5 Ways to Encourage Workplace InnovationWhen you hear the word “innovation,” what comes to mind?

Some people might assume innovation requires a formal team within a company that’s dedicated to looking for new inventive solutions and ideas, but that’s not always the case.

Innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit can be inspired among all employees within a company, regardless of what team they’re part of. It starts with a fundamental corporate culture that promotes creativity and ambition — a culture where employees feel safe to share their ideas and encouraged to explore career development possibilities.

At Burns & McDonnell, everything we do is fueled by employee ownership. When you’re 100 percent employee-owned, everyone is treated like an owner and shares a responsibility for the company’s success — and this creates an environment where individuals have a genuine commitment to innovation and discovery.

With a rich history of employee ownership, Burns & McDonnell is nationally recognized for our successful company culture — so how do we do it? Here are our five key strategies to help retain our top talent and innovative thinkers:

  1. Challenge employees — Get to know your employees; identify their strengths and passion points and then match them with work that excites them. If they’re not ready to lead the project, incorporate them into the team that helps generate ideas and propels that project forward. This is also a great exercise in collaboration.
  1. Encourage them to own different projects and chase work — Give them the chance to champion a project, while surrounding them with a support system to be there when needed. Empowering an employee to manage projects can help you — and them — identify their strengths and potential areas for growth.
  1. Attend conferences and network — Develop a budget allocated for employees to attend conferences that will help them grow in their role, network and uncover fresh industry knowledge. If budgets are tight, look for opportunities to bring in speakers and hold on-site training sessions for your employees.
  1. Get them invested — Help employees take ownership of their role and the company. Talk to them about their career path so they’re able to see their long-term growth potential with the company.
  1. Make it a “Best Place to Work” — Work with leaders within the company to continue providing benefits and amenities that make your workplace a best place to work. At Burns & McDonnell, we make this a priority and it’s earned us a spot on Fortune’s Best Places to Work list for six years and counting. We provide a variety of on-site amenities that make our employees feel valued and help with work/life balance, including childcare, pharmacy, health center, dry cleaning service, farmers markets and much more.

Innovation has always been fundamental to engineering, so a culture of innovation is paramount to attaining a global competitive edge. Interested in learning more? Check out my presentation with the Engineering 360 Workplace Diversity and Talent Recruitment webinar, available until Sept. 8, 2016.

Lauren Bertram is Recruitment Manager for Burns & McDonnell, where she heads up our college recruiting team and oversees our K-12 and intern programs.


Are You an Engineer in the Making?Were you addicted to Legos as a young kid? Do you like math? Do you immediately want to solve any problem you encounter? Look out — you may be an engineer in the making.

Students from Mason Elementary in Lee’s Summit, Missouri are pondering these questions now. As the winners of the 2016 Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains, they’re working with our engineers, architects, designers and construction professionals to develop the first outdoor exhibit for Science City in downtown Kansas City.

The exhibit is part of Union Station’s exciting western expansion, which modernizes the streetscape welcoming visitors and provides a pedestrian/vehicle bridge to the parking garage. The student team recently met with the project’s bridge engineer to understand her roles and responsibilities, and how engineers interact with architects and designers. But first, they heard about the basics of engineering.

What is an Engineer?

The word “engineer” derives from the Latin term for “cleverness” — and that feels just about right. Officially, engineering is the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems. But it really comes down to problem solving. Engineers figure out why and how things work. They are constantly solving problems to improve the way the world works and how we live.

Everything built is first engineered — and much of what engineers do is behind the scenes. Consider the last building you set foot in. An engineer made sure it was feasible and met all zoning requirements. An engineer established that it could withstand an earthquake. The room is climate-controlled and bright thanks to an engineer. Engineers create places that allow us to focus on the experiences we have in those spaces.

Types of Engineers

Engineers often specialize in a specific branch. There are quite a few areas of specialty, but the types of engineers below are the ones you’ll run into most frequently at Burns & McDonnell.

  • Chemical engineers design manufacturing and industrial processes, reduce emissions from power plants and develop air quality controls for greener energy generation.
  • Civil engineers support projects with essential efforts, from pavement design and site development to utility design and grading.
  • Electrical/computer engineers master project work including electrical systems, lighting design and power distribution systems.
  • Environmental engineers address challenges in water/wastewater, biology, wetlands, erosion control, urban planning and geology, among other areas.
  • Mechanical engineers develop energy efficiency processes and design industrial facilities, airports, power plants and water/wastewater treatment plants.
  • Structural engineers handle a number of assignments including foundation design, retaining walls, bridge design, transmission structures and facility design.

So, Are You a Future Engineer?

We’re thrilled if engineering is in your worldview. But is it right for you? Answering these questions from TryEngineering.org might provide some insight.

  • Do you enjoy math and science?
  • Are you curious about finding new ways to do things?
  • Do you enjoy being faced with a challenge?
  • Do you want to make a difference in the world?
  • Do you like helping people and improving their lives?
  • Are you curious about how things work?
  • Do you prefer to work with other individuals or in teams?
  • Do you enjoy being creative?

We heard a lot of yes answers from the kids at Mason Elementary. How about you? If these questions get you amped up, you’re ready for the next step! Check out the opportunities available through our job shadow program. We take the experience of job shadowing seriously, because we know there’s no substitute for this experiential learning experience.

Are you one of the next generation of innovative engineers? Does job shadowing a STEM professional sound like an awesome way to spend the day? Send us a note or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Julee Koncak is director of the Burns & McDonnell Foundation and community relations director at Burns & McDonnell, where giving, volunteering and grant programs are focused on STEM education and other community initiatives.


A Day in the Life of a Wetland Delineator

by Bri Richards May 26, 2016

Bri Richards is a wetland scientist and delineator at Burns & McDonnell. She spends her days conducting wetland assessments and delineations, regulatory permitting, and mitigation monitoring. Here she shares a look into her day-to-day life as a wetland delineator. My Fitbit buzzes to inform me that I’ve achieved my 10,000 step-goal for the day. I […]

Read the full article →

A Look Inside Burns & Mac: Jerome Farquharson, Utility Cybersecurity Pioneer

by The Burns & McDonnell Careers Team May 17, 2016

When people ask Jerome Farquharson about his job, he sometimes jokes that he works for the FBI. And while he’s not really a G-Man, his career objective is similar. As a regional global practice manager responsible for cybersecurity and regulatory compliance in the utility space, he protects infrastructure networks from people who want to cause […]

Read the full article →

What the World Needs Now is Engineers

by Christina Conrad April 14, 2016

As if there was ever any doubt, a recent study from the United Kingdom confirms what we’ve always known: The world needs engineers to solve key problems. The Create the Future report, commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, studied public perception of engineering in 10 countries, including the United States. Its findings […]

Read the full article →

Career Perspective: Growing Into an Engineering Manager

by Wayne Keller March 29, 2016

Engineers are a peculiar bunch, there’s no doubt. (I can say that because I am one.) We see the world in a different light, deconstructing everyday existence into the parts and pieces that make it tick, and then putting it all back together in search of new, innovative ways to make things work. It’s a […]

Read the full article →