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Technical development, leadership skills, and behavior skills are recorded, which provides a reference point for future reviews, but, more importantly, allows management a view of what skills it has in the organization, and where they are located. This informs decisions about training needs in the organization, but has the potential to do much more than that. A development page is being added, so that people can trace their career progress. A scientist level one, for example, who wants to become a scientist level four in five years’ time, will be able to look at his or her development page and see what needs to be done to achieve that, and what the financial rewards will be. “They will be able to make educated choices about their future career,” says Youden. “The technical and financial matrix that we’re building will help them understand what their career path looks like.” This is remarkable enough, but if you’re going to develop people from level one to level four, you better have jobs for them at the higher grade, or they won’t be with you long. This is where the system will really pay off—succession planning. “We have 650 people who have filed career plans with us,” says Youden. “Not everybody wants to advance, but for those people who would like to be doing something different in five years, we’d like to know what it is. And we’ve asked them to define it in pretty specific terms.” This allows senior management and principals (the highest technical designation in Jacques Whitford) to identify potential successors and assess how much development they need before they are ready to fill those positions. “We’re in the process today of trying to match those positions to those 650 career plans. It’s an interesting volume exercise. We know that we need new area managers to cover retirement and growth, and we know that certain people want to be area managers or principals, so we’re trying to match them.” There are abundant examples, sadly beyond January 08 www.bus-ex.com 35 JacquesWhitford to get the people you want.” Jacques Whitford has won a number of awards in this field in the last few years. “For two years in a row we are one of the top 100 companies in Canada to work for,” says Youden. “Last year we were one of the top ten selected by the Financial Post. We’re surrounded by some great companies, so we’re very proud of that and our people have done a great job. Today’s Parent magazine has selected us two years in a row as one of the top ten family-friendly companies to work for, so we’re really pleased. “Where we’ve gone as a company is less to do with me and more to do with the talent and capabilities of our people,” Youden is quick to point out. “I’m supported by a leadership team that has lots of experience in the business. Our job is two-fold. Listen, then take action on it.” Youden explains that Jacques Whitford’s improvement programs are all driven by listening to people. A colleague survey is conducted every year which attracts a 90 percent response rate. It covers leadership, motivation and communication and provides an insight into how aligned people are to the organization. On top of that, the HR team went out into the field last year to talk to everybody, in groups of five to ten—no small task with around 1400 people on the books at the time. Those discussions helped senior management find out what was important to people, says Youden. “That’s driven our program to where we are now. It’s not because any one of us here is so smart, but perhaps we’re good listeners.” One of the keys to retaining people is to offer them career development. “We’ve heard that loud and clear from our people, so we have put in a lot of programs to try and move in that direction,” says Youden. A web-based performance planning system has been introduced with performance metrics for everyone and a balanced scorecard for around 35 percent of employees where measures such as client satisfaction, safety and people development are appropriate. “If you can show people that the environment is important in how you run your business then you have a better opportunity to get the people you want”