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Employee Engagement, Part One

Hy-Mark, a full service mechanical company serving both commercial and residential customers in Ontario was experiencing problems. The company was unprofitable and suffered from employee morale issues and high turnover. A change in upper leadership was made in September of 2015 when Rob Dewar, a longstanding client of ours was hired as President to affect a turnaround.

Fortunately Rob had the full support of Tim Blevins, President of their parent company Reid’s Heritage Group. Reid’s has a longstanding history of success both as a builder and one of Canada’s best SME employers to work for, offering employees an environment that promotes working hard, having fun and continuous learning in addition to competitive compensation.

Rob joined them in late 2015; among the issues he had to face, a comprehensive external employee survey as measured by Aon showed that employee engagement was low at Hy-Mark vs. other Reid’s divisions. Only 57% of Hy-Mark employees completed the survey which measured at 68% engagement. That didn’t take into account those that didn’t complete it (who are obviously not engaged). The survey was anonymous meaning Rob had no idea who completed it and what their responses were so it was quite a challenge to turn this around.

Rob’s management philosophy has always been “It’s all about investing in your people…listen to them and give them the opportunity to tell you what they like and don’t like.” He first made it a point to meet with every one of his employees one on one to get to know them as people (interests, family, etc) and to hear them out regarding their thoughts on how the business was run. He received many candid comments; for instance, some talked about other positions in the company they wanted to try but were never considered for.

He took the combined feedback and then held regular meetings to keep them updated on what was going on. He also instituted Friday “pizza lunches” and “donut Fridays” where everyone congregated in the large reception area to enjoy company bought pizza and drinks and instill camaraderie. Then he demonstrated he listened; he did give some the opportunity to move into roles they were interested in and as it turned out, excelled at.

He also became a sounding board, with employees coming to him with both business and personal issues that he could at least provide a friendly ear to listen to them.

During the information gathering process no one said there needed to be other management changes; he retained the same management team prior to his joining the company and all are still there; Rob said “I have a great management team that just needed to be allowed to do their job.”

The culmination was that in 2016 when the AON survey was again completed, current engagement was that 100% of the employees completed it and the company engagement score rocketed to 86%, well above the average in construction and engineering which is 70%.

The Aon survey (which is hundreds of questions in length) and covers areas such as personal development, teamwork and work environment showed improvements in numerous areas, e.g.

  • It would take a lot to get me to leave Hy-Mark; 85%
  • I would recommend this company to a friend; 90%

Rob said that “based on an 86% score and using 100 employees as our approximate head count, I still have 14 employees to improve on, 14 employees I’ve let down. 100% may not be realistic but why not use it as a target?”

“It may be as little as a hello from me in the hallway, knowing about employees and their families and being empathetic to their issues. It’s not rocket science but just needs to be practiced.”

“Doug (Doug Sider who is quoted below) and his team put together many opportunities to roll out to our team such as company events and ongoing training,”

“Tim Blevins, President of Reid Heritage Group of companies, my boss is fully supportive and committed to seeing this through. He empowers us to make this company great.”

Doug Sider, Senior Vice-President of Team Development Resources and Corporate Culture at Reid’s Heritage Group of Companies leads the survey initiative.  Sider said, “The Aon Hewitt Survey is a validation of our entire team’s hard work and dedication to our core Values — on our sites, within our communities and at head office”

Doug joined Reid’s years ago as sales manager for 35 sales staff. In 2009 President Tim Blevins asked him to give leadership to developing an “intentional” culture for the entire organization.  Doug, involving every staff member in the organization, established a set of core values and then worked on moving the organization forward. “Some people resisted but most people immediately bought into the new culture and today we are thriving.  Recently, we developed “Leadership Drivers” standards we expect to see modelled by all Managers and Leaders—–a few include Develop People, Deliver Results, Practice Perseverance, Demonstrate Humble Confidence etc. Obviously the strategy is working as we (Reid’s Heritage Group of Companies) have moved from a 56% Fully Engaged staff to 80% Fully Engaged in 2016.  We are now a “Platinum” level company in all of Canada.  Sider states that “we have clearly not yet arrived, we have some runway yet in front of us, but we have made tremendous strides and are experiencing real success”. Sider continues, “so much of the credit for this progress goes to our President and the Reid family—without their leadership and commitment to build this amazing culture it simply would not happen:”.

Sider further states that “when we began the search for a new President at Hymark, Rob Dewar quickly rose to the  top of our short list.  As we reviewed his history and witnessed his character, competence and caring approach it became obvious what he could bring to the organization”.

Rob has definitely orchestrated the beginning of an amazing turnaround.

“How is he doing it?  In part it is not only his business acumen but his belief and trust in the people around him.  Rob has the ability to attract high performers who want to spend the rest of their careers with the organization. Rob himself is an outstanding human being developing a   culture that ultimately equals business success.”

“Rob is leading a real life turn around story. Of course , he’ll never take the credit for it; he always, as a good leader does,  passes on the kudos to his team…he makes his team feel incredibly valued.”

“He models the values that we stand for, develops his people, exercises kindness, takes ownership, demonstrates humble confidence and models good judgement. “

Got a similar story to tell? Feel free to email us and we’d be happy to feature your story in a future issue.

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