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Employee retention: strategies for retaining key talent

Author: Peter Fakos

Published date: 2019/09

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The late Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”.

I believe talent is the heart of every business. As a specialist recruitment consultant, I play an essential role in shaping the companies of today and tomorrow with every role I fill. I know that employee retention starts right from the beginning, from the application and screening process, through to choosing whom to interview. It starts with identifying what aspects of culture and strategy you want to highlight and then seeking those attributes in the candidates.

Since we all spend a huge portion of our week at work, working in a position that is the wrong fit can have a huge emotional impact on every one of us. With this in mind, I feel very fortunate to work in an industry where I can change people’s lives for the better. Every week I am lucky enough to sit down with construction professionals ranging from Graduate Engineers to Directors. As you can probably imagine working within the recruitment industry, we have heard just about everything when it comes to reasons for considering new opportunities.

The insights I have gained have not only allowed me to work closely with candidates to achieve their career aspirations but also partner with companies to create inclusive team atmospheres where staff feel empowered and appreciated for their hard work and dedication. 

The first step in ensuring employee retention is to get it right from the beginning. Working with specialist recruitment consultants to get the right employees from the day dot is the first and most important stage of a good employee retention strategy.

However, once you have your key staff, how do you ensure they stay with the company? Take the following points into consideration to ensure key talent stay on with your business...


“Overstretched and under-resourced”. In many cases, construction workers are expected to work 60-70 hour weeks to meet project deadlines. While this has previously been accepted, we are increasingly seeing construction firms introduce workplace policies with employees wellbeing at the front of mind. Take Sydney based construction firm, Robert Pizzarotti. Where feasible, the team will submit two tenders for the projects they bid on – one with a five-day program and the other with a six-day program. Pizzarotti hopes more clients will opt for a five-day week and other construction firms will follow suit so that in a few years it will be standard practice just like most other industries.

Successful Retention Strategies:

  • Temporary Solutions for Temporary Problems – Bring in contract staff on medium to long term contracts for specific projects. This reduces pressure on permanent staff and provides the new employer with the option to move from temporary to permanent.

  • Staff Recognition – Staff want to be recognised for their hard work and efforts. Simple rewards such as vouchers to restaurants, the cinema or sports events can be a great way to show your staff that you appreciate their hard work. Team events are key - BBQ’s, Friday drinks, quarterly team bonding trips and activities can bring a team together!


As an employer, you must make sure that you are having regular reviews with your employees to ensure their career ambitions align with the company's vision. When employees know what you expect of them, it eliminates confusion and motivates them to perform at a satisfactory or above level. With an increased focus on “career path” and “personal development”, the feeling of being stuck in a routine or feeling as though they can no longer progress within the organisation is one of the most common reasons for seeking new opportunities. Employee morale stays high and retention is more likely to occur with regular reviews & evaluations.

Successful Retention Strategies

  • Regular Performance Reviews - This is an excellent opportunity to discuss your vision for the individual by setting realistic KPIs that align with the company's needs as well as the employees desired skilled set. By meeting regularly you are demonstrating that you are committed to their professional development – whilst also allowing you to commend them on the efforts and hard work. These candidates are less susceptible to offers from other companies.

  • Career Development Programs – This is another important strategy to retain staff. Paying for internal or external training not only enables them with the opportunity to expand their skill set, but it also provides them with a transparent and structured career path giving them more reason to invest their future with your company.

  • Always be transparent with the business strategy – it is no surprise that the construction industry is a volatile market. At times of economic downfall, it is important to share how you are planning to future-proof your business activity. This will assist in putting you employees minds at ease, allowing them to continue with their task at hand.


The uncertain forward workload can cause staff to worry for their job security and can trigger individuals to look for new options before they get a tap on the shoulder.

Successful Retention Strategies

  • Encourage Staff To Take “Ownership” In The Organisation – Increase exposure to clients and show staff how their work directly impacts the success of the organisation.

  • Encourage staff to network within the industry and win work - Incentivise this or offer profit sharing.


Employers must take into consideration that in such a candidate short market it is vital that when retaining and hiring staff that they are fairly compensated for their work. Competitive pay/salary is the baseline for employee engagement and retention.

Successful Retention Strategies

  • Benefit your staff in other ways, not just by a salary increase - Benefits and perks play a large role in keeping employees happy, engaged and healthy. But benefits can go far beyond healthcare coverage and paid sick leave. Offering things like profit sharing, bonus programs, health plans, paid time off, and education & training reimbursement sends a powerful message to employees about their importance at your company.

Remember: Start with finding good employees, then implement an employee retention strategy including the above pointers and you’ll be on your way to having happy, long-term employees!

If you take these on board, you’ll create a workplace where all employees will want to stay for many years. This isn’t a secret formula what-so-ever, but if you manage workloads, implement regular employee reviews, unite your team, and compensate your staff appropriately for their work, you'll be sure to increase your employee retention rate! Not only that, but you will create an environment where every employee feels valued, appreciated and where all employees goals align with the company's goals.

Peter is a specialist recruitment consultant in the Civil Infrastructure space. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.