Water Environment Federation (WEF)

An Integrated Philosophy for the Use of Technology to Attract, Develop, and Reatain Technical Talent: Perspectives of a Young Professionaly and Senior Consultants

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Water Environment Federation (WEF)

Despite company dynamics, an integral facet to the growth of both small and international engineering consulting firms is the development of junior staff to fill future leadership roles. International consulting engineering corporations provide young professionals (YPs) in the engineering community an opportunity to participate in unique projects that have substantial capital. Therefore, how may the technological opportunity provided by employment with such corporations be used to attract, develop, and retain technical talent? The authors collaborated on a procedure to combine the perspectives of a YP and senior consultants to develop a philosophical method for the application of technology to recruit, train, and educate YPs through a five-step program that includes initiation, integration, training, performance, and maintenance.

Career development planning and mentoring is an investment designed to produce dividends for both young professional (YPs) and the consulting engineering firm at large. Ideally, a work environment structured into core functional areas that are comprised of job families with predefined responsibilities is the first step in successfully identifying and subsequently growing talent. Core functional areas may be defined as Project Management, Business Development and Planning, Operations and Management, Administration, and Technology. The use of technology to attract, develop, and retain technical talent is the focus of the present article.

A technology core functional group ideally exists to (a) attract, develop, and retain technical talent; (b) ensure quality of projects and efficiency of project delivery; (c) create market domination and differentiation; (d) and capture technology innovation to provide value to clients, shape markets, and grow. There are several issues related to mentoring and technology that affect companies, their management, and YPs. Each of the aforementioned core functional areas requires formal education and experience to perform at a high level. However, interested YPs may gain relevant experience for many of the areas by working on a variety of projects. For example, an effective project manager may gain competence and managerial background by being involved in projects focused on wastewater collection and conveyance, wastewater treatment plant design, water treatment plant design, or water distribution. However, technology leaders are usually highly specialized. Therefore, aspiring technologists must be involved in projects related to their expertise in order to gain experience required for promotion. Such experts are in demand and highly useful to engineering firms. However, several prerequisites must be satisfied before an individual can be targeted for such a position. First, the YP must have a high predisposition for the core technology. Next, the YP must be both willing and capable of taking the steps required to develop his/her career. An example may include a YP who is interested in becoming an expert in wastewater treatment processes. Due to the extended design life and high capital costs associated with the design and construction of wastewater treatment facilities, a YP may be required to travel extensively in order to be involved with wastewater treatment plant projects. This issue has been somewhat mitigated due to electronic data transfer and communications. Finally, senior consultants must identify, endorse, and professionally support the YP’s technological goals. This can be quite difficult if such needs are not prevalent with current or future work projections.

Initially, management is responsible for identifying and growing technologically talented individuals who express aptitude and interest in discipline specific work. Second, a cooperative understanding between senior and junior staff regarding the YP’s responsibilities through the developmental process, as well as senior staff’s responsibility to mentor must be established (i.e., providing a road map that may alleviate disgruntled YPs and frustrated senior staff). Finally, the corporation must exhibit dedication to training by providing both financial resources and developmental opportunities through job assignments.

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