3 steps to engineering great engagement

A flat management structure, accessibility to senior leaders and a personable company culture are three keys to the business success of Wood & Grieve Engineers, according to the firm’s CEO, José Granado

Despite increasing the size of its workforce and geographic footprint considerably to become a national firm with more than 420 staff, Wood & Grieve Engineers has maintained a strong and cohesive company culture which was initially established by the firm’s founders.

“The kind of culture we have here takes many, many years to develop and a lot of persistence,” said Granado.

“I didn’t create this culture. I was lucky enough that two blokes 53 years ago created a culture that they wanted for the company. They created a family environment and I’ve inherited it.

“But it is now more important than ever, and it needs more investment in order to sustain it and keep our competitive edge, because the bigger you get it’s very easy to lose.”

Managing growth
In an industry which is beset by a raft of challenges, from increased competition through to tighter client budgets and pressure on fees, he said revenue and profit have increased annually over the past five years – all through organic growth.

“We have been growing about 10 per cent,” said Granado.

“We grew tremendously prior to the GFC. I think the GFC didn’t really hit Australia until the past two years.

“Banks have been tightening up in their lending, the private sector has tightened up in its development and everyone is fighting for the very same few jobs that are around, so it’s become really difficult to simply just hold your own.

“Despite all that we have grown, albeit not to the levels that we were growing before the GFC.”

Measuring culture
Granado said culture is “really just a set of behaviours”, and as such, it is also important to determine how you will measure your company by these.

“You’ve got to have great systems that allow you to monitor and enhance your beliefs,” he said.

“We measure high performance through our accounting and our management systems.

“So we’ve got KPIs for the senior engineers, leaders and other team members so we are able to measure those KPIs very accurately.”

The firm also employs a system in which every engineer inputs work three months ahead of time, to assist in capacity planning to ensure enough people are on staff to both service clients and adequately manage work commitments.

Wood & Grieve Engineers also benchmarks its engagement levels (it was recently accredited as an Aon Hewitt Best Employer in Australia and New Zealand for the third consecutive year), and Granado said this survey has been useful in helping the firm monitor, measure and understand how it is travelling as a business that has been built upon the quality of its people and their internal engagement as well as external engagement with clients.

Planning for success
The firm has a five year strategic plan, which outlines the bigger goals and more lucrative opportunities before the firm, which also creates working groups to help enable specific elements of the strategic plan.

These groups comprise people at all levels of the organisation and are empowered to explore and develop key opportunities in order to get a clearer picture of their viability.

“So they go out there for a few months and report back at certain times on their progress, and then at the end of that we hopefully have got a much clearer picture of the actual opportunities to pursue,” said Granado.

“When you do a strategic plan, you may end up with eight to 10 opportunities.

“But I believe the minute you try and chase too many opportunities, you might end up doing an average job on all of them but if you can get these opportunities down to three, then you’re much more likely to achieve success at a much higher level of quality, rather than doing an average job over eight or 10.”

One key opportunity the firm is working on now is in the area of joint ventures with other firms which are able to complement Wood & Grieve Engineers’ offerings for potential clients.

“In our strategic plan, we are now open for opportunities to joint venture with other companies where we both have strengths in doing larger projects in other geographical locations. It could be New Zealand. It could be in Canberra where we don’t have an office,” he said.

“With these JVs we might need a skill set that we currently don’t have, so we’ve got a non-exec on our board that has mergers and acquisitions and JV experience.

“So we are constantly looking forward and making sure that our systems and/or people have the skills to allow us to best handle those opportunities.”

For the full interview with Granado and how Wood & Grieve Engineers engages employees see the next issue of Inside HR magazine.