Engineers at Parsons
Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas bled more than the average
American this year, according to PBs senior civil engineer,
Isabella Bejarano. Thats because members of the companys
Professional Growth Network, a group for engineers with 10
years of experience or less, donated 203 pints of blood as
part of PGNs Community Involvement Challenge.
The young engineers who participated
in the challenge, which ran from May 1 to Sept. 13, 2001,
recorded over $85,000 in donations and over 11,500 hours of
volunteer time. As a point-based competition, employees were
grouped by offices. The leading office for volunteer points
was Pittsburgh, while Seattle led the offices for amount of
"Members have been working at homeless shelters, tutoring
kids, bringing engineering into schools, and building houses
for Habitat for Humanity," says Bejarano, a co-founder
of the challenge. With 1,300 people involved, 80% of PBs
American work force contributed some volunteer time or donations
to the project.
A planning and landscape engineer
at PB in Lexington, Ky., Traci Severe was an office representative
for the challenge. "Because our work ranges all over
the state of Kentucky and into other states like Ohio, this
was a chance for us to give back to our local community of
Lexington," she says. Although there were only 20 people
in the Lexington office, they volunteered for the Red Cross,
church activities, and maintenance work for the elderly.
The challenge also allowed people
who were already volunteering their time to receive recognition
for their work. Tara Olsen, a senior traffic engineer for
PB in Seattle, has volunteered for the American Cancer Society
since her father died of cancer. "PB acknowledges emerging
professionals, whereas at other companies, your voice isnt
heard until you reach a senior level," Olsen says.
The challenge is one of the activities
in which members of PGN can participate. With about 350 members
in American offices, PGN was designed to help new hires fit
into Parsons Brinckerhoff, a large planning, engineering and
program management company headquartered in New York. Launched
four years ago, the program offers young professionals a network
of people to talk to about issues and questions, says Severe.
Chairman Robert Prieto designed PGN after noticing the companys
high rate of turnover among younger employees, usually around
the age of 30.
"I visited offices to find
out what was happening," Prieto says. "I asked managers
to arrange meetings for me with six of their young stars.
One group suggested a program like PGN to me."
Keeping emerging engineers interested
and motivated is one of the biggest challenges of running
the company, says Prieto. By formalizing a network for them,
they have more leverage within the firm, and become more involved.
"Our retention rates for young
people are now way ahead of general turnover rates,"
Prieto says. "Theres a huge improvement there,
and PGN has exceeded my expectations." Most engineering
firms have training programs or employee clubs, but most focus
groups are geared toward minority groups, such as women, says
Prieto. PGN, however, includes members based on their levels
of experience. The program also differentiates the firm in
competitive contexts, such as college recruiting.
It also makes good business sense,
Prieto says. "Its cheaper to keep an intern than
to go find someone new and train them all over again. Im
also scouting them for my replacement," he says.
The Community Involvement Challenge
will continue as an annual event, and Bejarano says it will
be extended to offices in the United Kingdom, Australia, New
Zealand, and Asia. Says Prieto: "Its only the beginning
of what they can accomplish."