Dana Muth, Director of Talent Management, Armstrong Group of Companies
The Armstrong Group is a family owned and operated collection of diverse companies, founded in 1946, and now does business in multiple industries, employing over 2000 individuals nationwide.
Many of these companies deal in technology. Keeping pace with the ever-changing needs of consumers as the technology progresses is a challenge we deal with every day.
We all have preconceived notions of how things should be done. Its natural. Those of us a bit older tend to be less flexible in our thinking. Yet who would have ever thought we would be sitting at work communicating with our refrigerator or answering our front door at home? Well, that’s the expectation of today’s consumers. And at the Armstrong Group we are constantly working to meet the needs of folks who want things delivered faster and smarter.
To do that, the Armstrong Group maintains a pace that is responsive, efficient and effective. As a result, finding talented people who can work hard, adapt and think outside the mainstream is a necessity. And with the unfortunate arrival of COVID-19 resiliency is taking center stage.
As Armstrong brings on distinct companies that offer complimentary services and products, talent management must find ways to bring synergistic practices across all companies. That means finding people who have leadership skills that can easily relate from one company to another while embracing the Armstrong Group philosophy and vision.
It also means having the ability to cross sell products that sometimes seem unfamiliar. For example, if someone from Guardian Protection installs a security system for a family, they may notice a need for a new hot water heater. And they can refer the family to Armstrong’s HVAC and Plumbing company.
Management can become entrenched in the way things have always been done. What we’ve tried to do from an HR perspective is to bring shared services across all companies. This means standardizing certain policies, practices and procedures.
Everything from how we recruit, onboard, develop, manage performance, how we create career paths and how we approach customers.
The “Standard Is the Standard” Means That No Matter the Circumstance, Productivity Must Remain the Same
We are currently in the process of introducing a new learning management system. It is brand specific but at the same time it brings the Armstrong Group standards across all companies. These include the legal, safety, finance, HR and IT functions. The benefit of this system is that we can meet needs real-time.
Currently, we are integrating the product knowledge of our customer facing companies, so that any of our customer service representatives and technicians can be fluent on all of our various products and services.
One of the big advantages we have as a large, diverse company is the enterprise level services we can offer to the operating entities, such as our IT infrastructure. This means we can quickly react if we see an application or product that we can utilize. An example would be Microsoft Teams. With the COVID-19 pandemic we were able to give the majority of our employees maximum Internet services remotely so they could operate instantly. We were able to recruit, develop, and deploy new processes without missing a beat. We were also able to manage people, productivity and performance at a distance.
Another valuable tool has been Microsoft Stream. Stream has allowed senior leadership to create and share videos with everyone in the company. These are one to two-minute micro-communications on current hot topics where employees can see and hear messages directly from their president and vice-presidents. The senior management team votes on what the hot topic is each week. This initiative has helped to break down the silos.
Social media is starting to play a significant role in how we recruit talent. In particular, job boards are beginning to show us promising results. This will continue to be part of our strategic initiative.
Did I mention that the Armstrong Group headquarters is 30 miles north of Pittsburgh which of course is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers? Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has two sayings he often mentions at his news conference – “position flexibility” and “the standard is the standard”. Position flexibility is resiliency, the ability to move up and down the offensive line for example. Team first – make yourself able to be resilient! The “standard is the standard” means that no matter the circumstance, productivity must remain the same.
Regarding resiliency, the pandemic caused business process changes that required people to adopt new ways of doing things internally and externally working with customers. It also changed how managers had to lead their teams. With people working remotely how do you maintain productivity? We accomplished this by establishing weekly or daily “smart goals” that needed to be accomplished. These were great habits to build around regardless of whether we were experiencing the pandemic or not.
One of the more interesting revelations is that the pandemic has forced us to use technology in ways we weren’t using them before. We are cautious but we have seen that employees have remained productive. The next step will be how we approach bringing people back to work. What will be the new normal? Whatever that is, productivity must not change. After all, the standard is the standard.