By Nolan Schmidt | Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Wanzek Construction handles tall tasks on a day to day basis. Whether that be their industrial, renewable energy or infrastructure construction projects or daily office issues, their tasks span across cities and states. While Wanzek has their headquarters in Fargo, they also have offices in Colorado, California and Texas. Add to that, where Wanzek has construction sites and you’ll notice that the company is in almost every state in the union.
So, in such a large company, that stretches across the nation, how do you build culture? It’s already a hard enough task making sure employees are on the same page on a job site or in the office.
Wanzek’s Executive Vice President Rob Lee has taken that culture battle head-on. While Wanzek has long been regarded as a company with great inter-office dynamics, Lee was looking for something more. That was when he saw the need for an updated and renovated office space right here in Fargo. Wanzek’s new office on 32nd Avenue in south Fargo is complete with all the trimmings of a cultured workplace. From the quotes on the wall from sports figures like Nick Saban to boards where employees can post photos, there is a sense of pride in those who work at Wanzek.
It’s true that the new space has aided in company culture. However, Lee and Wanzek have always taken pride in valuing their employees and building culture from the inside.
1. Office Space: Do not underestimate its importance.
Since moving into their newly renovated office, Lee has noticed a renewed sense of pride in the Wanzek employees. Not to be taken for granted, where an employee works is just as important as the employee’s daily duties. Being comfortable at work is key for any employee. Lee has seen Wanzek’s new space pay dividends already. Not just on their current employees, but prospective ones too.
“It has positively affected our pride in the company. Employees feel like our company is a large player in our region. They are proud of the place they work in,” Lee said. “It has positively affected our ability to recruit high-quality employees. The new office provides spaces for employees to gather, collaborate and build teamwork.”
Business Check: Walk around your office space. Do you feel it is meeting the needs of your employees or co-workers?
2. Never write off “mottos” or “mantras” as cliché.
Mottos, mantras or key phrases are common in the realm of sports. “Raise The Bar” or any other motto in that vein has transitioned from the sports world to the business world now too. Some are quick to discredit their usefulness and perhaps rightfully so in some cases. However, when businesses implement buzzwords or phrases in their company, very few give their employees practical steps to live out those words and phrases in their work lives. Sure, you can “raise the bar,” but how? That is where some fall short in implementing these mottos.
Wanzek and its employees abide by seven beliefs or values. According to Lee, these seven principles are lived out each day by Wanzek’s employees. “Wanzek has seven beliefs: Protect, Trust, Talent, Information, Integrity, Communication and Profit. These beliefs were selected collectively as an organization as core values we will demonstrate, live by and uphold each and every day,” Lee said. “These beliefs are displayed throughout our building. Our conference rooms are even named after the same seven beliefs. The beliefs are interwoven into the annual engagement survey, performance reviews, interview questions and incentive plans. They are more than just words, they truly impact how we attract, reward and retain employees.”
By collectively coming up with these beliefs and posting them throughout their workspace, employees are constantly reminded about what they should be striving for. Say what you will, but those seven values have proven critical in Wanzek’s growth, development and where they’re headed in the future.
If you have a motto, principle or mantra in your business, stick to it.
Business Check: What do you believe your business “motto” to be? Maybe ask a fellow co-worker what their company motto would be and discuss. How can you make sure you and your co-workers live it out each day?
3. Do not concern yourself with turnover rate, focus on employee engagement.
Turnover rate is a hot button issue among all management level professionals. How can you retain employees year after year? Turnover no doubt has an impact on company culture, but eradicating turnover is almost impossible.
At Wanzek, they are less concerned with their turnover percentage and more interested in employee engagement. “Our voluntary turnover rate is under five percent. We don’t track turnover as much as we track engagement,” said Lee. “We believe if employees are engaged, they are safer, they treat clients well, they give their best effort and deliver profit to the company.”
That is a radical approach to an issue every business faces each day. However, with a turnover rate under five percent, Wanzek’s engagement approach seems to be working. On top of that, they feel employee benefits also play a role in a lower turnover rate.
“We hold a talent belief that states that we are committed to attracting, retaining, developing and rewarding top performers. There are many ways to impact that belief. Benefits are just one way,” said Lee. “We believe that we need competitive compensation and benefits packages to attract talent. But we also believe there is more to the story. We strive to have a workplace that delivers on many aspects of employee engagement.”
Business Check: How engaged are your employees? Perhaps compare your engagement level to your turnover rate and see what the results are.
4. Strive towards one common goal.
At Wanzek, the client is king. This is obviously the case for a host of other businesses. Yet, employees may not share the same overall goal as the company at-large. This can come from a multitude of different factors, but it is common never the less. How does Wanzek assure their clients that their employees are all striving for the best outcome for them? For Lee…
“Clients are one of the cornerstones of our key results at Wanzek. Client satisfaction is a result of hard work on behalf of our employees,” said Lee. “Their dedication to safety, budget, timeline and producing quality work all contributes to our client satisfaction. From the field to the office, every employee connects to our client in some way.”
The client must come first and employees have to find common goals within that. Wanzek Construction has found that when employees are working hard on behalf of clients, the results are mutually beneficial.
Business Check: What is the common goal in your company? Is every employee working towards that goal?
5. Inter-office communication allows businesses to survive.
As noted above, Wanzek has offices in four states and job sites in several others. Because of this, communication is vital to success in all phases. What happens when a problem arises on a job site? Communication at Wanzek is built upon a key quality: transparency. In turn, the company’s culture only blooms thanks to transparent and constant communication across all their offices.
“Our communication belief states that we are committed to communicating above the line and focusing on solutions. We have several internal communication channels throughout the organization to help create transparency and align the entire organization towards key results,” said Lee. “Weekly executive podcasts, quarterly all company webcasts, a weekly newsletter, as well as text messaging and internal digital messaging help to spread the word and keep employees informed, whether they are in the office or the field.”
Business Check: How does your business communicate? Have you identified how your employees or co-workers communicate best? If not, set aside time to analyze how to best communicate throughout your office.
6. Emphasize results
Rob Lee identifies his strategy in creating a good company culture. He also offers up advice for businesses of Wanzek’s size. The focus? Key individual results from the employee that will ultimately benefit the company at large.
“First, defining what culture you want. Be specific about the vision. Keep it simple, understandable and clear. Secondly, make sure everyone knows how they contribute to that (the key results). Third, make sure employees know how to act to further the culture (the beliefs),” he said. “Finally, make sure all systems (hiring, performance management, incentive plans) support the key results and beliefs so everything aligns. We care about our people and everything we do focuses on providing a safe, exciting and engaging workplace.”
One thing Lee notes is that he has learned to be more clear and upfront with employees about what his vision is. With that transparency, employees are always going in the same direction and aligning with one another towards a common vision.
“I have learned to be clear about where we are going, what our vision is and what that means every day to live that vision,” he said. “I am thankful we had the chance to redefine our culture at Wanzek into a culture that strives to be the best and deliver excellence to our employees, communities and clients.”
Business Check: Whether you are in management or otherwise, what do you believe your company’s “vision” to be? Have you stated this vision clearly to your employees? Ask a co-worker what he/she believes the company vision to be and compare with your own.
4850 32nd Ave. S, Fargo