Editorial: On finding and keeping good people

Jul 18, 2013

Pent-up demand means more hiring, so here are some critical musts for attracting and retaining great people.

July is a time for grilling hamburgers by the pool, packing everyone into the family Denali or minivan to go see the Grand Canyon, and for blowing up fireworks on the street in front of your house (former Chicago Bulls player Ronnie Brewer lives down and across the street – his display was beyond INSANE this year!). It’s also when we celebrate our declaration of independence from our former British governors. This need for independence got me thinking about how we – as individual organizations that want to grow and outlast our founders – can attract and keep those people who are really good and who could survive on their own working for us. I know I seem obsessed with recruitment and retention lately but with two businesses to manage and grow, how can you blame me? Just yesterday morning I had a conversation with my V.P. of construction for Mark Zweig, Inc., on our ride out to a jobsite. We both agreed that the single limiting factor to our growth as an enterprise will be our ability to hire and keep some really great people who will allow me and him to move up beyond some of the stuff we’re doing now. But that’s easier said than done. When it comes to attracting and retaining really great people (the ones who can be in business for themselves), here are some absolutely critical “musts”:
  • Freedom. The best people HAVE to believe they have some freedom. Freedom to make decisions. Freedom to come and go. Freedom to set priorities. Freedom in how they respond to problems. Freedom is probably the single most important contributor to self-worth and self-esteem and no really great person would work anywhere where they felt those things were compromised.
  • Sense of purpose and ethics. No one wants to devote the greater part of their lives to working for a company that steals from its clients or does things that harm the public. Nor do they want to be embarrassed and soil their own reputation. Reputation is the one thing money cannot buy and really outstanding people “get” that.
  • Bureaucracy. It kills motivation and morale. It’s why really large companies lose good people and why good people have to leave their government jobs eventually. We all want to work somewhere where we can be rewarded based on our own merits and not some published pay scale. No one likes to fill out too many forms or enjoys spending endless hours in meetings (unless they are someone who doesn’t want to work and accomplish things – not a “great” employee).
  • Fellow team members. Birds of a feather flock together. The best people like to work with others whom they think are smart, capable, have a high energy level, and bring something unique to the table. These people create opportunities for all. You cannot have many duds and place-keepers in your ranks and then expect great people to want to join and stay with the team. It just doesn’t work that way.
Readers – pay attention to me on this stuff. I may seem obsessed but believe me, getting and keeping the right people is going to get harder than ever – and more critical – as the pent-up demand for all types of construction starts to be realized. Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1015, originally published 7/15/2013. Copyright© 2013, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

About Zweig Group

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.