Shutting the revolving door: how AEC firms can leverage marketing for employee retention

November 28, 2023

Labor woes have the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries in a chokehold. A decreased interest in the trades has caused the pool of skilled workers to dwindle, while the number of AEC professionals entering retirement is threatening to drain the pool altogether. 

The U.S. construction industry had 374,000 job openings in June of 2023, according to a recently released report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These dire statistics underscore the importance of retaining skilled labor and should motivate AEC firms to leverage marketing to combat the exodus. 

Why it matters

Organizations can spend tens of thousands of dollars each time they onboard and train a new employee. There are additional soft costs, like lost productivity, associated with each vacancy. If there’s a revolving door at your organization, you’re not only losing talent, you’re cutting into your profits. In today’s competitive business landscape, AEC firms must go beyond traditional employee engagement strategies and embrace marketing techniques to maintain a skilled and motivated workforce. 

Younger generations are tech-centric. They care what your website and other marketing materials look like. One Reputation Ink client recently told us they joined their firm because of how good the website content was. He wanted to join a company that prioritized marketing. If an employee is embarrassed to tell others about his employer, due to bad marketing — be it an outdated website or zero social media presence — they are less likely to stay.

People also want to work for dynamic, thriving companies. If your company never shares any news and never posts to social media, that gives the impression that it’s a dying or static company. Who wants to work for a company in decline?

How effective marketing can abate your labor shortage woes

1. Develop marketing materials that display an attractive employer brand 

The employee buy-in effect of powerful messaging (i.e. mission, vision, values) is pivotal to employee retention. One way to include them is to perform a brand audit and develop an employee value proposition (EVP) based on the audit’s key takeaways. Similar to a mission statement, an EVP captures the essence of your company’s culture and values. It tells job seekers what they should expect to get from your company in exchange for joining your workforce. A strong EVP can also improve your workplace culture by reminding your employees of the standards you want to uphold.

2. Apply for employer/workplace awards

Being named to a “best places to work” list gives you more credibility and can significantly bolster your recruitment efforts. Hot tip: When you do win, be sure to request an image file of the award icon from the organization. You can display it on career fair handouts and your website to ensure applicants know you’ve got this coveted stamp of approval. 

3. Engage with your employees on social media

Everyone likes to be recognized, particularly by those they esteem, both personally and professionally. Nothing beats that warm, cozy feeling you get when your favorite person compliments you. Engaging with your employees and recognizing their efforts on social media can elicit similar emotions. Don’t feel bad about employing these tactics. It may seem calculated, but it’s an excellent way to boost morale, and if that’s calculated, then call me Isaac Newton, honey! (If you haven’t already guessed… yes, I’m a Slytherin). 

I know employers used to “hide” employees because they worried about competitors’ poaching them. With the advent of platforms like LinkedIn, employees’ visibility is out of the bag and can’t be controlled. Instead, employers must embrace promoting their employees publicly. I recommend using platforms like Facebook and Instagram for softer, human-interest stories and LinkedIn for thought leadership and recognizing employees’ accomplishments. This can boost post engagement and morale.

4. Collaborate with your employees on thought leadership content

Producing quality thought leadership content requires time, depth of knowledge, and strong relationships with your employees. If you don’t know your employees, how can you determine their area of expertise? Additionally, it takes real skill to translate their technical knowledge into written or podcast content that is compelling and informative. 

But, if you can manage to extract their knowledge and blend it into the marketing equivalent of an Erewhon Market smoothie, you’ll be able to create a top-notch revenue-generating content program. You’ll also prove to your employees that you value their opinions and demonstrate to prospective employees the expertise of their would-be colleagues. Those benefits alone should be motivation enough to start identifying your company’s key thought leaders. After all, people want to work with other smart people. 

5. Invest in internal communications

Communication is one of the biggest pain points when it comes to growing a business. The more employees you have, the harder it becomes to ensure everyone is on the same page. Like that time Tim in IT told Rhonda in Accounting everyone had to work on Memorial Day and she showed up to work only to find the entire building empty. Okay, I made that up, but it could happen!

Preparing a quarterly or monthly employee newsletter can help you disseminate valuable information, including upcoming events and changes in core functions, and help you announce new hires. Like social media, you can use it to highlight your employee’s achievements, like an award they’ve received or a recent promotion. Showcasing career growth opportunities can empower your employees to achieve more and incentivize them to stay with your company.

6. Give back through charitable campaigns and events

Many successful companies like Amazon and Facebook encourage their employees to take part in corporate giving campaigns. Gen Z is especially passionate about supporting brands that give back to organizations that align with their own personal values. It shows them you have something in common. It can also help you earn their loyalty by demonstrating generosity and good stewardship. Not to mention, giving back is just a good thing to do! (Wait, am I actually a HufflePuff? *Cue my next existential crisis*) Next time you host an event to raise awareness or funds for a non-profit organization, be sure to involve your employees!

Happy wife (workforce), happy life (you)

Marketing plays a vital role in employee retention. Building a strong employer brand, showcasing career growth opportunities, engaging in social media, and leveraging thought leadership content are just a few of the strategies to help you retain top talent. By investing in these marketing efforts, AEC firms can create a competitive advantage, foster a thriving work environment and ultimately achieve long-term success.

Lastly, effective use of these marketing methods will not only help you retain your workforce, but can even bolster your recruiting efforts, transforming happy, engaged employees into professional recruiters! Who needs a headhunter when you have a contented Donna in HR telling all her friends about her awesome employer?!


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  • About the Author
    Marja Martinez

    Marja Martinez is a creative storyteller who has spent nearly a decade developing digital content that moves people. Before making the switch to PR, Marja worked as a broadcast journalist writing hard-hitting news stories, creating compelling online content and engaging with thousands of viewers on multiple social media platforms.

    Read my full bio or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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