McMil­lan & As­so­ci­ates Inc.

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Awards 2009-10 -

Like a num­ber of busi­nesses, Gor­don B. McMil­lan & As­so­ci­ates Inc. has had to stream­line its hu­man­re­sources costs, thanks to this ugly econ­omy. Un­like many or­ga­ni­za­tions, though, staff mem­bers still seem im­pressed with how the com­pany han­dles em­ploy­ees.

“There is a feel­ing of com­mu­nity here that I’ve never en­coun­tered be­fore,” reads one team mem­ber’s com­ment in this year’s Em­ploy­ees’ Choice Awards sur­vey. “Our owner/man­agers are in­volved in everyday op­er­a­tions and make an ef­fort to keep us in­formed about the com­pany.”

That this is McMil­lan’s sec­ond ap­pear­ance in the top 10 tells us that the firm is do­ing some­thing – many things – right, even dur­ing tough times. Ac­cord­ing to Nancy Henry, vice-pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions, one fac­tor might be that the com­pany made a num­ber of changes based on the feed­back re­ceived in last year’s sur­vey.

“Peo­ple were crav­ing more in­for­ma­tion,” she says. “When you’re go­ing through a tough time and you know that the boss is in front of you, and you can ask ques­tions and get some hon­est an­swers, I think it does give the rest of the staff some con­fi­dence.”

Shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about the busi­ness, its cus­tomers and its projects be­came the mantra. McMil­lan has im­ple­mented “show-and-tell” meet­ings where project teams present their work and dis­cuss the re­sults, help­ing the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der­stand what col­leagues are do­ing. The firm also started sched­ul­ing weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meet­ings for em­ploy­ees and their man­agers.

“It’s time to talk about any­thing,” Ms. Henry says. “It can be work. It can be clients. It can be per­sonal life. There’s a pipe­line so if you have a good idea and you hap­pen to be a writer, but you have some good HR ideas, you have a way to ef­fect change .... I think the staff feels more en­gaged, more em­pow­ered.”

And com­pany owner Gor­don McMil­lan now holds reg­u­lar town-hall meet­ings to con­nect with the team. “Gord and the se­nior man­age­ment are a part of ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on,” Ms. Henry says. “This makes that as­pect even more vis­i­ble.”

To help ease the bur­den of cost cuts, McMil­lan im­ple­mented “up days” – days that em­ploy­ees could take off, un­paid, at their dis­cre­tion. “No­body was told they had to take a four-day work week,” Ms. Henry says. “It was just the ones that wanted to and could af­ford it. That worked out re­ally well. It gave flex­i­bil­ity to every­one.”

The com­pany also pays for em­ployee train­ing, giv­ing the staff mem­bers the op­por­tu­nity to match cour­ses with their own per­sonal and pro­fes­sional goals. “This year we’ve re­ally asked peo­ple to look at their weak­est ar­eas as op­posed to just what they’re in­ter­ested in,” Ms. Henry says. “We’re prob­a­bly guid­ing a lit­tle more this year than in years gone by be­cause of the so­cial me­dia skill sets peo­ple need to know and un­der­stand.”

And yes, the com­pany still lets em­ploy­ees bring pets into the of­fice on cer­tain days. “At any one time we can have five or six dogs in here,” Ms. Henry says. “We have a pet com­mit­tee now, be­cause it was get­ting to the point where we needed to have some rules.”

“We’re try­ing to make this as pleas­ant a place to be, be­cause the work is hard,” she says. “If you get up in the morn­ing and you want to come in to work, how much bet­ter does it get than that?”

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