The following article was printed in the December 2023 Zweig Group Newsletter.
One of the great things about working for a company like KSA is the ability to be creative and unique in our approach to firm management. As an example of that, I’d like to share about two unique programs we developed at KSA, which we believe advance our mission of “We Build People Who Build the Future.”
Career development and training program. First, KSA has invested a great deal of time and resources to create a career development and training program that we call KSA University. Many companies in our industry have training programs, but at KSA, we run ours a bit differently. KSA University is run on a semester basis, with anywhere from seven to 15 courses being offered per semester. Since its inception in 2019, KSA University has offered or conducted a total of 230 classes. That’s an average of 46 classes per year.
The classes are taught by a combination of KSA subject matter experts and outside professionals with topics that range from soft and technical skills to fun elective topics. Since 2019, KSAU instructors have dedicated more than 2,000 hours of preparation and instruction time for KSAU classes. Additionally, in that same period, and as shown in the infographic below, KSAU has documented more than 11,000 hours of student, instructor, and program management time. Past courses have included classes on ethics, design, technical writing, book clubs, Spanish, leadership, management, mentoring circles, and lighthearted topics such as how to smoke a brisket.
Achievements from 2019 through 2023
All classes offered by KSAU are live instruction classes, some with assignments to be completed outside of class time. In fact, many of the KSAU classes have homework to be completed individually or in small groups. With our nine offices in three states, we have found that conducting these classes live and online using video meetings is a great way to introduce, familiarize, and build relationships with our staff in different locations and different professional disciplines. That familiarization is one benefit we didn’t really anticipate but has proven to be a game changer for our company.
KSAU is one of two unique programs we have initiated within KSA over the last five years. Within KSA University, we have one program that I would also like to highlight. This program has a great potential to not only impact KSA today, but for many years to come.
A board leadership training program. In the fall semester of 2023, KSA completed our Board Leadership Training (BLT) Program, a two-year series of classes offered through KSA University. KSA is very intentional about ownership and leadership transition, fulfilling one of our “future-focused” core values. Our BLT program was designed to assist with both of those transitions.
Several years ago, our board recognized the need to develop a pool of potential future board members to replace retiring board members over the next five years. To help in that transition, we developed a two-year program that we agreed to make available to every KSA employee. It was interesting to see future leaders sign up for the program, as an indicator of interest in possibly becoming a board member. Being part of the BLT program is not a guarantee that you will become a board member at KSA and is not a requirement for being a future board member, but it has provided foundational training to develop a pool of potential candidates.
Over the two-year period, the BLT program trained more than 20 employees on topics such as SWOT analysis, decision-making, strategic planning, financial management, HR topics, governance, legal issues, fiduciary responsibility, the purpose of a company, Robert’s Rules of Order, and many other relevant issues. The capstone course gave each participant the chance to develop a SWOT analysis for KSA as a whole and then use those strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to create strategic initiatives and policies designed to increase KSA’s competitiveness, just as they would do if they were members of the board of directors.
I’m very proud of the employees who were part of the BLT program. The work they produced in the last semester was exemplary. In fact, we have shared all the SWOT analyses and strategic initiatives with our current board of directors, who are considering which of the ideas will be implemented within our firm.
Bottom line: Invest in your people. The AEC industry is home to tens of thousands of companies, many of which are trying to develop their own unique brand and culture. With the recruiting and retention challenges that all of our firms are facing, investing heavily in our employees’ career development and job skills just makes good sense. I’m proud of the employees of KSA, the culture they have created, and their continual efforts to improve our company. It’s a great place to work and grow your career!