Since the Great Recession finished laying waste to much of the Southeast construction industry, an increasingly robust rebound has taken hold across the region as most market sectors generate more work than many specialty contractors can chase. As this reshaping of the construction landscape has unfolded, specialty firms and general contractors alike have focused not only on improving their technological skills-think BIM-capable iPads on every job-but also on the main issue limiting their opportunities, finding good workers.
With an untold number of seasoned craftsmen having chosen to leave the industry for good during the downturn, firms today are often struggling to find experienced workers, and are instead hiring and developing younger workers, often referred to as millennials.
One firm that is successfully attracting millennials-and non-millennials, too-by building a workplace culture that drives high levels of both performance and engagement is St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Power Design Inc., this year's Specialty Contractor of the Year.
"The commitment to our culture is something I love," says Joseph Micallef, regional vice president at the firm. "We work hard, but we play hard. And we try to give employees that extra something that makes them want to stay."
That approach is not only garnering recognition from industry-the company has boosted staff by 19% so far this year-but from national media, too. Earlier this year, Power Design placed 43rd on Forbes' list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials. The electrical contractor earned that ranking based partly on input from employees, who rated the company on numerous criteria. In the Forbes piece, anonymous employee comments noted the "unmatched" freedom to work independently as well as "great opportunities" to grow.
Overall, says Frank Musolino, executive vice president, "There's a level of energy here that's nice."
There's also a "nice" bump in revenue going on at the electrical contracting firm. The bounce has been powered significantly by its expanding multifamily portfolio in South Florida, where its clients include condo heavyweights like Plaza Construction, Coastal Construction and Suffolk Construction, among others-and where it's working on projects like the Richard Meier-designed Surf Club and Jade Signature, designed by Herzog and de Meuron.
As a result, the company saw its Southeast revenue jump by 69% in 2014, for an $89.15-million total-or about $36 million better than in 2013. Additionally, that growth pushed the company up 11 spots to 13th overall on the Top Specialty Contractor ranking.
As with other construction and design firms that have managed to reshape themselves since the recession, Power Design officials credit an evolved mind-set toward workers.
Saying "it took a few years to recover," Trisha Peare, human resources manager, says the contractor used the slowdown to "invest in the company and invest in our employees." Part of that involved implementing a one-week training course for all workers, including field managers, that brings staff up to speed on company policies and, notably, values. Or, as Peare says, "the company culture and why we're here."
In 2008, Power Design initiated Project V5, a company-wide, employee-driven program that identified five key corporate values: integrity, accountability, teamwork, innovation and growth. Additionally, the contractor created a related program, called Answering the Call for Excellence, or ACE, that recognizes employees every quarter for upholding those values.