Strategic goals guide recruiting and retention efforts

February 2009 » Feature Articles
At Terracon, we view employees as internal clients of the firm, and we are constantly striving to become a more attractive and valued employer. With a network of nearly 100 offices nationwide, recruiting and retaining talented employees is a top priority. We take our commitment to employees so seriously that it is part of the firm’s overall vision and mission. While day-to-day efforts appropriately consume much of our resources, our continued, long-term success depends on achieving our mission’s strategic goals.
Mary Young and Vanessa Zambo

Terracon seeks to expand recruiting programs, establish in-house training, and develop managers.

Terracon’s Supervisor Development course helps frontline supervisors learn fundamental supervisory skills.
At Terracon, we view employees as internal clients of the firm, and we are constantly striving to become a more attractive and valued employer. With a network of nearly 100 offices nationwide, recruiting and retaining talented employees is a top priority. We take our commitment to employees so seriously that it is part of the firm’s overall vision and mission. While day-to-day efforts appropriately consume much of our resources, our continued, long-term success depends on achieving our mission’s strategic goals.

Terracon’s strategic goals are the key areas where we invest our time and money to improve, change, and develop as a company. Using our strategic goals as guidance for recruiting and retention, Terracon works to raise its value to clients and employees. There are certainly challenges, as with all firms, but our strategic goals have helped us shape the following initiatives to improve and innovate our recruiting and retaining programs.

Expand recruiting programs to targeted audiences and increase employee skills in recruiting. Recruiting is a strategic team effort, and we are continually using creative, new, and unique methods to find a diverse mix of talent. With the social media boom, we aim to attract the younger generation through social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Yahoo! Groups. Social networking has proven invaluable for connecting with young people who are just graduating from college. Not only does it connect candidates to our company, but it spreads awareness about Terracon.

To reach any generation, our best recruiters are our employees. As an employee-owned company, all employees are empowered to have a part in recruiting. Terracon created a referral bonus to encourage employees to bring in talented people they know from past jobs, professional associations, school, or other social activities. The referral bonus is $2,500 for salaried positions and $1,000 for hourly positions. Results have shown that high-quality hires usually occur from Terracon’s referral program, and 68 percent of new hires come from employee referrals.

Establish comprehensive training and development programs for employees at all levels. Once we have recruited high-quality employees, we place a high value on continual employee development. "We employ some of the best and brightest people in the industry, and at the core of Terracon’s business model is a culture of investing in our people to help continue to grow the firm," said Kevin Brigandi, department manager for Terracon’s Hartford, Conn., office.

Terracon’s vision is to create the Terracon Learning Institute, an internal university that will be a single stop for all employee development resources. The program is just beginning to take shape, but the aim is to address the issue of helping employees easily access the curriculum necessary to progress in their careers at Terracon. We believe that if employees are confident about their career opportunities at Terracon, they will be more likely to stay with the company.

Employees are first exposed to the Terracon Learning Institute through the online course catalog. Recently released, it enables employees to find all courses offered in their area of specialization, and to identify learning opportunities that run parallel with their developmental goals for the year. Terracon uses internal subject matter experts to teach many of the technical classes, giving attendees a more in-depth learning experience. Through webcast technology, subject matter experts are able to teach from their locations at any of our offices. As a result, Terracon has offered more than 600 webcasts during the last year.

Eventually, the institute will also provide 360-degree assessment tools and career path road maps that will help employees easily access the curriculum necessary to progress in their careers at Terracon. The career paths will provide additional information of what skills and development activities are needed for each position so employees can more clearly define the recommended activities for their career growth. Having career paths will strengthen the annual Performance Management and Career Development process in which supervisors and employees define opportunities and actions—such as training—to meet mutual goals.

Develop managers and leaders from front-line supervisors to senior managers. "Employee retention is closely aligned with effective leadership," said Pam Wagner, employee development manager. Terracon has identified the following top five reasons that employees leave:

  1. poor management,
  2. lack of career growth,
  3. poor communications,
  4. lower-than-desired pay, and
  5. lack of recognition.


Since many of these reasons are linked to leadership effectiveness, Terracon has and continues to invest heavily in a series of leadership development courses. In its seventh year, Leadership Development Courses I and II force participants to look hard at their management and leadership styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Since the courses began, the result has been a reduction in turnover among employees who have participated in the Leadership Development courses.

Terracon’s Leadership Development I course provides high-potential employees with ways to increase management and leadership skills by focusing on issues inside each office. The class is taught primarily by Terracon senior management since they are able to provide insight into daily office life from their personal experiences. With some theory provided from in-house and external experts, senior management is able to provide practical application.

"The program taught me that leadership development is a continual learning process with emphasis on mentoring and drawing on the rich experiences of successful people within and outside Terracon," said Jensen John, department manager at Terracon’s Milwaukee office.

The Leadership II course is comprised of senior leaders. It offers insight into a more strategic leadership perspective and an understanding of how, why, and when to apply that perspective with employees, clients, and markets. The Leadership II class views multi-office issues that affect the company as a whole. This class features external speakers to provide a broader view of leadership concepts. Class participants team up to tackle applicable business issues, and their work provides detailed research and recommendations to the company’s senior management at the conclusion of the course.

In response to a huge demand from both field and office employees within the organization, Terracon created the Supervisor Development course to help frontline supervisors learn fundamental supervisory skills. We have learned that when people who have no experience managing employees are promoted, they need tools for success in their new roles. The program began in September 2008 and is self-paced while also allowing supervisors from across the country to come together in a virtual atmosphere. As part of this pilot program, participants read materials on their own and then convene in small study groups via webcasts and teleconferences. It is an inexpensive way for co-workers to network and share real-life applications of what they have learned. The goal is for them to have a greater connection to their jobs, the company, and to each other, as well as to have a better understanding of the big picture at Terracon.

Terracon wants to ensure that—more than hiring and promoting—we offer a rewarding career with challenging and gratifying project work in an environment that is supportive, attractive, and flexible. We strive to provide programs for different career levels as well as programs that help employees stay current and adapt to the times. A key attribute regarding employee recruitment and retention is the company’s values and how well they are integrated into the company culture, known by employees, and used for decision-making. As a 100-percent employee-owned company, we aim to empower our employees to make a difference.

"At Terracon, people of diverse talents and knowledge, and in a variety of locations and disciplines, come together and complement each other," said David Gaboury, P.E., Terracon president and CEO. "Our growth is the result of talented, dedicated employees working toward a common goal to deliver success for clients and employees."


Mary Young and Vanessa Zambo work in Corporate Services for Terracon (www.terracon.com), an employee-owned engineering consulting firm with more than 3,000 employees that provides geotechnical, environmental, construction materials, and facilities services from nearly 100 offices nationwide.




Upcoming Events

See All Upcoming Events