ENCOURAGING AND ENGAGING, from page 7
example, our CEO has established a regular “coffee time” and open discussion with newly-registered professionals on their leadership development. We’ve also enhanced onboarding and engagement with a focus on recruiting classes. During the 2020/2021 season, we recruited more than 100 new professionals. They are taking part in a series of information sessions, workshops, and teaming events to create a stronger orientation experience. I’m serving as the executive sponsor and we involve seasoned, senior-level executives in the process. In general, we employ a wide range of tools and resources to encourage mentorship and camaraderie across all of our geographies. TZL: Does your firmwork closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, experience, innovation, and/or recruiting to find qualified resources? DC: We have active, long-term relationships with several major universities, with our subject matter experts and technical staff contributing through lectures, project tours, and participation on awards programs for student projects. We also partner with several institutions to recruit interns and new graduates. We have close ties, for example, to Virginia Tech’s Land Development Design Initiative, which partners with the university’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with industry practitioners. Many of our marketing and communications professionals have also partnered with George Mason University’s marketing professional services and technical writing program, serving as advisors and mentors. We have a strong internship program throughout many of our offices – one in which we provide students with meaningful, hands-on involvement in major projects while also encouraging candid feedback on their experiences at Dewberry. We design custom projects with teams of interns and Dewberry facilitators. As an example, our 2021 summer intern project examined what the higher education market might look like in the post-COVID environment – then reported the results back to clients. “To realize our marketing goals, it all needs to begin at the personal level in reaching out to clients and prospective clients. Everyone here represents Dewberry. In that respect, we’re all a part of the marketing team.” TZL: What are you currently doing to meet the vision of “Inventing Our Next Future One Opportunity at a Time”? DC: Our strategic plan is closely aligned with this vision. We maintain a strategic focus on acquisitions, the hiring of key subject matter experts, leadership development, engaging emerging professionals, employee retention, increasing diversity, and, most importantly, building and sustaining productive relationships with clients and partners. There is a common thread to all of this: our focus on people and their personal experiences and perspectives.
2019 Fall Strategic Planning Meeting, “Inventing Our Next Future One Opportunity at a Time.” Photographer: Dave Huh
When we talk about leadership, diversity, and retention, we’re drawing heavily on the personal involvement of our employees. We want to understand how people relate to one another and howwe can support and motivate each other. This includes our marketing. To realize our marketing goals, it all needs to begin at the personal level in reaching out to clients and prospective clients. Everyone here represents Dewberry. In that respect, we’re all a part of the marketing team. TZL: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? DC: We’re very much a culture-driven firm, and one that has always focused on people and relationship-building in our service delivery. There are markets that are not a fit with this emphasis. For example, we committed resources and the opening of an office to exploring business opportunities related to a market opportunity that was pretty hot and being pursued by many in our industry. We quickly found that this was very much a commodity-driven market. That isn’t a fit for our firm, and we soon stepped back from that initiative. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? DC: People. As a civil engineer, I’ve enjoyed the many challenges that complex projects bring, but today I focus on what our firm is doing to keep our employees happy, engaged, and challenged. TZL: What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? DC: We’ve examined this up and down and a few strategies do stand out: having the right leadership in place, creating and defining clear career paths, providing opportunities to work on interesting and challenging projects and having fun. We work hard, but we focus on the work-life balance too. In terms of career opportunities, we have a strong focus on internal transfers. As our geographic footprint has grown, this has become easier to do, with multiple opportunities across service lines and offices around the country. Encouraging and engaging staff requires direct interaction. I visit a lot of offices, and I’m constantly picking up the phone to check in with staff. This is emphasized throughout our leadership training, and I practice this every day. It’s the best part of my job.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER JANUARY 17, 2022, ISSUE 1424
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