An employee-first approach

Oct 02, 2022

Highlighting your commitment to career growth, flexible work options, and open communication will show staff your firm has an employee-first approach.

Turnover is contagious. In 2020, Limeade reported that 38 percent of employees have been encouraged to leave with a coworker. Each turnover is estimated to cost a company 20 percent to 33 percent of an employee’s annual salary in lost work time and the hiring and training process of a replacement.

Employees leave for varying reasons – including a lack of career development and opportunities, work-life imbalance, and a poor relationship with their manager – but many resignations are preventable.

If you want to understand why employees are leaving, consider thinking about why others are staying. When you identify these factors, you need to ensure they are accessible to all of your employees and that staff can fully utilize the benefits your company offers. Before you can provide positive benefits – the employees need to stay.

The highest percentage of employees leave within the first six months to one year of employment. Highlighting your commitment to career growth and advancement, flexible work options, and managers and firm leaders who are open to communication will show staff your organization has an employee-first approach to making sure they succeed as much as your firm does.

Career growth and advancement. Have you ever been given a task and thought, “Why am I even doing this?” You are not alone. Employees want to find meaning in the work they do and how it fits into the bigger picture. If an employee is great at putting reports together, don’t get stuck in the habit of only going to them to complete this task. Make sure you consider what interests each employee has – and sometimes it’s as simple as asking what they enjoy. Allow employees to experience various opportunities. They may even discover something new they enjoy or excel at, and can help increase the organization’s bottom line in a new way.

There are many factors to consider here, but these are a few tactics to help employees to feel more engaged with the work they do:

  1. Ensure managers are trained on delegation. They need to know how to delegate and how to provide employees with growth opportunities.
  2. Hold companywide sessions that discuss the overall mission of the organizations. Break down how the company is doing and possible new opportunities that employees can get involved with.
  3. Support employees who express an interest in something new. If feasible, allow the employee to attend a conference or training to enhance a new skill. This will show your investment in the development of that individual.

Flexible work options (work-life balance). If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that work-life balance was imbalanced for many individuals. People are leaving jobs in record numbers. Many are retiring early. People don’t want 70-hour work weeks that trickle into family time, free time, or time to relax and recharge. Giving employees the ability to work remotely or with a hybrid work option increases job satisfaction. With the instability of gas prices as well as school and childcare, allowing employees to approach their schedule in a way that works for them will increase loyalty and appreciation.

If you want to provide the option for remote or hybrid work, here are a few training factors to consider:

  1. Ensure employees are trained on the software they need to use.
  2. Provide managers with training on how to hold effective weekly meetings and encourage managers to check in with individuals – not just about work.
  3. Inclusion is key for those who work in the office versus those who work remotely. Provide opportunities where everyone is included regardless of where they are working. When considering someone for a new opportunity, involve everyone in that decision-making process, not just those who are in the office. It is key to provide management with training on inclusion for hybrid workers.

Good relationship with management/manager. Employees report that they will stay because of a good relationship with – and recognition from – their manager. Many supervisors are promoted into the position because of their high technical proficiency – which takes years of schooling, on-the-job training, certifications, and more. When someone is promoted to management, it often comes without the education and training to excel in the position. That’s where you come in – when someone is promoted, management and leadership skills should be treated the same as technical skills, where training and development is required to succeed.

It is up to leadership to provide employees with the tools they need to succeed. Investing in an employee-first approach can be part of the cure in creating a workforce that feels more appreciated, has opportunities to learn new skills and grow, and can balance work and home life. The top reasons why employees leave are also top reasons why an employee would consider staying. Lean into the needs of your employees – ask and listen – then act. 

Danielle Eisenstock, APTD, is the training and development manager at Urban Engineers. Contact her at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.