Designing a Collaborative Workforce

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Make your mission your company’s best engagement tool.

How many of your employees or co-workers would show up to work the day after winning the Powerball jackpot?

If your answer is a resounding “no one,” then your company might need to rethink that mission statement hanging on the wall behind your door. Companies who fully align their mission with their business strategies experience dramatic doses of creativity, innovation, and commitment from team members. These companies also find themselves “sticky” place to be, meaning they easily attract and retain high-performing workers.

Just ask TowerPinkster with locations in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Recently named the “Best Firm to Work for in the Nation” in the Architecture Category at the Zweig Group 2016 Hot Firm & A/E Industry Awards Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, this regional firm offers services in architecture, engineering, interior design, landscape architecture, and master planning. The Zweig award follow a number of other culture-based awards TowerPinkster received in 2016 which include the When Work Works “Flexible Workplace Award,” Engineering News-Record’s “Midwest Top Design Firms,” and the American Heart Association “Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite Award.” What sets TowerPinkster apart is its collaborative approach. Its passionate mission statement proclaims its team to be “design leaders creating unique environments with clients and communities.“

The 269 MAGAZINE team recently sat down with Bjorn Green, TowerPinkster’s president and CEO, to snag some how-tos for our readers on how to connect a mission with engagement practices.

How do you keep your mission statement relevant?

Our original mission statement was created many years ago, yet we consistently review it every two to three years. We believe that part of keeping it relevant is allowing every employee across the organization to have an opportunity to provide input into our mission statement, vision statement, core values, and strategic plan. We have lively discussions as an organization and as small groups to review, refine, and hone (the) exciting process!

How do you relate that mission to your strategic direction?

Our mission defines who we are and provides the foundation for every employee to understand and move forward together. The decisions we make as a firm are always filtered through the lens of our mission and our strategic plan. In that way, we can be confident that the decisions we make support our vision.

How is your Human Resources (HR) team leveraged to implement strategy and overall company performance?

One of the five goals (of our strategic plan) is “Culture and Teamwork” which lines up directly with the importance that we place on our people. We have an awesome team and this will sound cliché, yet it is true that our strength is definitely our people! Our overall HR strategy is personalized for each individual and parallels the company strategy. The variety of rewards, our performance process, and our focus on teamwork are all aligned to mesh with our desired business outcomes.

What are some of TowerPinkster’s initiatives to build a more engaged workforce?

Our positive, fun work environment is a major factor in our ability to keep our top talent, produce quality work, and exceed our clients’ expectations. Our leadership team has made sustaining this family culture a top priority and is supported by our Culture Advisory Action Team. This group plans initiatives such as our incentive-based wellness program, employee feedback surveys, monthly team luncheons, contests, activities, and more. We provide a mixture of activities for our team and their families, such as a Trick or Treat office event for our employees’ children, a summer family picnic, and a kids’ day event watching the Kalamazoo Wings Hockey team. It is through these activities that our team members form strong bonds and foster personal connections. Additionally, we invest in teamwork training for each and every member as part of lifelong learning which I attribute to our successes over the past 10 years.

With two offices 50 miles apart, how do you ensure everyone speaks with the same voice?

There may be offices in two locations, but we intentionally have created a unified atmosphere, referring to ourselves as a single West Michigan company and promoting identical communication and culture in each location. We are fortunate that our locations are reasonably close, so our leadership team is able to spend time each week in each location, and many of our projects include team members from both offices.

Beyond ensuring that our locations work together, we hold many opportunities throughout the year for all our staff to interact, get to know each other, and have fun together. We have a variety of training and social events, which we try to alternate between the cities or have at fun locations in between. Our engagement and wellness programs and contests include teams company-wide, with team members from each location working or competing together.

One of our favorite events is our annual team training. We close the office for the entire day and select an off-site location, like Western Michigan University’s (WMU) Heritage Hall, a golf course, and Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, to focus on communication, learning, team building and what it looks like to contribute in a team environment. We showcase one of our team’s projects, like Heritage Hall, providing an opportunity for the entire team to see the finished project; it creates a stronger sense of pride.

What is unique about TowerPinkster’s recruitment, selection and orientation practices?

More and more, employees are looking for an engaged, flexible, and fun work environment where the culture is the center to everything. We pride ourselves in our collaborative work environment. Currently, 75% of our new hires come from internal staff referrals. We believe that says a lot for our culture. Our employees tell us they are proud to refer their friends to work here. I know this is a statement we have all heard before, yet it remains true today—talent really knows talent!

Once selected, new team members experience a unique 90-day orientation and on-boarding process. Some of the highlights include orientation to our history, mission, and strategy, as well as an introduction at our staff meetings. We also hold a welcome lunch for them to get to know the new employee and welcome them to the family. The new employee receives mentorship interaction with each team member in their discipline over the course of the first 30 days to learn the TowerPinkster way.

What are some of your engagement practices in action?

We place value on our culture and we place it at the center of everything we do. We actively build a collaborative environment where the exchange of ideas is promoted and positively recognized. This is accomplished formally at staff meetings and within department meetings where folks share ideas and best practices each month; it also occurs informally through daily interaction within our open office environment which stimulates this type of engagement.

We take a proactive approach in getting to know each person as an individual and promote their growth and development. It is this caring approach, coupled with high integrity in all actions, which fosters the family environment. Each employee has a personalized performance review to set goals to accomplish each year, as well as check-ins along the way to gauge how things are going and if more support or mentorship is needed to achieve the goals. Our leaders lead by example and support the culture through empowering others and providing resources to make it all happen.

Each one of us, through our daily interactions with each other, creates the culture and strengthens our bonds. To ensure this happens, we provide opportunities for people to engage with one another, whether it is at our monthly lunch, a contest, a game, an activity, or team training. Our team has enjoyed an Appalachians Trail Hike steps competition, a Halloween costume contest, a homebrewers contest, Pictionary during team lunches, and office scavenger hunts. As a result, we have a group that is focused on championing these culture efforts.

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