Vol. 5, Issue 7

Building a Purpose-Driven Firm

A higher calling. Beyond making a profit, why does your firm exist? It’s a question being asked by more and more younger workers, and organizations with clear answers about their higher purpose are gaining an increasing competitive advantage in winning work and recruiting talent. Generation Z respondents to a Lovell Corporation survey ranked working for an organization they were proud of second out of 28 work value priorities. “Generation Z is more readily concerned with fueling their passions and taking pride in the work they do. For the first time, we see a generation prioritizing purpose in their work,” wrote the report’s authors.

Difference makers. Outdoor retailer REI is a model of a purpose-driven organization differentiating itself from the competition. After closing its doors on Black Friday and launching its #OptOutside campaign to emphasize the importance of being outdoors, REI saw job applications double the following quarter. Its retention rate is also twice that of competitors. “Purpose drives everything we do at REI. It creates strategic alignment, it guides how we build relationships with our customers, and it’s core to how we attract and retain talent,” REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke told Forbes.com. “Our belief that a life outdoors is a life well lived anchors everything. It’s our North Star.”

Make the connection. Seeking to build a stronger emotional connection with its employees, Big Four consulting firm KPMG asked its employees to answer the question “What do you do at KPMG?” Employees responded by creating posters with their photos and answers, such as “I Combat Terrorism” with the clarifying sentence “KPMG helps scores of financial institutions prevent money laundering, keeping financial resources out of the hands of terrorists and criminals.”

Find your “why.” A/E firms, which design the world in which we live and protect the environment, have an easier task than those in other industries in connecting employees with a higher social purpose. Answer the question of why your firm exists, emphasize the social impact of your firm’s work to employees, and incorporate the message into recruiting, onboarding, and training programs.

Hiring and Promoting for Emotional Intelligence

IQ focus may not be smart. An increasing body of research has found that emotional intelligence can be a more essential leadership quality and a better predictor of workplace success than IQ. First popularized in 1995 by Daniel Goleman’s eponymous book, emotional intelligence is the ability to manage one’s own emotions and empathize with others. Emotionally intelligent people exhibit resilience, self-regulation, and flexibility and excel in listening, conflict management, and temperament control—all critical leadership skills.

Emotional assessment. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018 predicts that emotional intelligence will be one of the top ten skills needed by employers in 2022. However, a 2017 survey by staffing firm OfficeTeam found that 30 percent of human resources managers believe most employers place too little emphasis on emotional intelligence during the hiring process, focusing instead on technical skills and IQ. How can you assess the emotional intelligence of prospective hires? According to the OfficeTeam survey, the most common way companies assess candidates’ emotional intelligence is through reference checks (70 percent), behavioral-based interview questions (55 percent), and personality/psychometric tests (32 percent).

Be a notetaker. When grooming future leaders, look for employees who exhibit emotional intelligence. Make a note of how they have navigated difficult situations and dealt with frustrations and negative feedback from superiors. Do they describe failures without shirking blame? Do they demonstrate resilience and empathy for co-workers? Do they remain calm in stressful situations? If hiring a leader from outside the firm, probe both interviewees and references for specifics about what they thought, felt, and did in challenging circumstances to gain insight into their emotional intelligence.

Sleeping Like a Boss

Magic sleep number. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep a night, an international study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership in 2017 found that 42 percent of business leaders get six or fewer hours of sleep per night. Two-thirds of executives surveyed by global consulting firm McKinsey said they are dissatisfied with how much sleep they get.

Don’t snooze, you lose. Scientific studies have found that a lack of sleep can result in poor decision-making, memory loss, irritability, and a lack of self-control. By lowering productivity and resistance to sickness among workers, sleep deprivation results in 1.2 million lost days of work and $411 billion in economic losses each year in the United States. Then there is the trickle-down impact. A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review found that subordinates of leaders with poor sleep habits average 25 fewer minutes of rest a night than employees with bosses who value sleep.

Rest-less workers. In general, companies are more likely to preach the importance of responsiveness over sleep. More than one-third (36 percent) of executives surveyed by McKinsey said their company doesn’t allow them to make getting enough sleep a priority, while 83 percent said their company doesn’t educate them enough about the value of sleep. To promote good sleeping habits, some companies have enacted blackout times for work e-mails, mandatory work-free vacations, and policies that encourage employees to book extra nights in hotels to avoid red-eye flights. With research showing that even a 20-minute nap can improve work quality, companies such as Google and PricewaterhouseCoopers have installed napping rooms or pods.

Sleep aids. At home, have a consistent bedtime and wakeup schedule. Avoid caffeine and nicotine as evening approaches and unplug at night. Blue light on computer and smart phone screens can suppress the natural production of melatonin, the biochemical that aids in falling asleep. If you must be in front of a screen, wear glasses or use apps such as f.lux that filter and limit blue light.


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