Title: CEO, Malcolm Pirnie
Headquarters: White Plains, N.Y.
As the leader of environmental consulting firm Malcolm Pirnie, William Dee understands training's connection to business success. "If we don't deliver effective training, we have failed to make our people better and have failed to provide the best to our clients," says Dee.
President since 1999 and recently appointed CEO, Dee's actions are guided by his belief in building the skills of his employees. The company's expansion into e-learning and the development of formal mentoring programs, executive coaching and diversity initiatives are due to Dee's inspiration for employee development.
Malcolm Pirnie engineers work with customers to design and implement environmental engineering projects. And while these employees don't necessarily develop technologies, says Dee, they must be adept at applying the latest techniques to solve clients' problems—tasks that could not be accomplished without highly motivated and well-trained employees.
"The education they receive before joining the firm is just one element of their personal and professional development," says Dee. "We strongly believe that continuous learning is the catalyst. Without this driving influence we would lose our ability to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Training is the lifeblood of our organization that keeps us alive and moving forward."
But more than simply maintaining engineers' technical expertise, Dee says training also means developing the customer service skills that are crucial when articulating complex concepts to clients. "Training has had the greatest impact in helping our technical people apply their skills and learn how to deal more effectively with people," he says. "This increased training around issues of effective communication, listening, mentoring and focusing on the people side of our business has been most effective."
Over the past year and a half, as Malcolm Pirnie underwent a significant reorganization, Dee uncovered a need for management and leadership development and soon became personally involved in research that included employee surveys and focus groups. Earlier this year, he publicly dedicated himself to "drive personal ownership and leadership development throughout the firm."
Dee recently sponsored the creation of a management development program called Leadership and Management at Malcolm Pirnie. The instruction designed by the company's organizational learning group focuses on improving managers' listening and delegating skills.
Lorraine Samuels, manager of education programs at Malcolm Pirnie, greatly admires Dee's commitment to workforce development. "With the pressures of profitability and building the business weighing so heavily on him, Bill still balances his bottom-line business commitments with employee development," she says.
Dee respects learning, says Samuels, including his own. He recently participated in the company's 18-month internal coaching program—not as a coach, but as a participant—and actively encouraged other senior managers to do so as well. "He models the behaviors we are trying to inculcate in our supervisors," says Samuels. "He is approachable, actively listens and values and uses staff input on decisions.
"Given that we are a company driven by direct labor and that every hour not charged to a project is overhead, Bill maintains training budgets even through tough times," she continues. "He frees up officers' time to actively participate as subject matter experts. He recognizes the business value of supporting e-learning. And he acknowledges the value of training as a component of staff development and, ultimately, business success."