Tom Emmerling among WNY leaders discussing culture initiatives for attracting and retaining talent in Buffalo Business First

Published November 4, 2022 – Thomas Emmerling joined a group of WNY Business executives for an in-depth conversation about the state of hiring & employee retention in a post-covid world.

Western New York leaders discuss culture initiatives to attract and retain new generation of talent

By The Business Journals Content Studio

The “Great Resignation.” The “Big Quit.” The “Great Talent Migration.” No matter what you call it, employers continue to grapple with a historic labor shortage that has prompted company leaders to get creative. Many of them are bucking long-held practices to make their work environment appealing to employees.

In Buffalo, leaders are drawing up corporate culture initiatives to meet expectations of a new generation working in a world forever changed by the pandemic.

Buffalo Business First Publisher John Tebeau recently invited area executives to discuss key trends impacting the future of talent. Joining the conversation were:

  • Patrick Bello, director, employee benefits specialist, Bank of America.
  • Laura Bickert, senior vice president, senior relationship manager, Bank of America.
  • Sherri Callahan, director of recruiting, West Herr Automotive Group.
  • Erin Delisanti, human resources director, Computer Task Group (CTG)
  • Tom Emmerling, CEO, Dopkins & Company.
  • Terry Galanis, Jr., CEO, Sealing Devices Inc.
  • Kevin Hogan, managing partner, Phillips Lytle LLP.
  • Ted Walsh, CEO, Walsh Duffield Cos.

Here are key takeaways from the conversation. The participants’ comments have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Culture from the top down

Culture is a driving force impacting talent and it starts at the top in most organizations, including CTG.

A founding tenet of the company was that if employees are happy, they’ll produce quality work. That got lost for several years while the company focused on growing the bottom line and satisfying investors and board members, Delisanti said.

“We’re going to know what people care about, and it will drive employee satisfaction,” Delisanti said. “We were a very traditional company. ‘You must be in the office. These are the hours.’ We gave them one day to work from home [before the pandemic]. It worked out nicely for us. When the pandemic hit, everyone was used to it.”

At Phillips Lytle, employees are expected to speak up if a personal interaction violates the law firm’s culture.

“In our office, we constantly have guests and adversaries, and they are in the conference room speaking or treating someone in a way we don’t view as acceptable,” Hogan said. “What we want is a culture where people will not apologize to the person afterwards, ‘I’m sorry you had to endure that.’ We want everyone to feel there is an expectation in the firm to speak up in real time.”

Leveling the field

Corporate culture at Dopkins has been fine-tuned to align the organizational goals with the goals of the team.

Years ago, partners could take time off when they felt it was appropriate based on client responsibilities. Conversely, employees had only a set number of days they could use. The firm adopted self-managed paid time off from managers on up even though critics predicted abuse of the privilege.

“It worked because those people are being measured in so many other respects,” Emmerling said.

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