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Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

  • 1.  Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-05-2018 11:35 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-15-2018 05:43 AM

    I've worked at, with, or visited some companies with unique benefits like "bring your dog to work day," on-site coffee bar, employer-sponsored firm-wide community service days, and a chair-massage masseuse that came to the office once a month. I even visited a structural engineer's office in CA with beers on tap (reserved for Friday afternoons). Have you experienced unique benefits at your current or previous positions? Do you personally think those types of benefits make a difference in employee hiring/retention and/or fostering a collaborative work culture?

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 2.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-06-2018 09:53 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-06-2018 09:53 AM

    At BCC Engineering, we have a 15-minute break that we use to play ping pong or darts! Plus many other goodies that our office managers provide on a weekly basis.



    Jairo Rodriguez, PE

    Senior Drainage Engineer

    Miami | Fort Lauderdale | Orlando | Tampa | Panama City

    160 N. Westmonte Drive, Suite 2000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

    t. 407.951.6444 | www.bcceng.com


  • 3.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-07-2018 11:50 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-07-2018 11:50 AM
    I work at the City of San Antonio, Aviation C&D. My fellow Aviation employees enjoyed a dodge ball tournament this week.  They had a lot of participation and raised money for charity.

    Timothy Austin P.E., M.ASCE
    Airport Engineer
    San Antonio TX

  • 4.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-08-2018 09:58 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-08-2018 09:58 AM
    My answer to the second question, which is: "Do you personally think those types of benefits make a difference in employee hiring/retention and/or fostering a collaborative work culture?"

    Each of us values the little benefits differently. Of prime importance to me, and perhaps others, is the organization's underlying culture. By "culture" I mean how do things really work around here, especially when challenges and difficulties arise?

    Looking back at my employment experiences and consulting assignments, if I could start over, I would look for an employing organization with a culture that: 

     - Does some of what I love to do.

    - Says, from the top, what it means and means what it says. In other words, is credible.

    - Exemplifies, from the top, ethical behavior.

    - Expects a lot of me and supports me in its expectations. A high expectations - high support partnership.

    - Supports creativity and innovation.

    - Rewards achievement.

    [Stu ] [Walesh [PhD PE]
    [S. G. Walesh Consulting]
    [Consultant - Teacher - Author]

  • 5.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-11-2018 05:58 PM
    Employee benefits and culture are big incentives when choosing an employer - so is salary. The 2018 ASCE Civil Engineering Salary Report is now available for you to calculate from experience and education what you are worth in today's job market.

    Tirza Austin Aff.M.ASCE
    Collaborate Coordinator
    Reston VA
    (703)791-2794 EXT 1

  • 6.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-13-2018 06:11 PM
    Edited by Jane Howell 09-13-2018 06:10 PM
    Go for cash and retirement benefits which are tax deductible. Live on 50
    percent of your salary. Invest 50 percent. In twenty years you will have
    enough money that you will not need a job.Except for health insurance
    and retirement benefits.All other benefits, even vacation are a smoke
    screen to get employees to work for reduced salaries.

    Hum Bugg!! says Ebeneezer Scrooge as he sits alone on Christmas eve,
    counting his vast fortune.

    Oh Yes , Go around the neighborhood with a SUV filled with turkeys and
    give them all away.Then be prepared to work over time and receive emails
    and urgent return to work notices on weeks ends and vacation days.

    Engineering ...... It is a tough job, but some one has to do it.

  • 7.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-17-2018 08:47 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-17-2018 08:46 PM
    Do you see anything that surprises you in the below ASCE salary survey summary of benefits?

    For myself, I was surprised to see that 54% of those surveyed had paid parental leave available. That rate is way above the national average, and I'm glad to see civil engineers ahead of the curve. ASCE salary survey summary

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC
    State College PA

  • 8.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-12-2018 02:42 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-12-2018 02:41 PM
    Great comments. Do you have any suggestions as to how to discover these types of things when interviewing?

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC
    State College PA

  • 9.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 09-13-2018 09:59 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-13-2018 09:59 AM

    When asking questions of a potential employer, use mostly behavioral interviewing, not hypothetical interviewing. The first is based on actual past behavior – it is more convincing – and the second is, as noted, simply hypothetical.

    An example of each follows:

    Hypothetical: "What would you do to support a staff member who suggested a highly creative way of doing something?"

    Behavioral: "Give me a recent example of how you supported a staff member who suggested a highly creative way of doing something?"


    Stu Walesh PhD, PE
    Consultant - Teacher - Author

  • 10.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 10-04-2018 10:51 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 10-04-2018 10:50 PM
    Could this benefit (helping employees with student loans pay back their debt) be the wave of the future? What do you think?

    Forbes Article: This article showed Abbott is helping their employees repay student loans.

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 11.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 10-05-2018 11:02 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 10-05-2018 11:01 AM
    Helping the people that make your company grow by helping to pay off their student loans will become more normal.  This has been the norm in medical companies for about 8 years.  A lot of them use loan pay off as a loyalty tool, sort of like they do for tuition reimbursement.   For example, I know a nurse that graduated this year, that after 6 months of employment will be given up to $400 per month in loan forgiveness for up to 4 years.  $19,200 does not sound like a large amount, but it pays his loan for 4 years.  This nurse plans to use the other money that he had dedicated to loan payments to also pay the loan off, so Instead of paying $300 per month, he is paying $700, which reduced his loan payout time to a manageable 5.5 years.  He owes them 2-years of loyalty after the last payment has been made by his employer.  If the employer decides that it is time for him to seek employment elsewhere, then the 2-years are forgiven.  

    Until society figures out how to reduce the cost of a university education for the student, I think that loan payment will become much more common.  ​

    By the way, they will at the same time pay for up to $4,000 per semester in nursing education too.  I figure the thinking student will take both the loan payment and the tuition reimbursement, and end their six years of loyalty with half their loans paid off, and a master's degree.

    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., P.E., P.Eng, M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Rosenberg TX

  • 12.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 10-05-2018 06:18 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 10-05-2018 06:18 PM
    Employers repaying student loans?

    This does not sound like a practical solution.

    Employers are already struggling to pay for the enormous increases in
    government mandated health insurance and retirement plan co-pays. I
    think that employers will just choose to hire other engineers who do 
    not have student loans or do not expect their employer to give this
    extra benefit which could be as large as four years salary.

    The secret (if there is one) is to have very rich parents or to work
    full time and take part time courses to avoid getting into debt in the
    first place. A practical trade school degree might get a future engineer
    into a high paying starter job which would provide necessary money to
    pay for college level tuition. Colleges and universities seem to be
    pricing their way out of the reach of ordinary people who are not rich
    and can not get a scholarship. Universities without a good co-op
    program provide only a theoretical education which does not prepare a
    new graduate for hitting the road running on the first job.

  • 13.  RE: Unique Employer Benefits & Office Culture

    Posted 10-08-2018 10:33 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 10-08-2018 10:33 AM
    Interesting question. Get the employer to payback the new employee's massive student debt load! 

    OK, here's the big picture context, If new engineers can't afford to pay back their loans with the salaries we pay them, and we still need the work done, I'm thinking we'll be increasing salaries as needed to get the job done.  However, this, in the end, means we're raising our rates and therefore sticking the final bill to the client who wants to improve their property and seek our support in doing so.  So, it starts out that the government makes it easier to get loans to go to school, more kids are therefore eligible and the school market responds by drastically raising prices and in the end our customer takes the hit.  But, some jobs just will not get done because costs are too high and therefore, we as engineering firms take the hit.  It is a fundamental argument against inflating markets with subsidies and other forms of social or corporate welfare.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, I've heard.   

    But let's look along the lines of Ronald Nave's response, hiring alternative engineer and seeking alternative education that is one hell of an idea.  The amount of online information from textual, video, courses, etc.., that is almost all for free is effectively eliminating the need to go to school to get educated.  Wow, did I just say that? Yes, I did.  

    The vast amount of readily available knowledge on the internet of good - and bad - professors teaching all forms of courses for free is significant.  Sure, some require you to sit through a commercial or two but that doesn't pull greenbacks out of the wallet.  And if that doesn't work for you, do a search for text books on the subject you think you may like bridges or buildings or roads, take your pick. Notice I didn't say, statics, dynamics and material strength since all of those subjects are tools we need to accomplish the design of the former.  And the best way to learn is through application. Start designing a simple box house or truss bridge and quite quickly the application needs you to figure out a free body diagram.  You then need to search the internet for how to do that. That's OK, you'll find it quickly and Amazon will have it on your doorstep in a day or two. I've always found that no sense picking up the map till you know where your going.    

    For a relatively minor investment, likely less than the average meal plan at a state school, the average high school graduate can more than pay for a good set of texts to start off with.  

    But that is just the start, If a 17 or 18 year old came to my office and said that they've been doing a lot online studying about engineering like what my firms does and he wants to be able to "apprentice" for either for free to sit in and help on a project, I'd be super happy about that.  Unfortunately, the laws in our state forbid that.  There's a change to look for, stop blocking kids from being apprentices!

    And what about CAD?  I've had a number of engineers from "good" schools show up to work and were less than proficient at CAD... forget about drafting.   How is that possible?  35 years ago we spent no less than a full year learning proper drafting techniques with massive homework requirements for gears, buildings, etc.  An Autocad Education product is very low cost today and the average young adult who should at a minimum be working in a part-time and should be able to afford that.  Want to learn CAD?  Pick something to draw and do it!   There are so many free to low cost CAD videos online that you could never watch them all in a lifetime.  In fact, even better than working at a job would be offering your newly learned CAD skills online.  Then the kid is earning while learning!  Imagine that!

    But what about the degree?!  Frankly, I'm not impressed with degrees anymore, it takes me very little time to determine if a young recent  B.S. graduate has gained any value from their degree or not.  These days I'm just not impressed. Then again, I probably wouldn't have been impressed with myself at the age of 22.  But I do remember that 99% of the time at school was not spent learning engineering or even advanced math.  If we're in a class for 6 to 10 hours a week really learning something, why does it cost so much?  For people to continue to pay vast amounts of money for degrees, I just don't think it is worth it anymore.   

    Getting back to Ronald Nave's excellent feedback, once your done a few months of digging into the books and videos and online information you're likely ready, as Ron suggests, to offer yourself up to a good engineering firm as an assistant or engineering clerk or the illegal apprentice.  And again, it will take a very short time to figure out if this new kid has the capacity, focus and enthusiasm to learn the ropes or some adjustment to expectations are needed.  

    Can't say I don't want "kids" to go to college, it can be an enlightening experience and a chance to meet people from diverse backgrounds.  But to pay a quarter of a million dollars for it and then expect your boss to pay the bill is a bit too self-indulgent. 

    Sorry Stephanie, I don't see it.  In fact, I worry we're moving toward the same thing I see in medicine with the disappearance of the small family medical practice and partnerships.  How is a new AE firm owner going to hire a young engineer, pay the engineer's salary and pay the engineer's education bill.  This will hurt small firms likely pushing once aspiring small firm owners to jump ship and merge with others to create larger firms to spread out the overhead. 

    If you want to get your PhD and do research, go for it and go to school, learn how to write those government grant requests!  (Again, more of other's money paying for someone else's stuff).  But if you want to learn engineering or even if you're not sure, spend some quality time researching and then jump-in via the internet.  You should be able to get up and running on some interesting applications that will help you figure the right path and the tools needed to make you valuable to a firm and then come knocking at the door.  Provided we can work around the laws of our states, we should be able to make a deal.

    If we start going this way we'll also need to revisit the requirements for licensure or perhaps certification. Forum for another day.

    I appreciate Stephanie's creative thoughts and ASCE's forums here, they make us think!  But I do know that artificial promotions by the government usually are a boondoggle for the public and end costing everyone a whole lot of money.  

    If we all just landed here today would you make your kids have to attend school for 4 years to learn something that can be done in likely 1/8 to 1/10 the time and pay someone gobs of money for the privilege when you could do it for close to nothing?  Probably not.  I think we need to think more along starting from scratch rather than trying to come up with a magic remedy for a poorly conceived system. 

    I remember Dean Kamen, the inventor and force behind FIRST Robotics said to the congressional subcommittee on STEM Education, basically telling them to "get out of the way."  Fundamentally he reported that states (and local muni's) are effectively holding their kids back by not allowing teacher stipends to let them attend FIRST activities in lieu of class hours.  Private companies and entities fully fund FIRST because they need STEM educated kids to work in their companies.  Many companies have already gotten to the point that they don't really care about your degree, they want people that can get the job done.  

    For me, expensive college engineering programs are just not worth the cost or the time for that matter.

    Thomas Petracca P.E., M.ASCE
    Petracca Design and Engineering, PC
    Smithtown NY