Keeping those good people

Feb 25, 2019

“Just as it is easier (and cheaper) to keep an existing client than to get a new one, so goes it for your employees. Keeping good people is essential to your firm.”

Just as it is easier (and cheaper) to keep an existing client than to get a new one, so goes it for your employees. Keeping good people is essential to your firm.

Years ago (nearly 30!), I wrote a book, Human Resources: The Complete Guidebook for Design Firms. And while much of it is now out of date (hence the reason one is available for sale right now on eBay for only $55), I knew even back then that too much of the focus of human resource managers was on liability prevention and not enough in finding and KEEPING the best people.

I won’t bore you with clichés about your greatest asset going home at night. But I will tell you some keys to keeping good people in your employ for many years. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Talk to them. Call them, text them, go by and see them. Have lunch with them. Show an interest in them and that in and of itself will go a very long way to generating loyalty. People want to see and talk to their boss or they start worrying. And you don’t want that!
  2. Pay them decently. It doesn’t have to be more than they can get anywhere else because that is only part of what they work for. But it needs to be decent. And until they get old like me they want to keep making progress in the “pay” department. Raises are crucial, even if they’re not that big. This, of course, means you have to run a good business, i.e., one that makes a profit, or you won’t be able to pay your people well.
  3. Don’t hassle them with too much red tape and bureaucracy. This means you can’t make people turn in their pencil stubs to get new ones; you can’t have too many layers of approval to buy minor things; and you can’t have too many hurdles to request vacation time. You know if you are doing this and that it turns people off. If so, stop! The benefits you receive are generally much less than the cost in terms of demotivation and turnover.
  4. Be a person of integrity. Keep your promises. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal (from anyone). If you do? No one with any character will want to keep working for you. Pretty simple idea but important!
  5. Promote from within when possible. Obviously, it isn’t always possible. But it may be better for you to stretch your position criteria at times so you can move someone up versus going outside for someone who is unproven (in your firm). If you routinely look outside the firm as your first option, your employees could start thinking you don’t care much about them. This almost always creates problems and you can lose some good people because of it.

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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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.