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TD Magazine Article

Developing Talent, Fast

The building industry demands continual training, feedback, and vision throughout the employee life cycle.


Thu Jun 15 2023

Developing Talent, Fast

The BEST Awards recognize organizations that demonstrate enterprise-wide success as a result of employee talent development. The winners use learning as a strategic business tool to get results. View the entire list of 2023 BEST Award winners.

The building industry demands continual training, feedback, and vision throughout the employee life cycle.


Attracting, developing, and retaining talent in the construction and real estate industries requires smart planning and rapid-fire execution. Thompson Thrift, Sundt Construction, Dar Al Riyadh, and Gilbane Building Company quickly and effectively connect the training of new talent to the overall mission of their companies while evaluating results.

Never stop improving

As a real estate company and developer of multifamily and commercial real estate with offices in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, and Texas, Thompson Thrift puts a premium on employee training with ongoing feedback and communication. The Thompson Thrift Leadership Evaluation, held in tandem with performance check-ins, are recurring, structured conversations that lead to increased technical skills, leadership performance, and culture alignment.

"We do not believe that leadership comes with a title or direct reports, but that leadership exists at every level," says Brett Barnes, vice president of organizational development. "We recognize that the future of our organization depends on the strength of our pipeline of future leaders. Because of these fundamental beliefs, we have intentionally designed programming for each leadership function within our organization."

The annual leadership evaluation ensures every manager has a personalized leadership development plan. The review assesses seven key indicators: living the core, leadership performance, leadership potential, technical skills, the possibility of loss, the impact of failure, and promotability. The evaluation not only assists team members with personal growth and career development; it also provides the business with a clear, year-over-year measurement of the training program's impact on organizational goals.

From the bottom to the top

Dar Al Riyadh, a regional engineering and development services company based in Saudi Arabia, has adopted an integrated talent development strategy that sets each employee on a development journey from the day they join the company until their full potential is unleashed. The firm also strives to create a workplace culture that makes itself an "employer of choice" in the region as part of a long-term strategic goal to attract the best talent.


The company's Young Talent Program, introduced in 2021, supports new employees early in their careers by assigning mentors to help them develop a minimum level of competencies and skills to guarantee their work meets Saudi governmental regulations. The mentor identifies eight essential tasks, and the TD team monitors the new employees on a regular basis. Mentees graduate from the program upon successful completion of all the tasks.

A commitment to TD continues throughout the employees' journeys and has yielded impressive results at the highest level of management. "Some of our top management leaders have started the journey early on until they reached the top level," says Jihad Mohammad, chief strategy and transformation officer. One such success is that of CEO Abdullah Al Mustaneer, whom the company promoted from group HR director this year, demonstrating that a culture that nurtures talented people across all levels can pay dividends throughout the firm.

It begins with onboarding

At Tempe, Arizona-based Sundt Construction, a general contractor, the TD strategy aims to help employees innovate in their jobs and grow in their careers, which contributes to the company's long-standing record of success.

"From onboarding our new employees and preparing them for their new positions in the company, to developing the skills employees need now and preparing them for their next opportunity, our talent development teams are developing, implementing, facilitating, and leading the training that keeps our organization growing" to achieve Sundt's mission to be "the most skilled builder in America," says Melissa L. Moreno, vice president and director of administrative TD.

Gilbane Building Company, a family-owned construction and real estate development firm based in Providence, Rhode Island, similarly focuses on staff development throughout the employee life cycle. During the past several years, Gilbane has evolved its training into a full learning and talent management center of excellence that delivers field and functional training; compliance training; and professional, management, and leadership development.


Previously, the company did not clearly connect those elements to assessments of performance, succession, and engagement. Combining them all into one integrated function allows for managing talent from onboarding through retirement, with a focus on personal growth and career opportunities. The approach drives career advancement and an equitable, transparent pay-for-performance philosophy.

Gilbane likewise ensures that support for career growth and development starts at the top. "At our company, senior leadership has derived a 'people first' focus based on input from our employees through a host of different sources to help us understand various perspectives and to help guide our investment in our people," says Julie Pingel, talent management director. "Our people are the heart of our business, and without them, we do not have the ability to deliver for our clients. This mindset functions as our North Star for learning and development."

During the past year, Sundt launched a new program to help capitalize on its construction crew's continual adoption of technology on the job. Instead of allowing knowledge to remain locked in individual job roles, Sundt created an app that effortlessly captures and shares ideas, which enables other employees to incorporate, if applicable, the creative and successful solutions into their own roles without the need for in-person training.

Measuring success

Recently at Sundt, diversity in the employment ranks has become a greater focus. The company created a return on investment dashboard and shared it with leadership teams to demonstrate the importance of programs cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce. During the past two years, the average number of women and ethnically diverse employees selected for the company's leadership training program—via an anonymized review process—doubled.

Thompson Thrift also uses an ROI dashboard, which helps the company fine-tune its leadership and management training as well as to create buy-in from senior leadership. Because Thompson Thrift has a goal to ensure that talent strategy supports the overall business strategy of achieving individual and organizational excellence, the company has been particularly engaged in the programs and training content provided at all employee levels during the past year.

At Gilbane, 60 percent of leadership training program participants have received promotions to a senior leadership role, and voluntary turnover for the group is at 4.3 percent—far below the company's goal of 10 percent. The company's action learning program asks participants to solve business challenges over a period of eight to nine months. Gilbane has incorporated many of the resulting recommendations into its business practices.

With a commitment to ongoing training, careful analysis of employee feedback, and a vision for the workforce needs of the future, these four BEST Award winners are setting the standard for TD in their respective industries.

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