If you like piña coladas

May 07, 2023

Chad Coldiron

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AEC firms must offer variety, identify employee interests, and create a positive work environment to retain top talent.

AEC employees across the industry are getting bored with their current firms because the work has become routine and they desire a variety of projects, personal growth opportunities, a flexible work environment, and the list goes on and on.

In the one-hit wonder, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes, a man reads the personal columns in the newspaper and spots an ad that catches his attention. It’s a woman seeking a man who is into the same things he’s into including those dangerously delicious piña coladas. The man responds to the ad and they arrange to meet at a bar named O’Malley’s where they will plan their escape. Upon arrival, he quickly realizes the mystery person was actually his current partner. They have a drink and talk about how they have more in common than they had known and that they do not have to look any further than each other for what they seek in a relationship.

Could this same scenario be playing out with the principals and staff in architecture, engineering, and construction firms? A few things to consider:

  • The importance of variety. AEC firms can offer a range of opportunities to their employees to keep them engaged and motivated. This can include opportunities for career advancement, training and development, cross-functional projects, and exposure to new clients, projects, and business functions like marketing or strategic planning. Providing variety in the work can help employees to remain engaged, maintain their interest in their job, reduce burnout, and ultimately, retain them within the organization.
  • Identifying employee interests and passions. To provide employees with variety and new opportunities, it is important to identify their interests and passions. AEC firms can do this by offering regular feedback and conducting performance reviews. By understanding an employee’s strengths, areas for improvement, and interests, firms can offer tailored opportunities that align with their career aspirations. This approach can lead to higher job satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately, retention. Hundreds of firms participate annually in Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For Award program to gain valuable insights into their employees’ feedback.
  • Creating a positive work environment. Creating a positive work environment is also critical for retaining top talent. This includes offering a flexible work schedule, promoting work-life balance, and providing opportunities for collaboration and teamwork. Firms can also offer social activities, such as team-building events and happy hours, to promote a positive work culture and foster relationships among employees. According to the 2022 Best Firms To Work For overall results, more than 90 percent of respondents from these firms agreed or strongly agreed that positive relationships were present among employees and leaders.

In the AEC industry, retaining top talent is critical for the success of the firm. To do this, AEC firms need to provide variety and new opportunities within the organization, identify employee interests and passions, and create a positive work environment. By offering competitive compensation and benefits packages and recognizing and rewarding employees, firms can improve retention rates and drive success. It’s time for AEC firms to take the friendly warning from Rupert Holmes and find ways to keep their employees engaged, motivated, and away from the job posting ads! 

Chad Coldiron is a principal and director of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at ccoldiron@zweiggroup.com.

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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.