How does Atlanta-based Holder Construction develop so much talent? Last year, the company filled 82 percent of its positions from within, among the highest rates of companies on the Great Place to Work Institute's 2005 list of Best Medium Companies to Work for in America. (With 340 employees, all called associates, it's No. 10.)
To begin with, the company recruits and screens carefully, learning all it can about applicants and making sure they buy into the Holder way-a culture grounded in camaraderie, fairness, respect and a commitment to self-improvement.
"You need an environment where learning and information sharing is something that's done every day and the commitment to developing talent extends throughout the organization," says Lee Johnston, executive vice president. "We've never had the occasion to ask for something we haven't been supported in."
Under Alex Villanueva, director of training services, talent development is continuously reviewed and upgraded. "Right now, we're reprioritizing, focusing more on core skills," she says. "We've studied our jobs and identified competencies they require-like scheduling or project management. When new associates come in, we talk to them, assess their needs and help them design their own individual road map. We've shied away from dictating to them. A new associate may need more training than someone else. We let the amount be determined by their level of skill."
Courses are custom designed. "When someone sees a program they're interested in or expresses a specific need, we go to someone in our company and get it developed," Johnston says.
Associates can choose from an extensive menu of courses, which are regularly extended and refined to meet changing company needs and industry demands. This year there will be more than 400, many available at satellite sites in Sioux Falls, S.D., Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
Classes are taught by Holder managers and associates, following the "Holder Way" of passing knowledge down from generation to generation. "We can't imagine doing it any other way," Johnston says. "The credibility our own people bring to the table cannot be replaced."
If they desire, associates can take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program, but few do. "We think they can get all they need from our classes, but if they want to go outside, it's up to them," Johnston says.