KA Connect 2019 Speakers

Jim Harter  KA Connect 2019 Headshot.png

How to Design an Exceptional Employee Experience
Jim Harter, Gallup

Jim Harter, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Well-Being for Gallup's workplace management practice. In his KA Connect 2019 keynote talk, Dr. Harter will discuss Gallup's latest research on the employee experience, from attraction to exit, and what it takes to build an exceptional culture and employment brand that matches the expectations of the new and future workforce.

Dr. Harter is a coauthor of the New York Times bestseller 12: The Elements of Great Managing, an exploration of the 12 crucial elements for creating and harnessing employee engagement. His book, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, is based on a global study of what differentiates people who are thriving from those who are not. His research is also featured in First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently, the book that proves the link between employee opinions and productivity, profit, customer satisfaction, and the rate of turnover.

He is the primary researcher and author of the first large-scale, multi-organization study to investigate the relationships between work-unit employee engagement and business results. Updated periodically, this study currently covers 82,000 business units and includes 1.8 million employees in 230 organizations, across 49 industries, and in 73 countries. His work has appeared in many publications, including Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, TIME Magazine, and in academic articles and book chapters.

Since joining Gallup in 1985, Dr. Harter has authored or coauthored more than 1,000 research studies for organizations on employee engagement and talent and on topics in applied psychology and well-being. His specialties include psychological measurement and estimating the economic impact of management initiatives.

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Design Better Intranets through User-Centered Design
Kathryn Whitenton, Nielsen Norman Group

The first step toward a successful intranet is making your firm's essential content easily accessible. If your employees cannot find your firm's standards, best practices, checklists, templates, and policies, they might as well not exist. Unfortunately, many intranets are designed by committee, without being tested and validated by end users, often resulting in confusing navigation and organizational structures.

The solution is to leverage the insights of your employees through user-centered research and design methods when developing the information architecture for your intranet. This talk will explain exactly how you can incorporate proven methods for understanding user expectations into your intranet's design. Learn how intranet teams have used simple techniques (such as usability testing and card sorting) to create great employee experiences.

Kathryn Whitenton is the Director of Digital Strategy at Nielsen Norman Group, a firm which is recognized around the world as a leader in the field of user experience for more than 20 years. Kathryn consults with clients to evaluate and improve designs for both consumer-oriented systems and for large intranets, from Fortune 500 industry leaders to small startups, in diverse industries including finance, professional services, health care, media, technology, and telecommunications.


Continuously Improving the Employee Experience
Carole Wedge, Shepley Bulfinch

Shepley Bulfinch believes an employee’s feelings about belonging or not belonging in a firm or on a team directly impacts the quality and effectiveness of their work. We have used continuous improvement to shape Shepley’s employee experience philosophy. We’ve looked at everything from our application process, interviews, and onboarding to the day-to-day work of collaborating, having “continuous conversations,” and celebrating our successes. Ongoing attention and conversations in these areas have allowed us to continually improve what it’s like to work at Shepley. In this talk, Carole will share Shepley’s employee experience philosophy, programs, and results to spark a conversation about what you can do to improve the employee experience at your firm.

Carole Wedge is the CEO of Shepley Bulfinch, where her work in both leadership and design capacities is noted for its success in achieving organizational change and strategically positioning clients for the future. Carole is recognized for moving the firm forward since 2004, opening offices in Phoenix and Houston and growing the quality and creativity of the firm’s work. Her efforts to enhance diversity in architecture, on a national level, are visible through her leadership of the Large Firm Round Table and active participation in both the AIA Women’s Leadership Summits and Equity By Design. Carole received her Bachelor of Architecture from Boston Architectural College, where she has served on the Board of Trustees from 2007 -2018. She joined Shepley Bulfinch in 1986 and was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2008.

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The Hidden Benefits of Developing a Teaching Organization
Ellen Bensky, Turner Fleischer Architects

At KA Connect 2018, Ellen Bensky shared how learning is a strategic priority at Turner Fleischer Architects. This year Ellen will return to discuss the hidden benefits of teaching. Creating teaching opportunities inside and outside of the firm is one of Turner Fleischer’s primary retention and engagement strategies. Staff at all levels are supported in teaching at colleges and universities, the internal TF Academy, client education workshops, and peer-to-peer advancements in technology. In this talk, Ellen will share how teaching has become a core tenet of the practice.

As a Partner and CEO of Turner Fleischer Architects., Ellen’s mission is to build and lead a dynamic, results-oriented organization dedicated to client satisfaction, staff retention and growth. Ellen joined the firm in 1990, rising to her current role in 2008. Passionate about learning, she is especially proud of the comprehensive TF Academy and other in-house learning opportunities, which aim to nurture the firm’s large cohort of young, enthusiastic talent into tomorrow’s leaders. Ellen is able to engage daily in the process of successfully balancing business needs and architectural realities, driven by her ambition for operational excellence. An experienced speaker, she has presented at local and international levels, including KA Connect 2018 and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s 2018 conference.

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Organizational Listening at HGA
Tim Carl, HGA

HGA believes that investing in their ability to listen has helped them to generate unique insights, raise the quality of design, and improve their ability to attract, engage, and develop their employees. Because of this belief, HGA has invested in a series of programs such as equity, diversity and inclusion training, research, leadership development, and a variety of internal communications and knowledge sharing initiatives. In his KA Connect 2019 talk, Tim Carl will share the benefits, challenges, and key lessons learned from  HGA’s journey into deepening and scaling their ability to listen.

Since joining HGA in 1998 as a designer, Tim has built a national reputation for authentic, celebrated architecture that artfully connects ideas about program, technology and environment with a deep understanding of place and his relationships with clients. He took on the role of CEO in 2013; his collaborative and thoughtful approach has strengthened and guided the organization through significant growth for the firm. His leadership in articulating a collective vision and point of view has led to significant investments in learning and research, sustainability, technology, and equity—all in deference to building a more positive, lasting impact through design.

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Delivering on the “One Firm” Promise
Jim Lee + Greg Kanz, Shive-Hattery

Like many multi-office AEC firms, Shive-Hattery has a vision of operating as “One Firm.” But as any firm knows who has attempted high-level organizational change, creating a vision and realizing a vision are two completely different things. In this KA Connect talk, Jim Lee and Greg Kanz will share the ups and downs of Shive-Hattery’s One Firm journey, including detailed strategies and tactics which have helped them to win bigger and better projects while retaining and engaging employees more effectively.

Jim Lee serves as president of Shive-Hattery, a 400-person architecture, engineering, and interior design firm headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with seven operating offices in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. Jim received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from South Dakota State University in 1978 and has functioned as a design engineer, project manager, team leader, and now president at Shive-Hattery over the last 30 years. Jim is responsible for the overall leadership, culture, vision, and direction of current and future operations of Shive-Hattery.

Greg Kanz is a One Firm champion as marketing director for Shive-Hattery’s seven offices across Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. To grow future seller-doers across the firm, he organizes Business Development University. To strengthen ongoing strategic planning, Greg nurtures cross-office market sector teams that meet every quarter to share strategic marketing best practices. Greg helps commercial, education, government, healthcare, and industrial teams to evolve strategies and tactics throughout the year, moving Shive-Hattery forward as one firm.   

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The Networked President: Using Social Media to Improve Recruiting and Retention
Mitch Fortner, KSA

In the spring of 2018, Mitch Fortner walked out of a meeting about the challenges KSA was facing recruiting and retaining staff and asked himself the following question — “What can I, as the president of the firm, personally do about this?” Mitch’s answer was to launch an internal and external social media campaign which talked openly about his personal career journey, explored the current challenges and opportunities facing KSA and the industry at large, and sparked conversation about the future of the profession. In this talk, Mitch will share why he does it, how he does it, and the impact of his efforts to date.

Mitch Fortner graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in civil engineering in 1984 and has worked for KSA for over 31 years. Three years ago he was elected president of the firm, and since that time, he has been on a journey to “build people who build the future.” He is passionate about working cooperatively with other leaders in his firm to adapt KSA to meet the challenges of today and the future, including recruiting and retaining employees in our current AE marketplace with unprecedented levels of low unemployment. Networking, employment engagement, firm culture and values, and strategic planning have been major components of that journey.

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Engaging Engineers with Company Wide Collaboration at AEI
Krista Murphy, AEI

AEI has re-energized their approach to connecting technical staff across offices and disciplines with a program called Company Wide Teams (CWTs). CWTs share best practices, exchange lessons learned, and manage design tools to help improve quality, provide training, and drive continuous improvement efforts across the firm. In her KA Connect 2019 talk, Krista Murphy will share how AEI’s CWTs help the firm to engage all engineers at each stage of their professional career as well as the behind-the-scenes work needed to make the program succeed.

Krista is a Principal at Affiliated Engineers, Inc. (AEI) and a member of AEI’s national executive team.  Based in San Francisco, she leads both the SF office operations as well as AEI’s firmwide Company Wide Teams, discipline-specific communities of practice, focused on quality, training, and continuous improvement.  As an electrical engineer with technically complex project experience for owners such as Stanford University, LBNL, and an array of Northern California prominent life sciences companies and developers, she leads AEI’s quest for knowledge sharing and a desire to leverage project experience between AEI’s most senior and most recently hired engineers.

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Building a Best-In-Class AEC HR Function
Barbara Irwin, HR Advisors Group + Laurie Dreyer, Taylor Design

In a wide-ranging discussion covering topics from recruiting and retention to learning and development and everything in between, two industry veterans, Barbara Irwin and Laurie Dreyer, will share their hard won wisdom regarding what it takes to build a modern, strategic, best-in-class HR function in an AEC firm. 

An accomplished human resources leader and consultant with over 25 years of experience, Barbara Irwin is Founder and President of HR Advisors Group, LLC, a woman owned business, based in Herndon, VA. HR Advisors Group is an HR consulting practice in the A/E/C space in the private and public sector.  Her firm provides organizational and leadership development, management and leadership skills training, HR Consulting services including: HR Outsourcing, Training Needs Assessments, Employee Engagement Surveys, HR Strategic Planning, HR Audits, HR Search, Career Path and Competency Modeling Development, and customized program design and execution on various talent management and organizational initiatives. Barbara formerly served in leadership positions at Stantec (formerly MWH) and Dewberry.

Laurie Dreyer is the Director of Development at Taylor Design. She brings over 20 years of passion for people and learning. Laurie’s previous HR leadership roles include Director of HR and Facilities for The Ratcliff Architects, VP of HR for Gensler, Director HR for Psomas, Principal and Director of International HR at Stantec (formerly Anshen+Allen), and VP of HR at Harris. Laurie has taught classes for AIA (national and local), Equity by Design, Georgia Tech, Design Management, AEBL, and the ACEC Senior Executives Institute. She maintains an active role with the AIA Large Firm Roundtable for HR and the ACEC Senior Executives Institute.

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Orchestrating Cultural Transformation through Communications and Collaboration
Karen Robichaud, Payette

Since its founding in 1932, Payette has intentionally and continuously modernized its culture. Today, employees describe the culture of this 87-year-old firm as inclusive, highly collaborative, and transparent. These cultural elements work together to empower all employees to dream big and achieve personal and professional goals, regardless of tenure, status, or role. In this talk, you’ll learn how Payette’s team has orchestrated cultural transformation through knowledge management approaches such as internal and external communications, non-hierarchical knowledge exchanges, and inclusive collaboration.

Karen joined Payette in 2012 as a graphic designer and has since led several communications initiatives from the ground-up for the firm. From the outset, Karen established Payette as a leader among other architecture firms with social media strategy, leveraging many voices across the firm. As she positioned the firm in the social media sphere, Karen took on the firm’s external communications strategies and PR initiatives. Karen is a leading voice in building a culture of communication at an architecture firm and has presented her work in a number of venues; AIA SF Equity by Design Symposium, AIA National Conferences, AIA COTE Annual Summit, SMPS Boston, and the Boston Society of Architecture. Karen earned her BA in English and Theatre Arts from the University of Richmond.


From “What is KM?” to Trusted Advisor in Four Years
Donovan Helminiak, KTGY

When Donovan Helminiak started as KTGY’s first Knowledge Manager four years ago, most people in the firm didn’t know what Knowledge Management was and why Donovan was there. Fast forward to 2019, and you’ll learn that Donovan’s team has more projects in their backlog than they can handle, ranging from Internal Communications to Business Intelligence. How did this happen? Donovan learned how to create trust by delivering business value for KTGY, removing friction from employees’ daily lives, and switching from teaching people about KM to teaching them how to take advantage of KTGY’s network of resources.

As Knowledge Manager, Donovan is the champion and facilitator for identifying, capturing, and using knowledge to enable the people at KTGY to make better decisions faster. With a background in learning and development, business/systems analysis, and internal communications—experience that pulls from multiple industries like automotive, financial, and now AEC—Donovan has a unique perspective on how to tackle business problems. On a given day, you can find him conducting a communication strategy session, moving onto a project performance data exploration, and then literally running for the hills of Southern California.


A Sustainable Approach to Technical Content Maintenance
Shannon Kaplan, AKF

AKF had a problem — the proliferation of unreviewed standards were leading to employee frustration. Employees could not find the right resource at the right time and distrusted the technical content in their official, centralized, knowledge base. In the winter of 2017 they decided to do something about it. In her KA Connect 2019 talk, Shannon Kaplan will share the ins and outs of the content maintenance program that she designed and implemented to ensure that all employees would be able to find and use the firm’s latest and greatest technical content.

Focused on improving internal operations at AKF, Shannon is adept at assembling teams with a diverse range of knowledge and experience to tackle the most complex challenges firms face. Shannon systematically analyzes, reviews, and optimizes operational flow across many aspects of the firm, including but not limited to, information management, training, and overall project execution. She is the software administrator for Deltek, Synthesis, and Newforma, as well as the manager of the PM Academy, Emerging Leaders Academy, and Support Services Academy in AKF’s internal training program – AKF Institute.  In her spare time Shannon also helps to relocate AKF offices when their leases expire.


Register for KA Connect 2019