As a sponsor of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), OpenSpace is committed to providing valuable insights and resources to our customers and industry peers. Recently, we had the privilege of hosting a series of fireside chats with distinguished NECA members TCE and Cleveland Electric. These engaging conversations touched upon various aspects of our industry…
Crafting an intentional workplace culture to grow your construction business
July 28th, 2023
In this guest post, Jason Colline, Vice President at DiPasquale Construction, Inc. (DCI), shares the role of culture in sustaining a high-performance construction business. DCI provides quality, innovative construction services throughout the western New York region in virtually every sector, specializing in the construction of institutional structures, education facilities, and commercial/retail buildings.
The construction industry is facing acute labor challenges, and so at DCI, our executive team has chosen to be very intentional about making our company a place where people want to work—and stay. Company culture encompasses how an organization manages such factors as the physical and mental work environment, competitive wages and benefits, staff safety and well-being, technology investments, and career development, just to name a few.
I check in with our employees often about our company culture, and, by all accounts, we seem to be on the right track. But as the world evolves, so must employers. As an industry, we must continually evaluate our company culture and change it with the times. It is always a work in progress. I’d like to explore some of these factors and offer my perspective, as well as describe ways we are working to create and sustain an excellent company culture and a strong talent brand.
First and foremost, we are a team
The dynamic energy of our team allows us to work collaboratively with all of our clients to achieve the highest level of innovation, quality, and value. And for us, it all starts with our website address: www.dci-team.com. We are a team! We’re a group that performs interdependent tasks to meet a common mission or specific objective. We are a group of people, and we are also a group of business units working closely together, under one roof, on behalf of our customers.
When you walk in the front door of our facility, the only picture on the wall is a group photo of our company, the team. This photo is displayed prominently because we want all visitors to meet the team as soon as they enter our office. Our company needs every single employee in order to operate, and we always welcome and greet visitors as a team. And we update our team photo each year during one of our annual summer events.
It is also important to understand and teach employees who “the Company” is. I regularly hear people say things like, “The company pays for it” or “It’s not mine, it’s the company’s.” The Company is not a single person; it comprises all team members. If the Company does well, all employees also do well. If the Company does poorly, the employees will feel it. The Company earns revenue from customers, allowing it to cultivate the culture. How well “the Company” does will truly determine our ability to provide an excellent culture.
Continued technology investments—in the office and on-site
We adopted cloud technology many years ago to empower our field staff to view project documents from any physical location. We also equipped our field management team with Dell Latitude laptops and the fastest internet speeds available at the project location. Quality computer hardware is particularly important because the software will only be able to perform if the right hardware is in place. Therefore, we provide name-brand, business-level computers with solid-state hard drives, fast processors, and plenty of memory. A good internet connection is also very important in order to run cloud applications efficiently. Our cloud-based programs operate all aspects of our business, from accounting to field management.
Moreover, our heavy equipment has the latest GPS hardware and software. We constantly upgrade our heavy equipment to make the most of the millions of dollars we’ve recently invested in heavy equipment. Providing our field staff with the right equipment and tools to be successful is a top priority, ranging from hand tools to large pieces of heavy equipment. In our industry, quality company vehicles are important as well, and the majority of our fleet is less than five years old.
Our office runs on the fastest internet speeds available and has ethernet ports throughout, as well as Wi-Fi extenders to broadcast the wireless network. We have many Samsung televisions throughout our office space, which gives us the ability to receive wireless broadcasting from PCs. Large-format printing and scanning of project plans are available, as well as many multifunction printers throughout the facility for easy use. We offer Dell docking stations and extra monitors in all offices for easy viewing since most staff members have laptops. We also have flex space available for our field staff to use if needed. For example, a Field Superintendent may visit the office to review a specific task and want to leave with hard copy plans. The flex space allows them to have their own working space with access to all the amenities the physical office has to offer.
Collaborating in the physical workplace
While we leverage technology like OpenSpace reality capture that allows us to handle many core activities without being on the jobsite, we have also made significant investments in a new physical workplace because we’re highly team-oriented and value being able to mingle and collaborate with one another. We place a premium on cross-functional collaboration, mentorship, and group involvement, which are strengthened when we’re in a shared physical environment.
If you want your team to report to a physical office, I have some recommendations. Ensure your office is centrally located to accommodate those living in the surrounding areas. Be sure to include amenities and have a state-of-the-art facility. We realized this and recently purchased a location in Canal Ponds Business Park. The business park is located near major expressways and offers most of our team a 20-minute commute. We also chose a location near many retail shops, grocery stores, gas stations, banks, and restaurants so that our team has access to restaurants for lunch and/or can accomplish errands on their way to or from the workplace.
Designing the ideal workplace for wellness and development
The building itself, opening this month, is state-of-the-art, offering offices with plenty of windows and natural light. It features a fully equipped gym (with shower), 3,000 square foot meeting/training center, printer/plotter room, cafeteria, and rooftop deck. Our team members can enjoy their lunch outside on the rooftop deck, in the cafeteria, or at one of the many nearby restaurants. They can also enjoy the business park, featuring 20 acres of ponds and 12 acres of woodlands throughout a system of walkways and bicycle paths. Our gym promotes physical wellness, while our meeting/training center provides an excellent atmosphere for growth.
The third floor of our new headquarters houses the meeting/training center. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to add a third floor, but we feel no expense is too much when it comes to the safety and development of our team. We’ll use this space for safety meetings, bringing in outside resources to teach best practices to keep our team safe. We’ll also hold training sessions to teach our team how to get the most out of the software used to manage their projects. We also plan to bring in outside resources to train our team on how to get the most out of their health benefits and 401K contributions, and we’ll even offer personal support such as financial wellness, budgeting, new home buyer programs, etc. Group gatherings with field management in this space will allow them to discuss different management techniques and field issues and share experiences to make their workdays better. If we can gather and share ideas as a group, we can all learn from each other’s successes and failures.
Self-development, safety, training, and wellness are very important to prioritize. And as you can see, we are providing a physical environment in order to achieve these objectives. It will be a great spot to throw a party or two, or three, or four to celebrate our accomplishments with each other. In fact, we have multiple gatherings throughout the year to bring our field and office teams together. Having our construction teams scattered across New York State on many projects makes it hard for them to mingle with their colleagues. We hold a summer picnic, a clambake in the fall, and a holiday party in the winter, with other events on the horizon. During these events, we get to come together as a team, take a well-deserved break, and celebrate each other. We use these events to mention individual successes and hand out company awards, congratulate staff on work anniversaries, and recognize our employee of the year annually. It is great to gather and enjoy each other’s company.
Taking a work break is only one small way to ensure mental well-being. Mental well-being is important, as we want everyone to enjoy coming to work. We want all employees to be happy on their way to work and happy on their way home. If employees dread coming to work on Mondays or constantly go home in a bad mood, we are failing them. We must provide policy, procedure, structure, and support constantly to sustain high morale. For example, when the company purchases new software and provides required training, employees may look at it negatively because we are asking them to add another task to their day. But when they recognize the software is intended to make their work easier, then the positive effects will reveal themselves, and you will hear team members say, “I don’t know what we did before using this software.”
Nurturing employees’ career goals and sense of purpose
Providing employees with a clear career path and discussing where they see themselves in the future is essential. We are here to support their individual career goals. Nothing makes us prouder than seeing our staff grow. If an employee feels the need to quit and go elsewhere to elevate their career, then we failed them. It’s our responsibility to discuss their accomplishments and failures to help them achieve growth within our organization. Providing training and mentorship to achieve individual career paths must be part of the company’s goals. Building a team relies on continuity, and you cannot achieve continuity if there is a revolving door.
I personally worked for the same employer for 20 years and only left to change industries, not employers. I enjoyed watching my colleagues’ kids grow old, and I enjoyed being part of something special, building a company. We have many employees who have been with us for many years, and we display their anniversary plaques in our office to thank them for their loyalty.
Providing avenues to support charities such as the Golisano Children’s Hospital and Make-A-Wish Foundation are also available. Offering ways for our staff to give back creates a great sense of purpose. Giving back to our community is important, and helping others is a great way to cultivate positive feelings. As employers, we must be aware of the importance of this and provide support however we can. If we can play a role in helping our employees have a positive healthy mindset, we need to take it upon ourselves to help them.
Walking the walk, talking the talk
As I’ve discussed, a positive company culture is always a work in progress. We are not perfect. But we are open-minded and truly have our team’s best interests at heart. A lot of employers say one thing but do another. I hear positive feedback from new employees, frequently mentioning how strong our benefits package is, stating how fast their computer is, and sharing how the president of their previous company never had lunch with them as ours often does.
We are a team, we are a family, we work together, break bread together, celebrate successes, and address failures together. We want everyone to have a short commute. We want everyone to enjoy the building and its amenities. We want everyone to grow their career to the extent they would like to. We want everyone to be safe. We honor our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We want to provide older employees with a place to conclude their careers and are honored to help younger staff begin their journeys. We want everyone to have a positive mindset. From company leadership to an employee in a ditch, we are all equally valuable to “the Company,” and we want all of our team members to feel the genuine appreciation we have for them.
If you’re in a leadership position, I hope I’ve given you ideas you can apply at your company to build a thriving culture that’s worthy of your team. And if you’re an employee (or potential DCI employee), I hope you know there really are companies out there like ours that will have your back and invest in your development and well-being in meaningful ways.
In this leadership series on the OpenSpace Blog, we feature perspectives from OpenSpace customers, partners, and other industry luminaries on a wide variety of topics. Hear from our other top customers in our case study library.