Rachel Cantor Fogarty spoke about retention of employees for engineering firms in economies weak and strong at the ASCE 2012 conference. As president of RC Associates, a niche engineering recruiting firm that specializes in exclusive searches for engineering consulting firms, Rachel has first hand experience in helping her retained clients attract top talent. I asked her to re-examine her conference thesis from the perspective of engineers looking for their next career experience.
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By Rachel Cantor Fogarty: How to Spot Employers that Respect and Reward Their Employees — The Keys to Retention.
I get asked a lot, what are the best firms out there to work for? I wish this answer was as simple as emailing back an exclusive small list of select engineering consulting firms. Yet, this is quite a complex question with a different answer for each engineer. Every individual looks for different things in a firm that would make it the best place to work so there is no cookie cutter answer defining the best companies. It all comes down to what company is the best for YOU. Every company has a unique culture and way of doing business that compliments individuals in different ways. Take for example, a motivated YP that really likes to have his/her hands in many different aspects of engineering. Working at a huge mega-engineering consulting firm where the first 10 years of one’s engineering career focuses on the technical aspect of one large scale project would prove unfulfilling to this engineer. This individual might be a better fit for a smaller more entrepreneurial firm where he/she gets their hands in many aspects of the project.
So as to the question of how to spot employers that respect and reward their employees, I think that this answer begins with what YOU, the employee, are looking to get out of a company and what defines “respect” and “rewards” for you. This may seem like a daunting task, but is easy if you follow a few simple steps. Take a minute and jot down what respect and rewards from a company means to you.
Congratulations! You have just taken the first step in the process of finding your dream company. It seems quite simple but defining what you are looking for in a company and your expectations is always the first step. Let’s take a deeper look at one of the more common rewards a company might offer: professional development. Say you hope one day soon to have the opportunity to pursue a Masters Degree in Transportation at the local university. For you, the perfect company would need some schedule flexibility and tuition reimbursement.
You know what you are looking for, but how do you find it? For research, I recommend at least two main avenues, utilizing your network of industry contacts AND using the internet to uncover what you can. Let’s look at each separately for a minute.
Networking with Industry Contacts: When trying to spot certain traits about employers, I always recommend asking questions about firms to your network of contacts. Take the top three things that you are looking for and talk about them with 10 people that you know at 10 different companies. Make sure and take good notes on what you learn. You may even want to start a spreadsheet of the information you gather!
Internet: Another important research avenue is online. Taking your list of companies and doing a simple google search can uncover important insights on each. You will want to cross check this info across multiple sources and record whatever information you find, whether it is employee reviews, benefit information, social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN are great inside sources to employees). As civil engineers you are lucky in that much project information is available online. You may be able to read an RFP or public record on the firm that you are researching. You can learn a lot by being an online detective!
The research you did should be a helpful tool along the way in guiding you to ask the right questions. For example, you may have learned online, that a company has a hard time promoting employees, one of the rewards you feel is essential for a potential employer. You cannot believe everything you read online so you may want to ask potential future employers about this during an interview.
When interviewing with firms, turn the rewards and respects list that you just made into questions (professionally and respectfully phrased of course) for your potential employer. During the interview process, it is important to make sure that the firm meets your expectations and is the right fit. It’s always better in the long run to turn down an offer that doesn’t mesh with your expectations than to end up in a job that isn’t right for you.
If you are already employed, you can still discuss your desired perks with your boss in your next review or one-on-one meeting. Tactfully discussing long-term expectations can help set you up for a career path more closely aligned with your goals and provide a stimulating and motivating work environment.
The Final but Most Critical Step: Repeat this process, continuously. Finding respect and reward in your career is an ongoing and evolving process that will change throughout different periods of your life. By understanding what you are looking for, researching companies, and communicating this information to current and future employers you are well on your way to finding employers that respect and reward their employees in ways that are meaningful to you. No matter what you uncover in the process, you will be one step closer to that Prince Charming of a Firm.
For more information visit www.rcassociatesllc.com or contact Rachel at Rachel@rcassociatesllc.com or 813-286-2075.