Engagement, Learning and Innovation with Kelly Cotton
“In terms of the practical day-to-day, we make sure our employees understand the vision and our values.How do they play into that bigger picture, and into the organization?”
For our Future of Work webcast on April 6 2021, Criterion's Erica Sand welcomed Kelly Cotton, Vice President of Human Resources at the Miller Group. Kelly’s expertise includes HR consulting, coaches, HR policies, labor relations and employee training in the construction industry. We talked about tending to employee engagement and learning in the construction industry, which has certainly had to make some adaptations lately.
But our conversation with Kelly was packed with strategies and best practices for any industry — including the power of innovation, and why performance reviews still matter. Take a look a tour edited highlights. Then, watch her Future of Work episode here.
Erica Sand: How do you keep employees engaged?
Kelly Cotton: The Miller group is a construction company and personal touch is very, very important. We try to have a balance between utilizing technology — given we're in a remote work environment — and trying to meet with our people one-on-one. Our president sends a handwritten note to every new employee, and I send an email welcoming them to the organization. After their probationary period, they also get a formal letter from you saying, congratulations, you're formally a part of the Miller group and the Miller family. We're happy to have you!
In terms of the practical day-to-day, we make sure our employees understand the vision and our values. How do they play into that bigger picture, and into the organization? We do that in a couple of ways. First, by explaining what our values are and what the behaviors are that we want to see from people, and by tying that into our performance reviews.
I think you hear a lot of people asking if performance reviews make sense — are we moving away from those as an organization, as the HR profession? I still think a touchpoint that allows employees to understand how they connect to the bigger picture is really important. So leverage the performance reviews as a way to engage, motivate, and help them understand that bigger picture.
The other piece that we've been trying to do, which is very different for us over the last year, is those informal connections — such as this over zoom or over teams. We’re utilizing technology to help us connect with people. We will have informal coffee breaks, informal touch points just to say, Hey, how are you doing today? That has been really important for us as well.
ES: What technical solutions are helping you on this front?
KC: With our salaried employees, everybody works off of a laptop. Our hourly employees who are in the field 12 hours a day don't have access to laptops — they’re on machinery and things like that. So we're looking at technology to help us leverage that communication. It's very important to make sure we're connecting with that 75% of our Miller family.
ES: Let’s talk about learning: how are you getting people to be self-motivated?
KC: We actually have expanded our learning platform to do a lot of that learning online for those sitting right in front of their computer. We actually have a great group of people internally who have created learning opportunities for our entire team and they will do zoom calls. We've also started building a library of online learning that employees can utilize when they want. Whether it’s on a break or after hours or during the workday, it’s to help them just to get over a hump of something that they're struggling with.
The other thing that keeps people really motivated is focusing on innovation. Business does have to focus on innovation in order to stay ahead of the curve. And we're lucky that our parent company provided a platform where our employees can give different ideas around innovation, awards, learning, and things like that — to keep people motivated to think outside of their day-to-day, and to keep the energy and ideas flowing.
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