In today’s full employment market, flat organizations have become
increasingly common, making it essential for companies to find
relevant and creative growth opportunities to keep employees
invested and engaged. TINYpulse’s recent “2019 Employee
Engagement Report” found that 43% of workers would be willing
to leave their companies for a 10% salary increase, which proves
that companies need to work hard to retain talent.
At CA Ventures, corporate headcount jumped 33% in 2018
alone, and as we continue to grow, we know that promoting a culture of professional advancement cannot be about any one strategy. Instead, we implement a holistic, five-prong approach that
includes affinity groups, leadership training, promotion opportunities across both verticals and functions, mentorships and internships that encourage engagement early on.
Affinity groups, by definition, bring employees with shared interests together and provide opportunities for engagement outside of
professional responsibilities. In CA’s three affinity groups—
Women of CA, Social Impact and Wellness—participation is highlighted from day one of employment via the onboarding process.
As members, employees work together to manage budgets, propose and execute programming, and hold companywide events,
such as guest speakers and volunteer and wellness days, that boast
100% participation from the corporate office.
While participation as a committee member is considered leadership—today, about 20% of our corporate employees are involved
at any given time—there are also formal leadership roles within
each of the three groups. These positions rotate annually, and
members are strongly encouraged to pursue them. Those who do
receive recognition through speaking opportunities at company
events and direct communication with CA’s executive team.
Leadership training is also essential for employee engagement,
whether it be for the employees themselves, or the executives who
oversee them. The same TINYpulse survey found that a lack of training
is viewed as one of the top three pain points reported by employees.
For training to be effective, we’ve found that it should be seamlessly integrated into the corporate culture and embraced from the
top down. For example, at CA, executives participate in a multi-series training program over the course of a year that assesses leaders’ strengths, evaluates styles and identifies how leaders can support each other. This initiative, as well as other external leadership
programs offered to employees, builds self-awareness around workplace personality and supports a unified leadership philosophy.
CA is a proponent of career advancement and regularly promotes
from within – a key strategy for retention.
To raise awareness of opportunities, we advertise open positions
internally and provide coaching to employees who are interested
in pursuing them. Those discussions identify readiness or areas for
growth that are then built into a formal personalized plan.
In some cases, associates are encouraged to pursue opportunities in a different division of the company if the position better
aligns with their professional development goals. In 2018 alone, we
promoted 16% of corporate employees across CA verticals. CA also
has a formal development program called LEAD (Leadership,
Excellent, and Development) for high-performing, non-manage-ment talent that wishes to progress.
Younger employees have come to expect mentors to help them
advance professionally—either through formal mentorship or
organically through the corporate culture.
By virtue of our fast-growing company, many CA leaders have
ascended the corporate ladder alongside their peers, all while helping less-experienced colleagues follow a similar career trajectory.
This mentorship starts at the top with our CEO, who takes time to
meet with our young leaders through intimate, invitation-only
lunch groups, where they learn about the company and discuss
business topics that interest them.
The final prong in our approach is a competitive, 12-week internship program that benefits both students and employees. At CA, we
allow interns to focus their time in specific tracks that align with
their interests, including development, investments/capital markets, accounting, property management and asset management.
Last summer, CA hosted 22 interns from 14 universities across
the country. Track-specific experiences are supplemented with
company outings and “CA Spotlights,” through which interns
spend 30 minutes with senior-level executives who discuss their
career paths. Interns who excel can often find full-time employment after graduation. In 2018, 66% of CA’s development interns
were hired as full-time employees.
Investing in the growth of employees in a thoughtful way takes a
great deal of time and resources, but the returns can be significant.
Happier, more engaged team members are also more productive,
and by keeping them, employers avoid the expenses associated
Our efforts at CA have many proof points, including being
named one of Chicago’s “Best Places to Work” by Crain’s Chicago
Business in 2019. What we are most proud of, though, are the results
of the survey used to create that ranking. With the majority of corporate employees participating, it found that overall engagement was
95% – a number that sets our firm apart from other employers, but
also challenges us as our corporate headcount grows.
How to Create a Leadership Culture
BY CARMEN SMITH AND KATIE KAZAS
Carmen Smith is vice president of human resources for CA Ventures
and Katie Kazas is an executive vice president of capital markets at
CA Ventures. The views expressed here are the author’s own and not
that of ALM’s Real Estate Media Group.