Tag Archives: Kiewit

Moving Day

March 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The days of building an office park in the suburbs are gone.

Companies in Omaha and across the country are picking up and moving to hip urban hubs of their respective cities, letting go of a long-standing notion that most of the nation’s workers want to work and live in slower, quieter areas of town, far away from the noise, crowds, and chaos of city life.

Today, as executives strive to attract tech-minded young professionals who want to work, shop, eat, and play in the same neighborhood, Omaha companies are increasingly mindful that a key way to do that is to relocate to some of the fastest-growing—and just plain coolest—areas of the city. Even if they were not in the suburbs before, corporations are seeing that relocating in the most popular areas of town is good business.

“People like urban,” says developer Jay Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Companies, which is working with engineering and architecture firm HDR Inc. on building a new site for Kiewit Corp.’s new headquarters in north downtown Omaha. “It’s pretty hip, and it’s important for companies to be in walkable communities. They need to be able to retain their workforce and they want to be able to use their office environments as a working tool.”

The trend is so hot that even suburban areas are transforming into urban oases. OBI Creative will be an anchor tenant at the burgeoning Lumberyard District at 135th and Q streets. The six-block district includes an Eat Fit Go, First American Title Co., and Local Beer & Patio, and is attempting to attract young creatives and professionals.

Executives at OBI Creative, which is currently located near the popular Midtown Crossing, thought the area resembled more urban locations like Dundee or Benson yet was more convenient for their staff.

“The majority of our employees live west of 90th Street,” says Lana LeGrand, vice president—OBI leadership and operations. “At the same time, the location afforded us easy interstate access to serve our clients regardless of the location.”

The Lumberyard District was the perfect setting for an advertising agency, she says. 

“When we saw this area, not just the potential of the office space, but the vibe of the neighborhood, we felt we had found a location where our employees would thrive and our clients would love to visit,” LeGrand says.

And while HDR is helping other companies move, the architecture firm itself is moving its corporate headquarters from 84th Street and West Dodge Road to one of the most hip and bustling areas of the city—Aksarben Village—later this year. The new, 245,000 square-feet of office space will house retailers and employ more than 1,100 people. HDR opted to move because it had outgrown its longtime location and its executives’ desired to bring as many people as possible to the location. They also want to provide plenty of parking and entertainment amenities for workers and clients.

“I’m excited for our employees that we will be moving to a new headquarters by the end of this year,” HDR Chairman and CEO Eric Keen says. “It’s an exciting new chapter for us as we begin our second century here in Omaha.”

Rex Fischer, HDR’s senior vice president and corporate relations director, says Aksarben Village will “fit our needs and will serve us well into the future. We stand to be more effective in how our people work and collaborate…a modern headquarters stands to be an excellent recruiting tool.”

Kiewit’s new downtown location, which is expected to be ready as early as 2020, was chosen because of its closeness to Kiewit University, the company’s new training center. Noddle says company leaders were mindful of the move’s potential influence on north downtown.

“It’s full of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues, and this can only benefit those businesses,” he says. “Moving a major business in a community is one of the things leadership might think about. Others will follow, I think, as it will inspire other businesses to look very hard at that area where everything is growing.”

Adds Noddle, “The image of bringing 600 new, stable, and well-compensated jobs to north downtown can and will have a positive impact in that area.”

Noddle says Kiewit’s move to north downtown will help open up its current space in the growing Blackstone District, which has been booming in recent years. Young professionals will be more attracted to Omaha when they see there are diverse urban areas for them to work and live in.

“It’s very attractive to current and future employees,” he says. “They could go anywhere, but they will choose to come here.”

HDR’s headquarters under construction in Aksarben Village

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Ethics

May 16, 2017 by

Years ago, my colleague Butch Ethington showed me a graphic he designed when he was the ethics officer and ombudsman at Union Pacific Railroad. I still use this graphic in my Creighton classes and the department uses it in our Business Ethics Alliance programs.

It is a pyramid. At the bottom are all the rank-and-file employees, the heart and soul of business. Their No.1 ethical issue, Butch says, is fairness. “She got more time off.” “He was given the opportunity for travel.” “She got to work from home.”

In the middle of the pyramid are the managers and directors. In between the top dogs and rank and file employees, managers and directors have tough roles. Their No. 1 ethical issue is accurate reporting. “How do I make my boss happy about the numbers?” “How do I showcase my subordinates?”

At the top of the pyramid are the executives and board members of the organization. They spend a great amount of time interfacing with government, the public, and all stakeholders. Their No. 1 ethical issue is conflict of interest.

Of course, conflicts of interest can occur at any level of an organization. Think about the conflicts that arise for salespeople, or the ones that occur in procurement. Executives have other ethical issues, for example, telling the truth or community responsibilities. Let’s focus on executives and board members and their conflicts of interest.

Three key questions arise. What is a conflict of interest? Why is it so hard to recognize our own conflicts of interest? What can be implemented to reduce conflicts of interest?

As for the first question, we all know that a conflict of interest can arise when someone is responsible for serving competing interests. But this is not, in and of itself, unethical. It is what a person does about the competing interests that matter. Classic examples of conflicts of interest focus on financial interests, for example, an executive who shares confidential information, thereby decreasing his firm’s assets and increasing his own. But a more nuanced definition of conflict of interest includes multi-dimensions and is not always about making more money. For example, what about a board member who provides a building to the firm at reduced rent? In this case, she provides a benefit because of her interest. Is this a conflict that is unethical?

It has been said that half of the battle in ethics is being aware that there is an ethical situation in front of you. Why is it so hard to see one’s conflicts of interest? Behavioral ethicists shine a light on this second question. We have psychological dispositions to think or act in certain ways, due to chemistry or socialization, which are unnoticed or disbelieved. Deeply entrenched and habitual dispositions can be healthy, like being confident. But confidence can become extreme and turn into a bias. Overconfidence bias can block one’s perception of a conflict of interest and when this happens we say a person has a psychological blindspot.

Overconfidence bias can be heard when an executive says, “This is not a problem. If anyone can handle it, I can.” But no one is immune to psychological blindspots and unethical conflicts of interest. No one. The best we can do is recognize our human nature and develop strategies to overcome our extremes. Which takes us to question three.

What can we do to reduce conflicts of interest? At the policy level, it is helpful to have executives and board members sign conflict of interest statements. But make sure the documents are multidimensional, addressing possible financial, as well as non-financial, conflicts. Most conflict of interest statements do not. Second, we can learn from something Bruce Grewcock, CEO of Kiewit, once told me. He says that the company has leaders who are willing to speak up and point out to him when he needs to examine a situation again. He’s expressing the old adage, “surround yourself with good people.” When we do this, we have the best chance of recognizing our overconfidence and reducing the chance that we will act inappropriately and wreak havoc on our world.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

 

Morally Mute

March 3, 2016 by

“While at work a few months ago,” a local businessperson once related to me, “I was with a couple of employees talking not about anything in particular, just chatting about random things.

One of the people brought up another co-worker’s sexuality (they were not present). This person was very vocal about their beliefs and disgust of homosexuality. I was uncomfortable with the comments being made. I picked up my coffee mug and said, ‘I have to get to work’ and left. But afterwards I felt guilty. Should I have done something differently?”

The uncomfortable situation concerned sexuality, but it could just as easily have been about a coworker’s race, religion, or economic status. Someone talks negatively about a co-worker and the words cut deep. We don’t agree, but remain silent. Then we chastise ourselves for our weakness. We hit ourselves. We are bad, bad, bad for not being stronger.

But then again, are we weak and bad? Or are we just smart? The workplace is about getting the job done. When is it our role to engage a person in what could easily become a shouting match about ethics?

When we believe in our gut that something is wrong but don’t speak out about it, we are “morally mute.” Notice that muteness itself can sometimes be a good thing. Biologists tell us that it is a survival mechanism. It is a technique mankind learned in order to protect ourselves from the prowling lions and tigers. The species that knows how to remain silent in the face of danger is the species that outlives others.

On the other hand, muteness can also be a downfall. If we don’t scream when we see a car is about to run into us, a distracted driver may miss a potentially lifesaving alert. Making our presence known and not being mute can also be a very good thing.

So when is moral muteness right or wrong? When should we remain silent, and when
should we speak up at work?

An answer to these questions comes from reflecting on our motivations. Moral muteness is wrong when it is a result of rationalization. If we are silent about our moral beliefs just because we want don’t want to rock the boat, we want to fit in, or we don’t want to mess up the team, then we are rationalizing. These rationalizations tend to arise because of fear, but it is always our role to protect each other from the oncoming car, so to speak. And we might be scared because we don’t have the tools to express our beliefs in a way that doesn’t end in a shouting match, or analogously, that doesn’t run both the driver and the pedestrian off the road.

Like most things in life, moral muteness is overcome with practice.

Some of the best firms in Omaha have initiatives for employees to practice their communication skills in role-playing ethical scenarios with colleagues they trust. I know of at least 16 organizations that do this, both for-profit and non-profit: Access Bank, Arbor Bank, Avenue Scholars, Centris Federal Credit Union, the Douglas County Treasurer’s office, General Service Bureau/Early Out, Heartland Family Service, Hayes & Associates, Kiewit, Mutual of Omaha, NECA, NEI Global Relocation, OPPD, Seldin Company, and SilverStone Group.

These firms deserve a shout-out because they recognize that employees who know how to overcome moral muteness become stronger as individuals. Their teams are made hardier, more resilient. And those are assets that go straight to the bottom line.

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