The Association for the Capital Projects Engineering & Construction Community.

So once we get them... how do we keep them?

May 28, 2014

The Mystery of Employee Retention – Beyond Compensation

By Angelle Adams, ECC Future Leader

I have heard it said lately that whoever has the people will get the work. Working feverishly to recruit top talent is always a priority, and it certainly makes my Business Development gig a lot easier with an org chart loaded with rock stars. We somehow get candidates to jump through numerous hoops, leading them through what can be an arduous on-boarding process that can take upwards of two months. Numerous hours are invested in new employee training and orientation. So when an employee decides to jump ship a few short months (or even years) later for a nominal increase in pay, that investment of time and money is a very tangible loss, not to mention the disruption to project schedules and lost street cred from broken project teams.

So how do we prevent this cycle? What makes an employee think to themselves, “I’m really not interested in moving on right now – I feel confident that this is the place for me?”

All things being equal, the bottom line is money. In truth, all things are not equal. When employees feel respected and valued, they are less likely to humor that headhunter’s call. How do we accomplish this? How do we let our employees know every day that they are our most valuable asset?

I’ve come up with a few items that I feel are differentiators for top employers.

1. Communication. Employers need to let their employees know what is going on. Communicate early and often! Letting your folks know about upcoming project opportunities, corporate changes and overall operations makes them feel that they are part of the bigger picture. It tells employees that no matter what their title is or what level they are in their career, they are an important part of that overall plan, and empowers them to feel instrumental in implementing any changes coming their way.

2. Leadership. Managers today have it tough. They are, for the first time in history, attempting to manage four generations in the workforce. Balancing the expectations of the hardcore work ethics of the Greatest Generation with the “what have you done for me lately” attitude of the Me Generation is a balancing act that only the most gifted leaders can navigate. Companies can support managers with ongoing training to give them the tools they need to keep all employees on track. Great leaders provide flexible guidance backed with true technical excellence, and this support system can create an environment for employees to stay for the long haul.

3. Opportunity for advancement. Companies who are intent on attracting and retaining talent provide training and put employees on an upwardly mobile career path that is clearly communicated. Knowing that there is a plan in place for your success can make a few dollar bump in salary seem less important.

4. Challenging work. Boredom destroys motivation. To keep employees in a creative frame of mind, they need to feel mildly stretched intellectually. This challenge keeps employees working toward the next level of technical expertise, and stimulates the creative thinking that is needed for engineers and other professionals to innovate and create real and lasting progress within the company.

5. Defined role. I’d like to challenge the idea that job titles are unimportant. I think people say this because they want to get an idea across to their supervisor that they don’t need a fancy title to boost their ego. But one’s job title should reflect one’s role and responsibilities, and should progress from entry level as a person progresses in their career. This lets the employee know that management recognizes their contribution and accomplishments.

6. Feeling of security. Back-stabbing or underhanded behavior should never be tolerated; allowing this type of culture creates a hostile work environment that will surely push the best and brightest right out the door.

7. Having Fun! When you are happy to go to work because you have great friendships and a feeling of camaraderie, money will simply not take the place of those connections. Fostering personal relationships can create a team atmosphere that will make challenging times during project execution more tolerable, and can be valuable enough to keep an employee in a position where they really do enjoy coming to work every day.

What are the things that keep you anchored at your company? What concrete actions can companies take to create stability and security within their workforce in this transient environment?