It’s a sunny day in La Grange, Texas, and the sky overhead is clear and blue. We’re at a tranquil piece of land alongside the Colorado River, and although it’s known as the Lazy Q Ranch, today’s guests are hard at work. There are 20 Mears Group employees going through an inventive leadership academy to develop management skills and take their careers to the next level.
Over two separate one-week periods, participants will receive high-level training on business fundamentals, financial management, customer service, communication, and leadership before competing in teams to bid for a mock project.
Vivek Arora and his colleagues created the program to develop future leaders from within. “Our leadership academy is like a mini-MBA but done in the context of our organization,” explains Arora, who is the executive vice president, chief administrative officer, and general counsel. “We’re using it to help people thrive where they are and to see where they can go next.”
Investing in these meaningful workforce development programs is one way Mears can strengthen the company from the inside, and they are a natural fit for Arora, who completed his own MBA at Rice University and graduated from Columbia Law School. He joined Mears’ parent company Quanta Services Inc. as a labor and employment attorney in 2010.
Previously, Arora worked in a large DC-area firm’s labor and employment practice. Now at Mears, he is responsible for several administrative functions that impact 6,500 employees across 9 business units.
Mears brings energy infrastructure engineering, construction, and maintenance services to customers in a wide variety of industries. Doing so requires modern equipment, specialized services, and skilled workers. But project volumes are high and workers are scarce. Robust workforce development initiatives are critical because they enable Mears to attract and retain employees in a competitive landscape.
“The old industry model of recruiting our current employees’ friends and family just won’t cut it in this modern era where projects are bigger and more complex,” Arora says. “We have to develop talent from within and find alternative sources for recruiting and retention so we can build our own competitive advantage.”
The leadership academy and other internal programs are just a few parts of the plan. Arora has also been working to build strategic partnerships with technical colleges, community organizations, high schools, and the United States military.
Mears’ status as a Quanta company helps carry these efforts forward. In 2019, the publicly traded company acquired Northwest Lineman College. The unusual move brought an accredited training college into the organization to develop some of the curricula Arora and others use to provide internal training.
Over his entire career, Arora has nurtured a passion for helping people, transforming businesses, and improving communities. This year, his team is harnessing big data and implementing an HR information system to improve “time to fill” and other talent acquisition metrics.
He’s also leading a DEI push. In 2021, Mears’ diversity hiring numbers increased from 37 percent to 42. “We want to reflect the cities and towns we’re in,” Arora says. “These programs make us better corporate citizens and complement the workforce development opportunities that give our employees a career path.”
These innovative methods and philosophies are making an impact at Mears, and although Arora is a senior leader, he views himself as a supporting player. “The people who matter most to our organization are out on the front lines in the field performing the services that bring heat, electricity, and telecommunications to our customers. The rest of us should be working to do everything we can to make their lives easier.”
One way Mears gives back is by providing promising careers to its employees. The company is also committed to helping its communities. Arora and other leaders encourage everyone within the organization to engage in volunteer activities. They clean parks, help at schools, and fundraise for important causes. Last holiday season, employees from the Houston office sorted and packed 5,000 pounds of food at the Houston Food Bank. Each year, Quanta companies contribute around $10 million and thousands of volunteer hours to nonprofit organizations. For Arora, all these activities go hand in hand. Workforce development programs create fulfilled and engaged employees. Those employees, together with the company, make a positive impact on their community. “We are building careers,” Arora says, “and our people are helping to build our communities.”