid 100 percent. As a company, even to this day, we pay 100 percent of the premium. That has been huge in starting that atmosphere that we wanted to promote throughout the company.

We try to promote the company as a fun place to work, and we also try to have events where the family is involved.

How has that atmosphere influenced employee turnover?

We probably have five or six people that have been with us at least 10 years. We’ve had pretty phenomenal growth over the last couple years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if almost half the people have been with us for five years or longer. Our turnover rate is very low. When we hire someone, we don’t hire them to get a project done and then they’re gone. We try to be more stringent in our hiring. When we hire someone, we expect them to be here forever.

It doesn’t always work out for either party, but that is the attitude that we tend to take.

HOW TO REACH: Banning Engineering, (317) 707-3700 or www.banningengineering.com