Creating a Culture that Celebrates Employee Success and Partnering with Customers is Key
What started out as a regional gas distribution contractor in Brownsville, Wis., has grown to be the 11th-largest power contractor and the 27th-largest contractor in the United States, according the Engineering News-Record (ENR) annual “Top 400 Contractor” ranking.
Established in 1959, Michels has continually explored and expanded into new market opportunities.
“The founder, Dale Michels, quickly realized that there were more opportunities to expand the business into new markets,” says Mark Harasha, senior vice president of power operations at Michels Corp.
In 1997, Michels entered the power industry after acquiring Superior Electric Co. in Appleton, Wis., and has succeeded so well in this arena that ENR Sourcebook recently ranked the company as the No. 1 Transmission and Distribution (Power) Contractor.
Recognizing Accomplishments, Customer Partners
Michels embraces its employees and team members celebrating their own and the company’s successes. In fact, it believes so much in recognizing accomplishments, that it states prominently on the company website, “It’s not bragging if you can do it.”
To that end, Michels touts this quote from the late Apple Corp. CEO Steve Jobs on its website as well: “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.”
Part of doing great work is not only celebrating success but creating a company culture based on core values, Harasha points out.
“We are committed to safety, integrity, dedication, trust and sustainable operations,” he says. “We are diligent about building and maintaining a reputation where our customers know we are going to work hard to deliver safe, reliable projects.”
The company mantra, “We are your partner,” serves as an affirmation about how seriously Michels takes its commitment to customers. Whenever it becomes involved with a project – whether it’s in the design phase at the beginning or another stage along the way – the company views itself as an extension of the customer, Harasha says.
“We know their [the customer’s] reputation depends on our performance, and we are committed to upholding it,” he acknowledges. “We make decisions based on what will be the best, most reliable and safest option for our customers because we want to be their partner on the current project as well as future projects. We look to build relationships as much as we build power lines and substations.”
Adding Value and Being Flexible
The company’s diverse portfolio also not only makes the whole corporation – which is an exceptionally diversified energy and infrastructure contractor – unique but its individual operations as well.
In the power industry, Michels builds, maintains and upgrades transmission and distribution lines and substations as well as providing emergency work to restore power service in the aftermath of storms and other natural disasters, Harasha points out.
“In addition to providing the electrical construction Michels builds the foundations for these facilities and related structures,” he notes. “We are an EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] contractor providing turnkey solutions across the United States.”
Owning large equipment fleet with more than 14,000 pieces of heavy equipment – 2,000 of which are dedicated to power – gives Michels “the flexibility to move quickly into new opportunities,” Harasha adds.
Alternative delivery is also part of this flexibility. Being a diverse construction company, Harasha says Michels is able to propose and leverage delivery models used in one sector of its business that it may not traditionally use in others.
“Michels is very flexible with the methods in which we deliver projects to our customers,” Harasha says. “To us, we want to add value to our customers and differentiate ourselves from the competition. Actions speak louder than words. People that are ‘all talk’ like to talk and get little else accomplished.”
Building, Keeping a Talented Workforce
Recruiting and retaining a qualified, talented workforce has been – and will continue to be – integral to the company’s success and an important part of adhering to its culture of core values.
Becky Holmes, talent acquisition manager for Michels Corp., likens it to building a large-scale utility or transportation project.
“Both require persistence, dedication and a desire to achieve the best,” Holmes says. “We believe that hiring qualified individuals contributes to the overall success of the company. We are committed to a fair and consistent recruiting and hiring process that results in the appropriate match of skills, knowledge, experience and job requirements.
As a U.S. employer and recipient of federal contracts, Holmes says Michels has developed hiring practices and policies which “ensure the rights of all job applicants as well as comply with all federal, state and local regulations.”
The company’s acquisition team reviews all applications conducts interviews and partners with management when hiring new employees into the organization, Holmes notes.
With a collaborative approach to talent acquisition, Michels has developed programs to attract and retain employees through various internship and apprenticeship programs in fields including marketing, construction, operations, information technology, among others. These initiatives serve not only as a means to recruit qualified potential employees but as a way to foster growth.
Almost exclusively, Holmes points out, the company’s best leaders – with exceptions, of course – have progressed through the organization and advanced into higher-level decision-making roles.
Since the majority of the interns move on to a full-time position after graduation with Michels or a similar company in the field, the talent and acquisition team says that for those up for the challenge, “This is where the rubber meets the road” and a chance to really make an impact.
“Our internship and youth apprenticeship programs have been a huge success,” Holmes says. “Many of our best have come up through the ranks.”
Looking Into the Future
What does the future hold for Michels?
“Tremendous growth,” Harasha says, “and with growth, comes new opportunities for our employees to grow with it.”
Michels views status quo as “boring.” Whether an employee works in the field or in the office, there are many opportunities for growth within the company – especially with thousands of team members in hundreds of positions.
As Michels boldly and prominently proclaims on an entire page on its website dedicated to growth, “It’s not about measuring up against objectives and metrics. It’s about displaying leadership, displaying a drive to continue to learn, and finding successful outcomes through creative means that benefit all.”
- Pipeline Construction
- Horizontal Directional Drilling
- Substation and Distribution Construction
- Cured-in-Place Pipe
- Direct Pipe
- Fiber Optic Networks
- Rail Plowing
- Heavy Civil Work
- Custom Crushing
- Road Building
Join thousands of industry peers who receive utility construction industry news and trends each week. Subscribe to The Utility Expo Newsletter.