Employee retention is everything

Jun 05, 2017

Keeping a good team together requires lots of maintenance, great perks and benefits, and the willingness to toss out the bad apples.

I get asked the same question all the time – how do I keep my people engaged and retained and not looking around for the next best thing. Employee retention is one of the biggest issues that firms in the design industry face. Aside from the fact that you are out there pounding the pavement each day looking for new opportunities and new projects, you also have to be mindful of what’s happening back at the office. Here are six key areas to focus on to retain your best people.

  1. Culture. The first thing that we try to understand about a potential executive search client is what their company culture is all about. When you understand the culture of a company, it’s a lot easier to sell an opportunity to work with them. Of course, all cultures are not created equal which is why it’s important to take stock of yours and learn how your employees view things. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve visited a company before where things were exciting, attitudes were contagious, and opportunities seemed endless. Then, there are those firms where you enter the main doors and can’t exit fast enough because the vibe is lifeless. Culture is everything and it usually emanates from the top and works it’s way down from there. Do you have a handle on this or is your firm ready for a cultural revolution?
  2. Personal and professional development. If you are not improving yourself, you are dying. At least that’s what I think. I know it sounds a little harsh, but the reality is that as individuals and as firms, we need to strive to get better in every way. Firms that recognize this take the time to make sure their employees get the best training for professional development. It’s more than just CEUs. It’s making sure your people learn the latest nuances for their discipline and how to implement them to make the client and project experience better. Personal development is just as important. A study was done by the financial counseling industry that said for every dollar a firm spent to make financial literacy programs available to their employees, they earned a three-dollar return on that investment in greater employee productivity.
  3. Flexible work schedule. A lot of firms are starting to get creative with their regular work schedules. For years we’ve seen some companies take half-day Fridays during the summer months and some have made it a year-round offering. A lot of firms are trying out a 9/80 workweek schedule – this is where employees work seven nine-hour days in a two-week period, one eight-hour day, and then receive one “free” day off every other week. The bottom line is that you are trying to be creative for the benefit of your employees without sacrificing the needs of the clients you serve.
  4. Strong benefits. Nowadays, in addition to fulfilling work that makes a difference, employees are looking for strong benefits programs that include, but are not limited to, retirement programs with matching funds, short-term/long-term disability and life insurance, wellness programs, in addition to cell phones and other tech perks.
  5. Cool office perks. It’s important for firms to be creative with their perks so that they can keep their best employees engaged and focused. I visited with a firm recently that has several vendors come to their office to service the needs of their employees. Two ideas that come to mind are a dry cleaning service where they pick up and drop off at the office, and a personal chef that provides creative and healthy meals once a week. There are many more ideas like these that you could easily implement. Some will cost you money while others are just conveniences that make life for your employees a little easier.
  6. Hire and fire. Another way to keep the environment free of any defects, mental or otherwise, is to take your time to hire good people. I’m not suggesting that you take forever. I just think you should know when to pull the trigger on a good candidate and bring them on board. Good employees boost morale and do a lot to keep things moving in the right direction. If you have a bad employee or two – those who are not redeemable – you need to be willing to “cut bait” and move on. The faster you do this the better off you will be.

These are just a few of the ways you can boost retention levels at your firm. When you show your employees how much you care you will make it harder for them to up and leave without at least giving you notice and constructive feedback on why they made the decision to go. Which brings me to another point: Always do an exit interview with everyone who leaves. That information can prove to be invaluable.

That’s all I have for now. When it comes to recruiting and retention I’m always here if you need help or advice.

Randy Wilburn is director of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at rwilburn@zweiggroup.com.

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.