There are some firms that, simply put, are an absolute pleasure to work with. More often than not, they are the ones with a positive corporate culture, where all of the members of the team take pride in their work, feel invested in their company and are excited about the business.
I try to remember this when we assemble and develop our own team of professionals. From a recruitment standpoint, this means looking at a few factors, including formally seeking out collegiate talent from schools where we know the program offers the right mix of education, curriculum and standards to produce a well-rounded intern or junior employee that can grow with us and thrive in our work environment. In fact, we have a list of nearly a dozen schools that have consistently led us to long-term team members who have brought the kind of fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the table that we — and our clients — appreciate tremendously.
We take a similar approach with seeking out more senior talent. However, instead of looking for leads through colleges, we lean heavily on referrals. They may come laterally, through working on projects together, or through the recommendation of another industry professional, such as an engineer, broker, furniture vendor or even one of our own clients. This information pool is valuable and tells us way more than what we can learn from a standard resume. While credentials and qualifications are undoubtedly a must, reputation and the ability to work well with others counts just as much, if not more. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing that a person has past projects to their credit, a proven ability to get the job done well and creatively and that others want to work with them again.
Whether new to the industry or experienced, there are a few other intangibles that make for a great team member. Multitalented, multifaceted professionals are always welcome. I’ve found that athletes often make excellent additions, whether they have participated in a team sport — which is perfect groundwork for an office environment — or dedicated themselves to setting goals and achieving them solo. I also gravitate to hiring those who commit their free time to charitable activities (for more on that, see my online column from last week). A varied background is a plus too. While we do have a few specialized exceptions, I like having people on my team who have a varied background and an understanding of design, architecture and production.
Now, here’s the tricky part: once you have that team assembled, how do you create and maintain a positive work environment? One that makes people excited to come to work each morning and unifies the team? We start by taking a cue from what we advise clients to do — we set up a space that’s conducive to a happy, productive workforce. An office that is bright, airy, green, attractive and conveniently located makes for a great start. We also provide an exciting array of projects for them to work on and take the time to match our talent up with the work that best suits their experience, interests and personality. Some projects are short, while others may last for years, so taking the extra time to play matchmaker is crucial. Last, but certainly not least, we create a sense of camaraderie — through informal get-togethers both in and out of the office, brainstorming sessions, rounds of promotions and celebrations. No matter what we’re doing, we bring an infectious energy to it.
To this day, we’ve never been accused of not being an enthusiastic bunch! As the “leader” of this team, it’s something that I’m incredibly proud of.