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Ghafari Associates’ CEO: Culture of Collaboration, Investing in Employees Critical to Business Success

The success of a business is directly linked to the satisfaction of its employees. From robust benefit packages to training opportunities, investing in employees must be a key component of a business’ long-term growth plan, according to Kouhaila Hammer, president and CEO of Ghafari Associates and a Detroit Regional Chamber Board member. Hammer recently sat down with the eDetroiter to share her secrets for business success. Read the Q&A below and register for Inside the CEO Mind on April 6.

Hammer_KouhailaQ. Ghafari Associates has repeatedly been named one of the “Best and Brightest” companies to work for. In your opinion, what’s the secret to attracting and retaining talent in the region?

A. Since employees spend a great deal of time at work, we believe that the key to attaining and maintaining staff is to offer several resources to balance their personal or professional lives. This includes flexible work schedules, healthy food service alternatives, a Healthy Rewards Program that offers discounts on multiple health programs/services, on-site flu shots/health screenings, in-house fitness center in the Dearborn office, and sponsorship of employee sporting events such as basketball, softball, volleyball, golf and bowling teams.

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

A. The biggest challenge facing today’s leaders is the creation of an environment that engages employees not only from diverse backgrounds, but from different generations that have different priorities and needs.

Q. Is there a difference between employee happiness and employee engagement? How can businesses go about increasing both in the workplace?

A. Employees are happy when they feel they are a part of the big picture and are able to work on a variety of assignments. That is why Ghafari strives to provide challenging work assignments that allow our employees to experience a variety of different project types and encourages them to enhance their skills. Employee suggestions to improve quality, save time, reduce cost, and promote better customer service are often encouraged and implemented; and our staff recognizes that they are making a true contribution to not only their success but Ghafari’s success, as well.

Q. How would you describe the culture at Ghafari Associates and how important is culture to employees’ overall well-being?

A. Recognizing employee accomplishment is an important part of Ghafari’s culture. We pride ourselves on providing the highest level of customer service, both to our clients and to the professionals who work hard to help us achieve our business goals. Ghafari also nurtures continuous improvement. We encourage employees to develop their skills and further their education, and support their efforts by offering a tuition reimbursement program and reimbursement for professional registrations and certifications.

Q. How do you encourage creative thinking within an organization?

A. Ghafari nurtures team-oriented working environments in which employees across various offices connect to provide specific solutions for our clients’ projects. These include applying past collective expertise in resolving project issues such as syncing client-specific design standards within international built environments and designing client spaces to serve as tools to progress their respective business goals and cultures. In addition, we pride ourselves on being technologically advanced and consequently incorporate the latest tools available in our industry. We provide training in utilizing these tools while encouraging integration of different disciplines to solve problems.