Elzinga & Volkers Construction Professionals

Elzinga & Volkers Construction Professionals

Elzinga & Volkers Construction Professionals is a locally owned and operated Michigan corporation with its headquarters located in Holland. Established in 1945, Elzinga & Volkers is committed to creating a unique experience for its employees, their families, and clients by striving to make everything they do “unmistakable.” They believe that the key to success in any organization is an employee-centric culture with leaders that not only manage the bottom line, but lead with emotion and empathy. This special mix of leadership and culture underpins the success of the company.

In addition to accolades for safety, they are also an Associated Builders and Contractors Accredited Quality Contractor and Elite Award Winner for the Best and Brightest Places to Work Program, regionally and nationally. They have been recognized by the Associated Subcontractor Association of Michigan as the Michigan Contractor of the Year twice in the last five years. In 2017, they were honored with the Business Leadership Award from the local Chamber of Commerce for community involvement and business excellence.

Website: elzinga­volkers.com

Their Story

Elzinga & Volkers has a corporate mapping program, created by their executive team as a thesis project from an innovative management program. The goals of the program are to simplify communication of corporate vision and to create a platform for employees to connect directly with the company’s goals. In general, the mapping project exists to answer the question, “How do I fit into the company’s overall vision and strategy?”

The first step in the mapping process was the consolidation of the 100 page fiscal year business plan into six Business Plan Maps (BPMs) representing the six core focus areas of the company: financial, marketing, general overview, operations and employee care. BPMs are at-a-glance graphic representations of the company’s strategic initiatives. These quick reference maps are available at all times for any employee to review the maps are reviews with employees at our annual company wide stakeholders’ meeting.

The next level of mapping are our Division Maps. Each department in the company has a shared map that they worked as a team to develop. Division Maps clearly define departmental goals to ensure that all team members work towards a common goal. Division Maps also outline the needs of each department – staffing, technology, training, etc. – so that staff and management are aware of upcoming budget needs that will help the department be successful.

The third side of the mapping triangle are the U-Maps. Using the Business Plan Maps and Division Maps as a guide, each employee develops a U-Map that helps them to outline their role in the company and decide how they can best help themselves, co-workers and the company find success. U-Maps set clear benchmarks for an employee’s success. U-Maps are referenced regularly throughout the year so coworkers and managers can check on progress and offer needed encouragement or advice if there is an area where the employee needs it.

On their U-Map, each employee defines:

  1. A commitment statement
  2. Training needs, mentors and mentees
  3. A quote that resonates with them personally
  4. A personal commitment for safety
  5. A list of committees on which they participate
  6. Their top 5 responsibilities
  7. A personal icon
  8. List of family members
  9. Key performance indicators for their job
  10. Personal, family and professional goals for 1, 3 and 5 years out

The U-Maps also humanize each employee. They draw attention to the lives that people have outside of work. U-Maps give management the opportunity to know their employees holistically and assist them in achieving healthy work/life balance while connecting them to the overall goals of the organization.

Their Advice

Start with the Business Plan Maps. Take a look at your strategic plan and determine how you can best format the information by using images. Look at the major segments of the company and make one BPM for each. Next, gather all personnel together and build up the anticipation, share the BPM’s with employees and introduce the idea of the Division Maps and U-Maps. Talk about how the mapping will open the lines of communication and provide clarity for others regarding who each person is and what motivates them – in their personal and professional lives. Have your U-Map ready. Walk through the U-Map and talk about the purpose behind each item displayed on the sheet. Open yourself up and make yourself vulnerable, if you expect others to do it, you need to lead by example.

Before concluding the meeting, give each employee a form to complete highlighting all of the items they need to include. Give employees one month to complete the task. Supervisors and mentors should encourage participants to be specific in goals setting and responsibilities.

Express the fact that this is a tool for the employee and the teams that they report to. One concern that was expressed early in the programs development was, “What if I don’t accomplish the goals I laid out on my U-Map?” The short answer is that the U-Map is not meant to be punitive, but it is meant to hold individuals accountable. If goals are not met by an employee, there is an opportunity for discussion between the employee and supervisor. Conversely, when goals are communicated through he U-Map process, there is opportunity for praise when goals are achieved.

This transparency fosters trust which will encourage employees to share openly on their U-Maps and set realistic goals for themselves that align with the organization. U-Maps will also give you a chance to clearly lay out responsibilities with your team avoiding confusion and accountability challenges. Your employees will also feel a stronger connection to the organization through the continuity of a mapping program as well as an understanding of where they fit in as an individual.


Submitted 2018