Doing more with less and getting better every day

February 2010 » Departments » COMMENT
Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

Our annual Best Firms To Work For program is now accepting applications (deadline is April 23, 2010). These lists provide meaningful recognition of top-notch firms. Such honors are intended to aid staff recruitment and retainment initiatives. A side benefit of the program is that the process challenges firms to improve and helps raise the bar of civil engineering firms nationwide. Of course, given today’s economic situation, firms are tasked to do more with less. Understandably, this situation is factored into our evaluation of firms.

Many firms don’t participate during rough economic times fearing that they won’t be a contender because they’ve laid off staff, cut or eliminated raises, raised their medical insurance deductible, or made some other significant change to employee benefits. These firms fear conducting an employee survey when so many changes have transpired. Personally, I think these are misperceptions about the program and about what’s going on inside your firm.

A great firm to work for is a great one in spite of tough times. It is one that has superior leadership, strong communication with staff, well-established values, and is willing to make tough decisions for the good of the firm. We all know that great success often comes out of difficult times, so let’s not forget all the good firms are doing today. Furthermore, your firm is dealing with the same economic struggles as your peer firms. Some are going to be more graceful than others during this journey, but you are all tasked to deal with a difficult hand right now. Our evaluation compares the pool of firms that apply to each other, and many firms that apply will have made the same tough decisions that you have. Regardless, the best of those that apply will earn recognition.

I’d also like to comment about the fear factor of doing an Employee Survey at your firm now. I think this is another misinterpreted reason not to apply. Employees are happy to have jobs, they are cognizant of the struggles leaders face, and they might just be more satisfied than you think. And wouldn’t it be great if you found out that what they are most dissatisfied with is something you can fix? Who knows, you might find out that you can improve your employees’ satisfaction by doing things that don’t cost money like communicating better or starting a mentor program. Asking employees how things are going doesn’t seem like a poor decision to me. And if you rank on the list, think about how good that’s going to make you and your staff feel? A morale boost is always appreciated.

The Best Firms To Work For are doing more with less and are getting better every day. Learn more online at

Another CE News ranking program is going on now too — our first annual CE News Top Firms list. A ranking of firms by revenue, this list will feature the biggest firms in our niche. Firms must be headquartered in the United States or Canada to apply, and at least 51 percent of firms’ gross revenue must be derived from the practice of civil engineering or 51 percent of firms’ engineers must conduct civil engineering services on a full-time basis. The deadline to apply is Feb. 16, 2010, and there is no cost to apply. The Top Firms list will be featured in the April 2010 issue of CE News. Go to to learn more.

Enjoy some friendly competition and, if you are ranked, give your firm a well-deserved pat on the back by participating in CE News’ lists. Good luck!

Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.,

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