Four HR lessons from outside industries for engineering firms

Morrissey Goodale gives four examples of HR practices from companies outside the AE world that can be beneficial

By Morrissey Goodale April 1, 2024
Courtesy: Brett Sayles, CFE Media and Technology

Whether it’s maintaining a healthy company culture, sustaining productivity, or advancing the training and development of employees, work dynamics remain a significant challenge in the wake of the pandemic. However, amidst the turmoil, several industries have pioneered innovative HR strategies tailored to the transformed business landscape. This week, we return to our best practices series to draw inspiration from these developing innovations and give thought to how AE firms can reimagine their own HR approaches to the many challenges that lie ahead—and the ones that are already here.

Here are four HR strategies developed and implemented by businesses in other industries since 2020, followed by how AE firms can adapt them for their own use.

Skills development initiatives

Looking outside: LinkedIn launched its skills development initiatives in March 2020, offering employees access to online learning resources and training programs. Through the LinkedIn Learning platform, employees can explore a vast library of courses covering diverse topics ranging from technical skills such as data analysis and software development to soft skills like leadership and communication. The program allows employees to customize their learning paths based on their interests, career goals, and job requirements. Additionally, employees have the flexibility to learn at their own pace, accessing courses anytime, anywhere, through web browsers or mobile devices. LinkedIn Learning also offers interactive features such as quizzes, exercises, and project-based learning experiences to enhance engagement and retention of knowledge. Furthermore, employees can track their progress, earn certifications upon completion of courses, and showcase their newly acquired skills on their LinkedIn profiles, facilitating professional growth and career advancement opportunities. Employees who participated in LinkedIn’s skills development programs reported a 30% increase in job satisfaction and a 25% improvement in performance metrics. Additionally, the organization observed a 20% decrease in turnover rates among employees who actively engaged in skill-building activities.

Bringing it inside: AE firms can provide employees with access to online training courses and certifications in emerging technologies. For example, offering courses in sustainable design practices or advanced modeling software can enhance skill sets and job satisfaction.

Remote onboarding experience

Looking outside: Shopify redesigned its onboarding process for remote hires in April 2020 by leveraging virtual orientations and digital resources to provide new employees with a seamless and immersive experience. The program typically begins with a personalized welcome package delivered to the new hire’s doorstep, containing essential onboarding materials, company swag, and instructions for accessing digital resources. Virtual orientation sessions are conducted via video conferencing platforms, where new hires are introduced to key company stakeholders; learn about the organization’s culture, values, mission, and vision; and receive an overview of their roles and responsibilities. Digital resources—such as online training modules, interactive onboarding portals, and virtual tours of company facilities—supplement the orientation sessions, providing new hires with comprehensive insights into the company’s operations, processes, and tools. Additionally, assigned mentors or buddy systems offer ongoing support and guidance to help new hires acclimate to their roles and integrate into the company culture successfully. Remote hires who experienced Shopify’s revamped onboarding process reported feeling more connected to the organization, with a 40% increase in engagement levels compared to traditional onboarding methods. Additionally, the “time-to-productivity” for remote hires decreased by 15% following the implementation of the new process.

Bringing it inside: Consulting engineering firms can revamp their onboarding process to accommodate remote hires, providing them with virtual orientation sessions and access to digital resources. For example, creating interactive onboarding modules that introduce new hires to the firm’s culture and project methodologies can facilitate a smooth transition into the organization.

Well-being workshops and resources

Looking outside: Google began offering well-being workshops and resources in June 2020 to support employees’ physical and mental health. These initiatives, still in use today, typically encompass a variety of formats, including virtual workshops, webinars, and interactive sessions led by certified professionals and internal experts. Topics covered range from stress management and mindfulness techniques to nutrition, fitness, and work-life balance strategies. Additionally, Google provides access to digital resources such as wellness apps, online courses, and self-help tools to empower employees to take proactive steps towards improving their well-being. Furthermore, the company encourages employees to seek help when needed and provides access to confidential counseling services and mental health resources. Google observed a 25% reduction in stress-related absenteeism among employees who participated in well-being workshops. Additionally, employee satisfaction scores increased by 15% following the introduction of mental health resources and support programs.

Bringing it inside: AE firms can prioritize employee well-being by offering virtual wellness workshops and access to mental health resources. For example, providing employees with access to counseling services and wellness seminars can help mitigate stress and improve overall employee satisfaction.

Asynchronous communication practices

Looking outside: Slack began promoting asynchronous communication practices in January 2021 to facilitate collaboration across different time zones and work schedules. The program involves leveraging Slack’s platform features to enable communication and information exchange that are not dependent on real-time interaction. Specific aspects of the program include encouraging the use of channels and threads to organize discussions and share updates, which allows team members to contribute and catch up on conversations at their convenience. Slack’s integration with project management tools and file-sharing platforms enables teams to collaborate on tasks and projects asynchronously, with notifications and updates being delivered in a non-disruptive manner. The company observed a 25% reduction in communication-related bottlenecks and delays following the adoption of asynchronous communication practices and received feedback from employees that work-life balance improved 20%.

Bringing it inside: AE firms can embrace asynchronous communication tools and practices to facilitate efficient collaboration among distributed teams. For example, leveraging collaborative platforms and shared documents can minimize communication delays and enhance productivity in remote work environments.

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