What are the Challenges of Organizational Leadership? CH2M HILL Case Study


The CH2M HILL case illustrates the challenges faced by an organization with historical significance in the engineering, service, and consulting industries. Accordingly, the analysis represents the main challenges faced as exceptionally high voluntary turnover and lack of qualified employees for vacant positions in the high ranks (Newman, 2013). The voluntary job loss became a dominant challenge in the operations of the CH2M HILL organization and threatened the company’s future. The second challenge was the inadequate skills and competence of the internal staff to take over senior positions, a situation that required long-lasting solutions. For as many as twenty-five months, the case indicated that some senior positions lacked occupants as no competent persons would be found in the internal ranks.

Therefore, a solution had to be sought with the two problems posing a severe hindrance to the company’s operations (Newman, 2013). Although the organization considered itself a career employer, less than 25% of the top management in 2012 had been internally promoted. As a result, Walstrom was hired to reconstruct the processes and systems for career development and to improve worker retention rates. Thus, Walstrom had to determine and take the most appropriate steps toward addressing the short and long-term challenges.

The Challenges of Organizational Leadership Faced by CH2M HILL

The operations of CH2M HILL date back to 1946 when an Oregon State University engineering professor teamed up with three of his former students and founded the company. The firm would later command a global influence in the construction, consulting, and engineering fields. The corporation realized steady growth through the expansion of operations and acquisitions. CH2M HILL as a potential employer maintained the culture of retaining employees as long as they stayed engaged and productive in the company. Junior workers would be vetted to take over senior positions in management instead of attracting new talents from the outside.

Worth appreciating is that before the 1990s, the CH2M HILL Company had an employee-centered and family-like culture (Newman, 2013). The firm was also completely employee-owned until the administration decided to invest in acquisitions and takeovers. Through time, the company engineers, as against external managers, inherently run the firm’s operations. However, the subsequent growth resulting from acquisitions resulted in hiring managers who allegedly lacked an understanding of the company’s legacy.

Over the years, CH2M HILL neglected career development and paths, which was the strength of the organization in the years before the mid-1990s. Consequently, the company started acquiring new employees for all positions from external sources. Indeed, such efforts created the unintended consequences of raising the rate of voluntary turnovers for new employees. Moreover, the neglect of career development contributed to a lower transition rate for qualified internal candidates to take higher leadership positions. Therefore, Walstrom had to address the rampant cases of increasing labor turnover and prepare the internal employees for taking up future responsibilities in the company’s top management.

Reasons for the High Employee Turnover

The engagement survey indicated two main reasons behind the challenges of high turnover rates. First, the company offered few career opportunities and less job satisfaction. Second, the lack of mentorship and coaching initiatives for the incoming employees made the majority struggle to adapt to the working condition of the company (Newman, 2013). Therefore, the young recruits derived no motivation to stick to the company. Other issues raised by the case were the lack of job clarity and increased outside opportunities, hence, the rise in turnover. In addition, the other dispute highlighted was that few or no qualified persons from the internal system take leadership positions in the management portfolio (Newman, 2013). In essence, the manifestations of the problems were together with the turnover and the vacant positions that remained empty.

The appointment of Walstrom in the total capacity of restructuring the company while addressing the challenges was tactical. Indeed, she had the chance to act on enhancing diminished job autonomy and increase clarity for increased employee retention (Vlachos, Panagopoulos, & Rapp, 2013). Furthermore, she could invest in new employees’ systems for orientation and mentorship. In addition, she could invest in career management to maintain and guide internal talent to fill the top positions (Allen & Shanock, 2013). Finally, as a leader, employing charismatic traits in top management positions could improve internal relations and retention.

From a subjective point of view, I would invest in creating and harnessing relations within the organization. As noted in the case, the lack of a clear structure meant the employee would pursue different projects to secure a working opportunity. Therefore, by ensuring that I give my best and maintain the appropriate relations in the various organizational departments, the initiative would ensure that I manage my career. However, I could also consider challenging the management structure to impose suitable systems to ensure that the staff members don’t feel stranded on the responsibilities and career growth. A perfect job description and suitable structures would harness the workforce’s productivity and ensure that employees are aware of their responsibilities and work expectations. 



Allen, D. G., & Shanock, L. R. (2013). Perceived organizational support and embeddedness as key mechanisms connecting socialization tactics to commitment and turnover among new employees. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(3), 350-369.

Newman, K. L. (2013). CH2M HILL: Reinventing organizational careers. Case Research Journal, 33(1), 93-115.

Vlachos, P. A., Panagopoulos, N. G., & Rapp, A. A. (2013). Feeling good by doing good: Employee CSR-induced attributions, job satisfaction, and the role of charismatic Leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(3), 577-588.



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