A day in the life of a Best Place to Work
My Experience at the Best Places to Work
Photos by David Croxford
(page 2 of 5)
Every other Friday, Weston Solutions holds a staff meeting
Weston Solutions: Safety with a side of appreciation
I hate meetings unless there’s manapua involved, but not this one. It’s Friday morning and I’m at the biweekly staff meeting at Weston Solutions’ office in the Davies Pacific Center in downtown Honolulu. Everyone is in good spirits, laughing, talking and generally feeling the pre-weekend euphoria.
An employee starts the meeting with “The Safety Minute.” The mantra at Weston is safety first and no accidents, a task easier said than done when you clean up hazardous materials. The story, though, is not work related; it involves an injured mother-in-law during an impromptu hike on the Big Island. No one on the hike knew the location of the nearest hospital.
Every Weston project has a binder detailing procedure and protocol. In it are two maps with two routes from the job site to the hospital. In every contract, Weston insists on the authority to stop work if it thinks it’s unsafe.
Then comes the “Kudo Minute,” a quick and effective show of peer appreciation. Dave Griffin, Hawaii operations manager, gives his thanks and then goes around the room. One after another, everyone in the room thanks someone else for something. Griffin later explains to me that the company has given gift cards as incentives, but peer-to-peer verbal gratitude shows true appreciation (and doesn’t cost anything).
There’s also the “What’s Up Minute,” a self-introduction for new employees. A new hire says she lives in “Manoa, which is really upper Makiki.” Everyone laughs, including the intercom in the middle of the conference room table. It’s an office member at Camp Pendleton in California. The interruption surprises everyone, but they’re all glad to hear her voice.
The Weston office in Hawaii is a small shop with only 32 employees, but it’s connected to a larger network of 1,700 employees worldwide. The Hawaii office is referred to as the Pacific Rim Profit Center, and specializes in fuel remediation. Some Hawaii-based employees are as far away as Spain, Korea and Okinawa.
The meeting goes by quickly, sticking to the agenda while remaining informal and light-hearted. Everyone has something small to say, but the conversation never meanders into meaningless, completely off-topic banter.
After the meeting, I have my orientation, where I’m handed a paper entitled “New Hire Integration Plan,” which lists my sponsor (an assigned mentor), job description and responsibilities, and a checklist of tasks to complete my orientation, like the human resources visit.
The sponsors help new hires define career goals and career paths. Joseph Weidenbach, an assistant engineer, says he talked with his sponsor about moving from the fuels division to the environmental division, which is where he is today. Sponsors try to find a way to align individuals’ career goals with overall company goals, Weidenbach says.
Weston takes employee development seriously. Mark Ambler, a project engineer and a five-year employee, is enrolled in Weston’s Voyager leadership training program. Potential corporate leaders are identified and go through a Weston-designed leadership program. It takes months to prepare and study, and the program culminates at a three-day retreat at corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania.
For my work project, I go to a gas station in Kalihi for a remediation project. It involves a lot of reporting and sampling, and we’re measuring the water table. A lot of the terminology goes over my head, but in the most remedial explanation I can think of, they’re pulling bad stuff out of the ground and cooking it off in a really hot oven on the roof. (That’s why I’m an editor, not an engineer.)
I don’t need to worry about that right now. Stephen Fallon, assistant engineer, opens up a well and I drop a probe, a long measuring tape with a metal rod attached to the end to gauge the water level. When the tip of the rod reaches water, it makes a constant beeping noise, and when it hits another substance (like an oil slick on top of the water), it registers a flat tone.
It’s not all that interesting, and Fallon tells me this is not the most exciting thing to be doing. Whew. I was getting worried.
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