The Real Truth About Keeping Good People

Oct 23, 2006

Just about anything you read nowadays for our business mentions the top concern of firm owners everywhere is finding and keeping good people. Finding good people is never easy. Nor is it the topic of this particular article. Keeping good people is what I want to address. For starters, keeping good people is not about pay, benefits, the evaluation system you use, or the seminars you pay for your people to attend. All of those things are nice and have to meet certain minimum expectations. But my experience is that you can meet those minimum expectations and still lose a lot of good people. Good people leave a company when they feel dead-ended or stuck. They leave A/E firms if they can’t ever imagine becoming an owner there. They leave when they feel their dignity has been assaulted to such an extent that they have to leave to regain their self respect. They leave when they feel mistreated or abused or taken advantage of in some way. They leave when they get the idea, right or wrong, that they aren’t loved and appreciated. They leave when someone else gets something they think they deserved. They leave when they feel the company is acting in an immoral or unethical fashion. Most all of these things are under your control, to some extent, if you are the employee’s immediate supervisor and are tuned in. The key is early action and not waiting until the employee has actually said “I quit!” Good people also leave A/E firms for reasons that are simply beyond your control. The employee’s spouse gets a better job and they have to relocate to another city. A child or parent gets sick and family needs demand time that can’t be given to a job. An employee has always had a dream of owning his own business and finally takes the plunge. An employee decides to do something entirely different with his life altogether. Your human resources people can be helpful to your efforts to keep good people in several ways. First, they can track the numbers for you that let you know how many good people you are actually losing to factors that could potentially be under your control. Second, they can give you early warning when they spot the danger signs that say “this person is getting ready to go.” Listen to your human resources managers— they aren’t just a bunch of well-intentioned do-gooders, but may be able to help you with some of the answers on what it takes to keep good people in your firm. Unfortunately, top management rarely listen to the HR folks’ warning cries, and instead rationalizes why anyone who leaves really wasn’t worth keeping anyway. This, in turn, will lead to more good people leaving. Originally published 10/23/2006

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.