This article accompanies HR Problem Solvers for 2010 .
Administrative staff who support engineers, architects and other specialists at Greeley and Hansen are often isolated in construction-site offices. Before the creation of the Administrative Support Team Knowledge Group, they had few resources and limited access to co-workers.
Of the 300 employees in 17 offices, there are about 25 doing administrative work for the Chicago-based national niche firm that specializes in engineering and architecture.
That isolation often led to low morale, inconsistent work and varying levels of productivity, says John C. Robak, executive vice president and chief operating officer, who leads Greeley and Hansen's HR function.
"We wanted to create some kind of virtual program that allowed for greater connectivity to the larger organization so they can perform their jobs more efficiently," he says. The AST program was designed to standardize administrative procedures and enhance the workers' technical skills and professionalism. It was also designed to improve communication and networking among its members.
The AST members complete a self-assessment based on an internally developed training program tied "to the core competencies that we believe each administrative person in our company would need to have," Robak says. The results are used as the basis of an eight- to 16-hour, one-on-one technology-skills training session with a senior administrative-services trainer. Members are certified at both a standard and advanced level. "Our goal, over time, is to have all of our administrative personnel at the advanced level," says Robak.
While many companies offer some type of off-the-shelf training -- though rarely for administrative staff -- Greeley and Hansen faced its HR problem by creating an in-house, customized program that also includes virtual meetings, Facebook-like profile pages and an online toolkit of forms, tech support and data. Robak says the program "helps us retain better staff [who are] better trained and [more] connected."
Greeley and Hansen, Chicago
Read all of the 2010 HR Problem Solvers.