In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most destructive natural disasters in US history, many businesses in New Orleans faced insurmountable challenges. For Landis Construction, the storm marked a turning point. Its client, Xavier University, a cornerstone of New Orleans, was hoping to reopen by January 2006 but incurred devastating damage due to the storm. It would take a Herculean effort by Landis and its employees — many of whom were dealing with homes that had been destroyed and being displaced after the hurricane — to renovate the university in time.
Landis got to work. In the face of adversity, the New Orleans-based company’s employees formed new hierarchies and structures that allowed them to work more effectively as a team. This shift in ideals, priorities, and company culture ultimately allowed the organization to survive and thrive in the post-Katrina landscape.
“With circumstances such as these, established roles and responsibilities were totally abandoned. But even after the dust settled and some sense of normalcy returned, we didn’t try to revert back to the business-as-usual model,” said Sarah Bush, Landis’ Vice President of Operations at Procore’s Groundbreak 2022 conference.
Instead, the company embraced this new level of awareness with a desire to keep improving its processes.
“By early 2010, new technology and programs were emerging in the construction industry, like Procore, making our jobs more efficient, collaborative, and streamlined,” recalled Busch.
Building a new leadership model
Landis’ story is a powerful example of the importance of building a collaborative company culture that places adaptation and progress at the center of its values. Employees who feel invested in a company’s success and who have a voice in its direction are more likely to stay and contribute to its growth over the long term.
While many construction companies still rely on traditional leadership structures, several businesses, such as Landis, have realized that a more flexible hierarchy enables more success at all levels. This success is achieved by creating a work environment where everyone feels valued and supported, with clear paths to upward mobility and opportunities for innovation.
One of the key factors in building a thriving company culture is humility. Influential leaders understand that they don’t have all the answers and actively seek input from their team members. As a leader, this means being open to constructive criticism and feedback, as well as actively soliciting input from team members who may have unique perspectives or insights into particular challenges. Landis discovered this early on by asking them what was missing and why.
“How can we leverage our employees’ talents and creativity even further to make the company better?’ Thus began a series of chosen pivots by Landis leadership that, for the first time ever, would involve feedback and input from all employees,” explained Bush.
Creating Long-Lasting Changes
Transforming leadership structures and incorporating employee voices won’t happen overnight. Here are four actionable strategies for construction companies looking to create a lasting, long-term change.
1. Invest in career development
A critical aspect of building loyalty among employees is investing in their growth and development. By giving employees the tools they need to succeed and encouraging them to take ownership of their career paths, companies can create a workforce that is passionate, engaged, and invested in the organization’s success as a whole. Professional development can take many forms, from offering training and development opportunities to providing mentorship and career coaching.
2. Focus on flexibility
Building a strong company culture requires more than just instituting training sessions and the occasional career workshop. Constructing a healthy and happy corporate workplace also means creating an environment that is flexible and responsive to the needs of its staff. In today’s world, that often means offering hybrid or remote work options, providing comprehensive benefits packages, and creating a workplace culture that is supportive, collaborative, and inclusive. Every opportunity to support your people is a chance to retain and develop existing talent.
3. Seek out employee feedback
One meaningful way to encourage employee engagement is by creating opportunities for feedback and dialogue. Seeking employee perspectives can take many forms, from regular check-ins with team members to anonymous surveys and feedback forms. Aim to create a culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas; essentially, leadership should be responsive to feedback and willing to make changes based on input. All employees should feel like the leadership team is accessible, enabling the two-way communication flow from leadership to the employee and back again.
Changing an entire company’s culture isn’t always an easy task.
“Promoting humility is tough. Listening is tough. But allowing your employees the space to voice their ideas and provide feedback and then do something with it creates a groundswell of loyalty, innovation, and employee satisfaction,” said Busch.
4. Increase diversity through mentorship
Increasing diversity and inclusivity is another crucial component of building an efficient and resilient company culture. For leaders, this means actively seeking out and mentoring employees from underrepresented backgrounds while also creating opportunities for staff to learn from one another and build connections across different departments and teams. By creating a workplace culture that values diversity and encourages everyone to contribute their unique perspectives and experiences, companies can foster an environment of innovation and creativity that benefits everyone.
In the end, establishing flexible leadership models is essential for businesses that want to succeed over the long term. These benefits are felt company-wide.
“We feel we have created a proactive company culture that is nimble, adaptable, and always seeking creative solutions. This has benefited us in our day-to-day work, from weather delays to the more serious impacts of the current supply chain challenges, all the way to having more visibility in the industry through our thought leadership,” said Busch.