Attracting and retaining great employees

17 May 2016

Competition for good architectural staff is keen across much of Australia at the moment. Salaries matter, but as Krista Shearer from Bespoke points out, there are other things your practice can do to attract and retain good people – and people rarely move for salary alone.

Krista Shearer

How much am I worth? This is the burning question we are asked every day at Bespoke. The answer right now is you’re probably worth 10% more than you were 18 months ago. Australia’s architecture and design sector is thriving, and SEEK data tells us we are one of the ‘growth markets’ in terms of job vacancies. Demand is outstripping supply for architects across Australia at all levels.

In the current market architects who are looking to move may receive three to five job offers and one in five candidates will also receive a counter offer from their existing employer. So, even if you are simply retaining your current employees you may get caught in a bidding war.

What are the best architects looking for?
  1. Career progression / training
  2. A fair salary and benefits package
  3. Good working relationships
  4. An organisation that contributes towards society
  5. A place they feel valued

Our advice to practices is to pay market value and keep in mind that people rarely (if ever) move for money. As long as you have parity with the market, the best thing you can do is hold onto the team you have. To make sure you are paying market value look to salary surveys and make sure you schedule regular performance and salary reviews throughout the year. And remember that these may work best as two separate meetings.

Why do people leave?

The five most common reasons good people give for leaving are: 

  1. Lack of opportunity for career progression / development
  2. Lack of project diversity
  3. Lack of respect for management team
  4. Input not valued / not recognised
  5. Lack of work / life balance, need more flexibility
So, other than paying market value, what do you need to do to hold onto your best talent?
  • Provide a great working environment
  • Offer career progression opportunities
  • Invest in training and development
  • Offer flexible working
  • Ensure project diversity
  • Contribute to society and fun stuff
  • Ensure you have regular open communication – formal reviews, ideally every six months

And consider unusual benefits that don’t cost the earth – for example:

  • Lunchtime language lessons
  • Choir, yoga, life drawing, dry cleaning
  • Trips away, for example glamping in the countryside, architectural study tours for Christmas trips
  • Bring your dog to work
  • Paid time off to volunteer for a charity
  • Additional holidays between Christmas and NYE

The upside of working hard to attract good people to your team, and holding on to your best staff, is that you are most likely going to make your practice a better place to work.

Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool and by providing a positive culture and work environment, your employees will be selling your business to everyone they interact with. As these attributes are often valued more than a high salary, you will have the right people knocking on your door in years to come.