Develop the People You Count On
Last week, I heard former CEO Steve Hanks speak on restructuring URS (formerly Washington Group International) and his strategy to go from bankruptcy to profitability within a few years. Steve’s explanation of restructuring a historically company (Morrison Knudsen founded in 1912, world’s largest engineering and construction organization who built Hoover Dam) was compelling on the basis of three simple questions they asked of themselves:
- Is it a problem or opportunity
- Do you have the passion to succeed
- What is the organizations greatest asset
The last question resonated with me. Steve’s leadership team stated the greatest asset of URS was not the service they provided (they have a top notch product) but the people of the organization that truly rang out as their single greatest asset. It turns out the pivotal point of the company had been signing two sizeable contracts, one with a private group and the other a government agency. Steve was determined to find the reason why both companies would award a contract to a bankrupt company, both stated the same reasoning, “it was not because of the balance sheet but the people assigned to work on the project”. This became the focus of URS who decided to develop the people they counted on and set a plan in place to invest heavily into employee training. Critics thought the well trained employees would eventually leave. URS believed if the trained “good” people left, it was much better than not training them and having them stay.
Last week, I posted the importance of employee feedback and believe this is part of the entire equation when focusing on employee development and training within an organization. Steve’s talk inspired me and emphasized the importance of investing in the single most important asset of any organization.