Everywhere I turn it seems as if I read about people leaving the workforce. I’ve heard it termed “The Great Resignation.” While I try to come to terms with what factors are driving the millions of workers to quit their jobs in the last 12 months, the field of Land Surveying has been dealing with a talent void for many years.
During the recession of 2008, quite a few seasoned surveyors left the industry, taking valuable knowledge and experience with them. This loss of talent was compounded by the fact that the surveying industry offers a very limited number of formal training opportunities. In other words, for a while, there has been no talent pipeline unless you created it yourself.
In the last couple of years here at Howell Kline, we have pivoted who we are targeting for new team members, and it is beginning to pay dividends. We are proud to have team members from all backgrounds, from mechanical engineers to schoolteachers. The resounding response we receive is that now they come to work every day enjoying what they do. We encourage the idea of training, educating, and promoting from within, so we most often hire the entry-level position of Junior Field Technician. The qualifications for this position are minimal, yet the opportunity for advancement is excellent.
Every new employee is mentored by a more experienced member of our team. Beyond learning skills and increasing knowledge, every individual at every level needs to be invested in improving themselves and the company. When the entire team buys in, training starts to turn into culture.
Technical skills and processes are certainly a high priority. People need to learn the right way to assemble project data, understand job site safety, and care for the equipment. Furthermore, they also need to understand why customers value a relationship with us and what each customer expects from every interaction with Howell Kline. These intangible assets are unique to our brand and critical to earning customer loyalty.
In addition to our own weekly mentoring meetings that cover surveying fundamentals, we are committed supporters of the Certified Survey Technician (CST) program administered by the National Society of Professional Surveyors. Each year a group of our newest team members travel to the annual survey conference for a study course and sit for the CST test. Not only is gaining certification a metric for measuring technical competence, but it also provides our team members with a sense of achievement as they are recognized for their accomplishments. We believe that we are gaining a competitive advantage by encouraging all technicians to become certified.
This growth and depth are achieved not by licenses and certifications alone, but by people–valued people who are given opportunities to excel and contribute to the success of the organization and the industry. This is how we do things, and we believe this will set us apart in an ever-changing and more complex labor future.