All signs are pointing towards a recovery – the media is certainly talking a lot about it. Green-shoots are sprouting in various industries and confidence is slowly returning, but what does this mean for your business and staff?

The last 18months have certainly been very difficult in the Property and Construction space.  From a recruitment perspective, we started noticing a change in February 2008, when a number of roles were withdrawn due to the market’s uncertainty.  Some developers starting making people redundant a few months later, and several went into receivership.  Suddenly we were inundated with people looking for jobs, yet most companies were downsizing, not hiring.

Redundancy strategy seemed to vary from company to company.  Some were strategic business decisions (i.e. to abolish a whole division, centralise to one state etc) and others were project specific.  Other companies took the opportunity to selectively downsize and retain their A grade employees. Any way you look at it, it wasn’t an easy time.  What did this mean for the employees that were left? They were grateful to have kept their jobs, and were very reluctant to entertain any other opportunities for fear of being “last on, first off.”

During good times, candidates are open to looking at different jobs, but in the last 12 months movement has really slowed down.  People have had their heads down and stability has been paramount.  We even had calls from people asking for advice as to whether they should take holidays or not!  

In the last month or so, conversations with our clients and also with candidates have started to change. Many of our clients are indicating that they might be able to put on extra resources early next year.  However, a key focus should also be on retention.

Due to the redundancies and restructures, many teams are smaller… but many clients tell us that workload has not significantly decreased. This means the staff that are left over the last 12 months have probably worked harder, longer hours and have also dealt with the stress and cultural changes that downsizing brings. When these “green-shoots” start to appear, these candidates are tired and frustrated and may feel that a change is in order.  These are the employees that you want to keep. The cost of rehiring and training as well as the loss of intellectual property is hard to put a value on. 

Now is the time for employers to metaphorically put their arms around their existing employees, and thank them for the hard work that they have put in over the last 12 months.  Acknowledge that it has been a difficult year, and that you value their contribution and the extra work that they have done.   This may very well be the difference between losing a valued employee in the first half of next year and retaining them.

Our advice to clients at this time is to identify employees that they would hate to lose, and spend time with them to make sure that they understand the employee’s motivation levels, and drivers. Career path planning is also important at this time.  There are a number of key factors that a person will consider when deciding to stay or make a move, and as a manager understanding each team member’s key drivers will be key to retaining them as the market slowly recovers.


The below key factors are based on Lou Adler's key reasons that people look for other opportunities with a couple added.

  • Job matching and satisfaction. “Am I doing the work I like to do, and that I am good at?”
  • Job Stretch. “Am I learning new learning skills, handling bigger projects, dealing with more complex issues?
  • Job Growth. “Are there significant opportunities for career advancement, and where is there evidence of this?”
  • Hiring Manager.  “What am I learning from the person I report to? Am I getting along with them? Are they challenging me? Am I being managed the way I like to be managed?” This one tends to be important. We’ve all heard the saying “People leave managers, not companies”
  • Work team. “Do I really like the people on the team, and are they helping me grow and develop?”
  • Senior management and leadership team.  “Does the executive team know clearly what they’re doing and, as a result, are they leading the company in the right direction?”
  • Company.  “Do I really like the company, the culture, its products and what it stands for?”
  • Tools and Support.  “Do I have the right materials and resources to be as effective as possible in the job?”
  • Compensation and benefits.  “Is the total comp package and upside potential fair and equitable based on what I am doing?”
  • Quality of life issues.  “How would you rank the work/life balance?”
  • Risk. “Will the business be on sold, is the business open to take-over, is the possibility for external senior management to be brought in, is a change of focus or market presence available”