Harry Reinhart has 90 years of legacy to rely on. But that doesn’t mean Buck Consultants LLC is still the same company — at least not in Pittsburgh, where Reinhart serves as market leader for the human resource and employee benefits consulting firm.
To keep his approach current, he needs employees who can connect with clients — which also requires connecting with each other.
“You have to give them an environment that allows them to deliver those solutions,” says Reinhart, who supports his 90 employees by reducing administrative burdens and providing a network of teammates to rely on.
Smart Business spoke with Reinhart about building a team environment.
Q. How do you determine whether an employee will fit in at Buck?
You want to try to find people that exhibit the traits that would tell you that they can contribute and also get satisfaction from working in a group, not just alone.
This is pretty simple — people that have been exposed to sports at some time in their life is usually a good indication. You look at people that are educated [where] they work a lot in teams, so you start to understand some of the universities that they’ve gone to.
And you ask that question: ‘Tell me how you work in a group.’ It can be as simple as that.
Q. How do you create an environment conducive to teamwork?
We have a very strong peer review system in place. When they do some work for a client, nothing goes out the door without someone more senior reviewing it, including even e-mails as well as day-to-day conversation. Anything that goes to a client is reviewed through a team.
A lot of the goals and values that we set down for individuals involve actually keeping track of how often they’ve conducted team meetings. So if someone says, ‘I had a great year this year, and I did all of this work for a client,’ you say, ‘OK, but you didn’t peer review any of your work.’ Then you know you didn’t have a great year.
Q. How do you balance individual goals with team goals?
We get a budget from corporate that says, ‘Here’s what we need from you this year.’ And we all get together and say that Harry doesn’t own this goal; this office owns this goal. We figure out who’s going to have what piece of it, so even at that level it’s a team goal.
Basically, it trickles down and we say, ‘Here’s our goal for the year. Here’s your piece of it. You’re going to be rewarded individually on that piece, but you’re also rewarded on the office performance.’ So a component of their personal rewards is based on how well the office does as well as the unit and the company itself.
You can have someone that did everything on their own and maybe met their individual goal, but the office missed their goal or the unit missed their goal and they won’t be rewarded for that component of it. So everyone has a vested interest in helping the office, the unit and, ultimately, the company to be successful. To summarize that, I would say that your reward systems have to be aligned with the behaviors that you want.
Q. How do you build trust within teams?
I think a lot of that has to do with how you react when there’s a mistake. When there is a mistake, the best employees say, ‘I made a mistake here. How do I fix it?’ The worst ones say, ‘It was someone else’s fault.’
You create an environment where errors are OK because I think if you don’t have errors, you’re not pushing the envelope enough. I don’t want that to say that we have errors here; the peer review process catches that before it goes out. But people learn incredibly faster when there’s an error.
If you have the right people, the trust is built because the person who’s leading the team says, ‘It’s ultimately my fault,’ and there’s not an environment that says, ‘Hey, you made a mistake. You’re fired.’ We take it together.
One of the things you want to look for is a lot of my leaders and people that are in more supervisory positions get great pleasure out of having the people that work for them succeed. The ones that say, ‘Hey, look what I, I, I did,’ if they say ‘I’ a lot, it’s not a good thing.
Q. If employees aren’t meeting goals, how can you bring them back on track?
We don’t shoo them out the door — not at first. We’ll sit down with them and say, ‘Look, you’re not doing the types of things that we need you to do to help us as an office to be successful.’
One other thing that I think is critical is that I insist on a balance. People that put in 80- and 90-hour workweeks aren’t going to be good to me for the long haul. I want people to have a life outside of work. We’re pretty flexible around those kinds of things; if you need time, we find a way. We have many modified work schedules here.
I handle that one. I’ll go in and say, ‘That’s enough. If you’re doing this, it’s because you’re not communicating or you’re not delegating properly. You either need more help or you need different team members or something’s not right here.’ I’ve watched it happen too many times where they literally get burnt out.
It goes back to [the idea] that our business is people. It’s not bricks or mortar. The clients hire people so we need to find the right people.
How to reach: Buck Consultants LLC, (412) 281-2506 or www.buckconsultants.com