by Matt Shoor AIA LEED AP
In our 21st-century corporate climate, the concept of a distinct and palpable office culture has practically become a maxim of good business. A company’s culture is typically based upon specific goals or principles laid out by founders or management, and it is anticipated that exemplary employees will absorb, demonstrate, and perpetuate this ethos. To paraphrase Eric Bacolas, chief talent officer of 360i, a digital marketing agency, “culture is everything.”
Bacolas and Elizabeth Faircloth, vice president of Augur Inc., a management consulting firm, illustrated a variety of human resources strategies used to generate a committed and engaged workforce. Through a focus on the singular employee, these techniques ultimately seek the creation of a healthy and productive company-wide culture. The talent management approaches described by Bacolas and Faircloth can be employed at architecture firms of all sizes, because the focus on the individual employee means that they are eminently scalable.
As Faircloth explained, the successful dissemination of office culture hinges upon the devotion of the employee. He or she must be inspired to sacrifice individual needs to the achievement of a common cause. Assembling a constellation of talented geniuses no longer guarantees future business success. Superstar personalities of the superstars are too often incompatible, or they feel that the essential grunt work is beneath his or her dignity. Instead, borrowing from the lexicon of sports, teamwork has trumped talent.
According to the assessment tools that Faircloth and her colleagues use, an employee’s organizational fit is actually more important than her skills. It stands to reason that if she likes the team she works with, feels that they are laboring together toward a shared goal, and knows that her efforts will be rewarded, her attitude will remain positive. Faircloth indicated that if an employee feels disempowered in a new position, her attitude will disintegrate rapidly, resulting in a failure to perform or departure in search of better employment.
Faircloth went on to state that the formation of a successful team requires a diversity of behavior. As a result, group members run the gamut of personality types, since each type is especially well-suited to certain tasks. Consequently, management must be capable of motivating each person on an individual basis, which entails a keen sensitivity to the spectrum of emotional needs. Bacolas and Faircloth highlighted that communication and coaching are now normal practices of the managerial class, and that both assist in the proliferation of a supportive office culture.
Architectural offices would do well to learn from these talent management strategies. Imagine the revenue saved if designers felt that greater professional advancement and a higher salary awaited them at their current job, rather than a position elsewhere. Imagine the employee satisfaction levels if the managerial class promoted a team environment, where individual nurturing and mentoring of their employees motivated the group toward higher achievement. Imagine the increased productivity if a buoyant company culture was prioritized over working overtime to meet the next deadline.
Architecture would be a dream job, and the attrition that currently disrupts the profession would evaporate like a muddy puddle on a warm Spring day.
Matt Shoor is an architect, writer, and educator currently employed by Macrae-Gibson Architects. He is a frequent contributor to e-Oculus, and can be reached at email@example.com.
Event: Leading Architecture in a Changing World: Critical Issues in Talent Planning and Strategic Human Resources
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.08.13
Speakers: Eric Bacolas, Chief Talent Officer, 360i; Elizabeth Faircloth, Vice President, Augur Inc.
Moderator: Melissa Marsh, Principal, Plastarc
Organizers: AIANY Chapter Professional Practice Committee and AIANY staff