Dir. of Human Services, HGC Construction
As Chief People Leader for HGC Construction – a group of companies in Cincinnati and Columbus that provides general contracting, structural repair and custom millwork – Matt Hess’s basic principal for championing employees is simple.
“Hire the right people, and provide them with the right environment and tools to be awesome,” he says. “It’s a matter of trusting people and believing they want to be great, and then letting them be great.”
Hess, who formerly worked as a human resources director in the healthcare industry, admits he stepped into a fantastic, relationship-driven culture when he began his career with HGC, and he is doing his best to take that culture to the next level. He upholds the company’s belief that the most significant things they build are meaningful lives, and his daily focus on the human condition and its effect on the workplace is embodied in his pursuit to balance compliance with fairness and compassion.
“Our slogan is, ‘Build Every Day,’ a metaphor for much more than building buildings, but for building relationships. Building trust. Building one another.”
Fostering an encouraging, employee-centric work environment isn’t difficult, Hess says. It does, however, require improved leadership and management, which requires good communication based on active listening. An organization’s leaders should regularly ask their employees for their opinions. If employees come to you because they are facing challenges, give them enough time to share their concerns.
“You want to respond and try to help them when you see them confronting a detour,” he says. “Sometimes, people just need a little ‘steerage.’ Ultimately, they will come to their own conclusions, and then they feel empowered.”
His 2012 book, “Shine! Healthcare Leadership Distilled; Increase Your Bottom Line Through Improved Leadership,” is the basis for the HGC Leadership Academy, which prepares company leaders to prepare their teams for the work and workplace changes ahead. The ideas in the book can be applied to any industry and generation, Hess says.
“Whether we are Baby Boomers or Millennials, we all have these giant lives outside work. We all want to feel fulfilled at work because that makes it easier to go home at the end of the day. We’ve all, at some point, gone home in bad moods because of a bad day at work. At HGC, we do our best to create an environment that perpetuates positivity.”
Workforce diversity, Hess adds, is an integral component in breeding innovation, allowing alternate ideas to positively steer a company’s direction, thoughts and understanding of its employees.
“As a leader, you’ve got to be unbiased, objective,” he says. “You’ve got to look at each situation as a fresh situation. Don’t look to the past to deal with the current. When you are dealing with people, there is no redundancy – every employee is different. You have to enjoy helping each person – for lack of a better word – shine.”