Mission Makes Community Initiatives a Priority

The 101 Best & Brightest Corporate Survey’s Community Initiatives section includes a list of 10 aspects that demonstrate a company’s support for community initiatives. When Kelly Jackson, human resources director for Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. (OHM), completes the survey, she checks every item on the list.

“We didn’t build a program around the goal of checking every item from a list,” Jackson comments. “In fact, we don’t even have a formal community initiatives program. Community involvement is just part of who we are. It’s woven into the fabric of our company.”

Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. is a Livonia-headquartered firm of engineers and architects committed to advising government and other public organizations on infrastructure issues. Since 1962, when former city engineers joined to found the company now known as OHM, clients have included government organizations.

During the first 20 years of operation, the firm pursued both public and private clients, but in the 1980s, the focus changed. “We asked ourselves what really made us excited to go to work every day and what we thought we could be best in the world doing,” John J. Hiltz, OHM president reflects. “And for us, it’s all about working with communities: large and small, developing and redeveloping.”

The commitment to community is reflected in OHM’s mission, Advancing Communities. Having a uniting focus has helped OHM inadvertently create a few best practices around community initiatives.

Consider Organizational Values in Selecting Talent
“We’ve never made it an explicit criterion, but when we stopped to ask ourselves what made someone an ‘OHMer,’ we discovered a common link. Many of our most successful employees, the ones who’ve really fit well culturally are individuals who’ve had a family member or role model involved in public service,” Jackson shares. While some engineers and architects may be motivated by working on high profile and prestigious projects, many of OHM’s staffers are spurred by a sense of involvement. Staff members value the opportunity to become integrated into a local community or public project over a long-term and serve as a trusted advisor.

Lead by Example
OHM encourages and supports staff involvement in the communities the company serves and those in which employees live. The management team doesn’t just preach a commitment to philanthropy, it leads by example. OHM’s past president is the chair of Michigan Technological University’s governing body. Managing partner and board chairman Dan Fredendall is active in education and dozens of charitable and community organizations. John Hiltz is chairman of the development authority for Livonia’s business corridor and recently served a stint on the school board. About 5 percent of staff members serve as elected or appointed officials in their resident communities.

Freedom to Make a Difference
OHM allows employees to determine where they contribute their efforts, rather than mandating a ‘corporate cause.’ From traveling to Haiti to build rain water collection systems for drinking water, to golf outings supporting Alzheimer’s research, OHM employees participated in more than 55 different organizations last year.

“People are more motivated to put their time and energy into something when it’s meaningful to them personally,” Jackson says. “We encourage employees to pursue causes closest to them, whether it’s education, charity or community related.”

Make it Easy to Do Good
OHM ties company celebrations and events to causes. The annual Employee Appreciation Week includes fundraising events, charitable donation drives and raffles. Football tailgates, summer barbecues and other events include the opportunity to wear jeans at the office for a $5 donation to a featured cause. One employee commented that making a donation to wear jeans made it feel like a special treat, rather than something taken for granted.

OHM allows employees to use the company’s resources to promote their causes and events. Company-wide e-mails, fliers in common areas and administrative support make it easier for employees and the company to create an impact.

Celebrate Efforts
Recognize and applaud when employees live the company’s mission. Company leaders publicly and frequently commend staffers for their contributions and achievements. A matching gift program that doubles an employee’s personal contribution, recognition at company-wide events, email messages, and personal conversations all make it clear that OHM values community initiatives.

Let Loose
Have fun with it! When OHM was named one of the top 50 civil engineering firms to work for in the nation, the not-so-stuffy engineering firm let down its collective hair with a Rock Star After Party. Employees got their groove on with a Nintendo Wii Battle of the Bands, Rock Star brand beverages and iTunes gift cards.

And keeping with OHM tradition, staffers could let their inner rock star shine by wearing concert tees for a $5 donation to Rock for Kids, a Chicago-based nonprofit bringing music education to underprivileged children.

Lori Nash Byron is marketing director for OHM, an engineering/architectural firm headquartered in Livonia, Mich. OHM is a two-time Elite Winner of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For in the Community Initiatives category. Byron can be reached at [email protected].