KCI provided landscape architecture services for a 50,000-square-foot addition to the 15,000-square-foot Cherokee Youth Center in North Carolina.
In 2014 and 2015, I enjoyed the unique opportunity to serve as the chairperson of KCI’s Companywide Employee Committee (CEC). I say unique because not every firm has such a committee, nor gives it the status and influence that KCI has for more than two decades. An added dimension of the CEC chairperson position is the privilege to serve as the sole employee representative to KCI’s nine member governing Board of Directors. Having served in this capacity, I realize that many don’t fully understand the reverence that KCI has for its staff or the opportunities that exist within the firm to get involved beyond your “day job.”
As you would imagine, the CEC is pretty much what it sounds—a committee made up of volunteer representatives from the various technical practices and geographic regions throughout the company. Their mission is simple – represent your local constituency in advocating for issues that impact work life at KCI, such as morale building, social responsibility, community service, event coordination, and other concerns that affect the company and our team. The CEC also functions as a conduit for communication with senior management outside of the normal chain of command. This serves to elevate important issues quickly without multiple filters as well as carry information directly from senior management to the staff. As the chairperson my intended goals were to get representatives involved, continue the good work of others and elevate the role of the CEC to be more active in addressing employee issues, promoting cooperation and collaboration across discipline and geographic boundaries, and implementing ideas from the employees that improve the firm.
The mere existence of the CEC is a testament of KCI values as a 100% employee-owned firm. I was so enamored with this concept and the responsibility being given to the employees to be involved in corporate affairs, that during a break in my service with KCI, I “borrowed” the idea and implemented it at a smaller privately held firm with great success. Upon rejoining KCI, becoming an active participant and ultimately leading the CEC was important to me and I am grateful for being given the opportunity to serve and for the benefits that come along, such as meeting and interacting with a wide variety of dedicated employee representatives, office managers and KCI’s corporate leadership.
There were certainly other motivations as well. For one, I wanted the opportunity to bring the perspective of someone who worked in a regional office as opposed to corporate headquarters and in doing so, more effectively engage other folks in regional offices to be involved as they represent the majority of KCI’s diverse staff across our geographic footprint. Additionally, I wanted to promote blurring the lines between disciplines/practices. Regardless of how the beans are counted, the success of KCI relies on our collective ability to serve our clients and manage our business responsibly. A key element of this is developing business, matching the greatest capability with the greatest need and strengthening the KCI team. Some key ways we are accomplishing this are through education about the depth and breadth of KCI’s capabilities and introducing people to others that they normally wouldn’t interact with or even meet in their typical day to day work.
Serving as the employee representative on the Board of Directors was an invaluable experience. This is not a spectator position. The expectation is that you come prepared and contribute to the business of governing KCI. In all honesty, this could be daunting at first, but the benefit far outweighs the effort exerted to prepare and overcome any fears about participation. I was particularly impressed with the transparency that our company promotes and our executive leadership supports. I was also encouraged by the diligence and prudent business practices that were employed by the Board and the good corporate stewardship that was evident. I am proud to have participated and hopefully made positive contributions during my service and grateful for the opportunity to represent my fellow teammates.
My final goal upon completion of my tenure as the CEC Chairperson was to promote the value and opportunity afforded by the position. I hoped to elevate the stature of the role and have it be desirable enough to attract multiple nominations and really garner competition among those who wanted to serve. Fortunately we achieved just that and I am looking forward to continuing my support of the CEC making a positive difference for KCI’s employees.