One thing that’s very important to me as a leader is celebrating people. It’s part of our culture.
We’ve been doing internal company awards for several years and just added a sustainability category that’s been a big success for us. What it comes down to, for me, is a culture of celebration.
I’ve been CEO of Allen Construction for about six years. We are a builder and remodeler based in Santa Barbara, Calif. with about 90% of our projects being remodels. There are about 100 people on our team, and in 2021 we had about $38 million in revenue. Allen has an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), and as of last year, we are 51% employee-owned.
Celebration Sets Company Standards
I firmly believe that people need to see examples of what they should be and also feel recognized for doing things well. If they don’t know what success looks like, how are they going to know how to get there?
One way that we achieve this is through awards, the biggest being our Employee of the Year award—it’s a huge honor to win. Each year, the winner is voted on by the entire company and they receive a week of PTO or a $1,000 prize, whichever they prefer.
The winner of Employee of the Year award is someone who best represents Allen’s core values: Relationships First, Humbly Confident, Always Learning, and Do What You Say. The award is presented by the team member who won the prior year, and the new winner gets a plaque that they keep on their wall until it gets passed on. That’s been going on for more than a decade. Those winners are the people who make up the DNA of Allen.
RELATED: What Does Your Company Stand For?
A project completed by Allen Construction.
One thing I love about the award is that we also read off the comments from nomination forms. It goes back to the core value of Always Learning and setting that standard. Someone might say that a team member exemplifies X value and here’s why. Another might speak up and mention, “I can’t think of someone who does X more.”
In addition to Employee of the Year, we’ve also done Core Value awards for the past four years. Employees will nominate and recognize peers who best represent one of the four core values, and nomination information comes from a part of the self-assessment that employees do every year. There are no self-nominations. We give away a $100 prize and recognize the winners at a company meeting. It’s awesome.
This is the major feature for one of our two annual all-company meetings, and we make it a big deal. The event ends with the Employee of the Year award and our new Sustainability Awards. The winner always gets a huge ovation from everybody.
Celebration Solidifies Values
Recently we decided to implement a series of Sustainability Awards. We wanted to do this for a few reasons.
For starters, about two-thirds of our new hires say, “Part of why I was attracted to Allen is your focus on sustainability.” It’s a massive recruiting tool for us. And it’s something we care about deeply.
I think that, especially in the younger workforce, we see more of a focus on sustainability. But I really do believe that emphasis has to come from the top.
Construction is an industry where you really can move the needle in this area, and so I’ve gravitated more to green building and tried to learn more and more on that front. So that’s part of the genesis of this award, I want the value to come from the top.
Allen Construction has a focus on sustainable building and promotes it internally and through its marketing materials, such as the example above found on its website.
In order to bring attention to the whole company through the Sustainability Awards, we decided to focus on three areas. We wanted people highlighted from operations; those who increase the sustainability of a project; and those who impact community awareness.
Hence the three categories: Company Operations, Project Impact, and Community Awareness. Community awareness is especially important for us. When you start thinking of yourself as being a network or a resource for the community, you realize that it needs to be bigger than just the projects you do and bigger than the company. Frankly, I would love to see us become a resource for other construction companies in the area and even architects—I think it’s our responsibility.
I never want awards to be an “Aaron thing,” They need to be a company thing, so team members help run it as if it were the Academy Awards. We recognize all finalists, some with multiple people for each category, and highlight what they did to deserve the nomination.