Guest Post by Lauren Nunnally, Swinerton Chief Talent Officer

Laying the foundation for buildings goes much deeper than pouring concrete. Companies who invest in building a strong culture that fosters collaboration, professional development, passion, and pride will see higher rates of employee engagement and retention, superior levels of craftsmanship, and stronger commitment to the team and its mission.

Identifying and partnering with general contractors (GCs) that are committed to building a strong company culture that is aligned with your goals and values ensures your project directly reaps the benefits of that culture and significantly increases the probability of exceeding your expectations.

Curating a Strong Culture in Construction

An organization’s culture reflects the collective values and beliefs that guide attitudes and behaviors. For this reason, culture is anchored in mindset.

Mindset is everything. It is the intangible competitive advantage that drives the success of a GC – to the benefit of its partners. When culture is effectively nurtured, it unleashes significant energy towards a shared mission. Therefore, cultural alignment with an organization’s mission is critical, but how does an organization go about achieving this alignment?

It is critical to ensure your GC shares key core values such as integrity, leadership, teamwork, passion and excellence. Find out how your GC shapes its culture and articulates these attributes with its employees.  Once an organization’s culture is broadly shared and pervasive at all levels, strong alignment between culture and mission is the single most impactful driver of enduring, positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

A Strong Culture is a Socially Responsible Culture

The culture of a GC is honed not only through its leadership and operations, but also through its commitment to economic and workforce development, philanthropy, safety, health and wellness, diversity, and sustainability. Corporate social responsibility generally focuses on three primary areas: People, Community, and Environment.

PEOPLE: Strong recruiting practices result in productive workers who are knowledgeable, healthy, and motivated. Supporting young professionals through internships, CoOps, and apprenticeship training ensures the employment pipeline is continuously filled with the right talent.

Partnerships with organizations such as the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, SkillsUSA, American Society of Engineers, and the Construction Engineering Association, as well as colleges and universities, underpins these recruiting efforts, while strong training, development, and coaching programs ensure employees reach full potential.

Finally, motivating and retaining employees for the long-term requires a best-in-class experience that can only be achieved through a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion practices; competitive benefits; and a safe and healthy workplace.

COMMUNITY: Operating as a responsible partner to small, minority, women-owned, disabled, and veteran-owned business enterprises ensures a cultural richness and diversity of perspectives that benefits any GC and, ultimately, its clients. Partnering with organizations such as the National Association of Minority Contractors and the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council ensures such diversity.

Hiring local talent renders a sense of pride and accomplishment in improving their own communities and lends a stronger sense of ownership in the quality and impact of their work. Lastly, support of community initiatives and charities, both through monetary and volunteer donations, build better cities. 

ENVIRONMENT: Socially responsible GCs commit to implementing and continuously improving sustainable business practices, such as waste reduction and water conservation, through ongoing  employee training and certifications. 

Culture Shapes Project and Business Outcomes

General contractors that operate in an environment defined by trust and frequent, transparent communication organically sustain strong partnership throughout the construction process. This atmosphere of leadership and collaboration ensures that issues and obstacles are avoided and/or swiftly addressed and projects are completed on time and within budget.

When you consider two of the primary dimensions of culture – people interactions and response to change – it is easy to see why culture is such a fundamental driver of success.

PEOPLE INTERACTION: Cultures with a high emphasis on interdependence are highly collaborative and view success through the lens of the team. The success of a construction project is never based on the performance of one individual or stakeholder. Project success is only possible when the individuals and partners are inextricably linked and seamlessly perform as “one team”, a common phrase used at Swinerton.

RESPONSE TO CHANGE: Construction projects and the macroenvironments on which they depend are rife with unpredictability. Cultures crafted with flexibility and adaptability prioritize transparency and innovation and tend to embody a “can do” mindset that positions them to overcome any obstacle.

Evaluating a Company’s Culture

Whether you are selecting a GC partner or your next career move, take the time to evaluate a company’s culture. Try to understand it and how it shows up in their daily work, as well as how it aligns with the culture and mission of your organization. Include the following questions in conversations with employees, leaders, business partners, and others in the community:

  • What is the company’s work environment and employee experience like? How are employees recognized and rewarded? Substantial research has shown that happy employees correlates highly with client satisfaction.
  • Why / how are their employees invested in project success? Employee-ownership opportunities can be a significant driver of employee engagement and effort.
  • What are the organization’s hiring practices? Look for GCs who demonstrate a strong commitment to talent acquisition, particularly at the entry-level.
  • Do development programs for all employees – including craft employees – focus on business and leadership skills in addition to technical competencies? Strong technical competencies are fundamental, but “how” organizations work and the mindsets that are cultivated, elevate great companies over good ones.
  • What is the GC’s retention rate?
  • What diversity and inclusion initiatives are in place? Do policies and practices support employee success and inclusion for all?
  • What percentage of the GC’s work is subcontracted out versus self-performed?
  • Does the company pursue long-term, community-building initiatives?  How does it work with and/or support local organizations, trade programs, and universities?

Organizational performance is a product of the collective capabilities and effort of talent – the employees. Companies that hire diverse and knowledgeable talent, develop its employees, build collaborative teams, retain an engaged and resilient workforce, implement socially responsible business practices, and support employee rewards and recognition, are cultivated for project excellence. 

So, you see, corporate culture really is a key building block.

Lauren Nunnally is Swinerton Chief Talent Officer.