Q & A with CDM Smith CHRO, Carlos S. Echalar

CDM Smith is an engineering and construction company specializing in water, environment, transportation, energy and facilities solutions for public and private clients. Founded in 1947, this 5,000 people strong employee-owned firm manages 9,000 projects a year from its headquarters in Boston and 130 offices worldwide. 26% of the engineers, scientists and technical positions at CDM Smith are held by women.

Known for its expertise in sustainability and water technology, CDM Smith customers are as diverse as the 166-year-old brewer, Anheuser-Busch, the drought-prone city of Houston and an infrastructure-challenged Native American reservation.

Gatti:  How does CDM Smith’s commitment to innovation affect its talent management strategy?

Echalar:  To ensure that our company can continue to drive innovative client solutions, my team focuses on strategies for recruiting, retaining and redeploying highly technical professionals.

On the recruitment front, we develop strong partnerships with engineering schools to attract college graduates with a range of specialties — from automation, mechanical, electrical, civil and environmental engineering. This influx of young talent infuses our team with up-to-date thinking, energy and technical acumen.

Retaining hard-to-find technical employees is a direct result of our company’s commitment to evaluating, adopting and deploying innovative technologies across the organization – which in turn enables CDM Smith professionals to learn, grow, diversify and further their careers.

In fact, CDM Smith is committed to building strong partnerships with other companies and technologies, including ones outside of our industry. One example is our partnership with Microsoft and use of their HoloLens mixed-reality visualization tool, which enables our engineers to simulate human interaction to optimize facility engineering and design.

Last, our customer-focused team culture appeals to the best, brightest, and boldest who can grow with our company, enabling us to redeploy talent to meet shifting market and client needs.

Gatti:  How do you align CDM Smith’s talent strategy with shifting market and client needs?

Echalar:  Our revenue is labor-dependent and hinges on maximizing applied time of our technical staff. Collaborating with our CIO and data analytics team, we integrate intelligence from several company systems—including our HRIS and sales platforms—with 3rd party labor metrics to leverage AI-driven analytics in order to identify demand by geography, talent acquisition volume and mix of skills required and labor costs to meet forecasted volume. We are a data-empowered company.

Gatti: What one piece of advice do you have for fellow HR colleagues?

Echalar:  Understand the financial levers of your business – what affects top and bottom line value. Then, ensure you put people-related programs and initiatives in place to support optimal growth for the lines of business.