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  • 1.  Showing Gratitude: How to attract and retain civil engineering talent

    Posted 11-20-2023 12:23 PM

    We had a great virtual panel last week. We didn't have enough time to fully discuss all the questions so I wanted to post them here for our panelists and attendees to continue the conversation. I'll post the recording in this thread as soon as it's available. You can view a similar thread that inspired this conversation here

    1. Have you ever spoken to a colleague/employee and advised them that they SHOULD leave? (How does one know it's the "right time" to leave?)

    2. What about "Flexibility" and "Meaningful job?" What do those mean to you? 

    3. Do you find that people switch industries for simply a higher salary or are there alternative motives?

    4. When you speak to an engineer whose thinking about leaving, what tends to be the reason that's on their mind?

    Tirza Austin
    Senior Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191

  • 2.  RE: Showing Gratitude: How to attract and retain civil engineering talent

    Posted 12-01-2023 10:16 AM

    I wish I could've made the panel discussion.

    Some companies/organizations' HR should have info on employee attrition. The responses need to be assessed for demographics which isn't always possible.

    Remember the saying "People don't quit jobs, they quit managers." Oftentimes people are promoted without getting training on how to manage people. Moving from an individual contributor role to leading/managing others is a huge difference. It takes a different skill set.

    One thought I have is attracting talent will vary based on demographics as well. Maybe best to discuss attracting, recruiting and retaining civil engineers separately. Each requires different strategies. 

    What I'm seeing for younger and mid-career civil engineers is the opportunity to work at tech companies like Meta or AWS which not only pay more but offer equity. Or they switch over to data analytics at tech organizations. The benefits and salaries can be more beneficial for those with student loan debt.

    I encourage organizations to understand they are not competing with other AEC firms or government organizations. Technology companies are seeking this talent. If we can't compete on total compensation, we need to find other needs of civil engineers.

    Michele Heyward A.M.ASCE
    Denmark SC

  • 3.  RE: Showing Gratitude: How to attract and retain civil engineering talent

    Posted 12-04-2023 08:12 AM

    Hi Michele, 

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying - that people is a huge part of why people might quit. My manager answered this question perfectly to me - the top 3 reasons people consider changing jobs are for Pay, Projects, and People (the 3 P's). From my personal experience, these are also the top 3 values that come up when I speak to individuals who are considering leaving their job. 

    For early and mid-career engineers trying to rise in their careers, I believe Pay is often the most important factor in their career decisions. Once they have reached a certain level of experience and confidence in their abilities, as well as a minimum pay that is needed to meet their living expenses and overall happiness, then Projects and People may be greater deciding factors in where to work. 

    I also completely agree with you that attracting, recruiting, and retaining all require different strategies and to add to that, it's different for each individual depending on their goals. 

    I am curious what percentage of Civil Engineering graduates are switching to tech, if you happen to have a general idea or statistic? I personally only know two individuals who did or were considering making this career transition, but most of my peers that I have kept in contact are still in this field but have considered competing AEC firms due to compensation not keeping up with their market value, burnout, or dissatisfaction with management. 

    Finally, flexibility and meaningfulness of a job are increasingly important to the young generation, and although many companies have made the shift to more flexible workplaces, there are still workplaces that are operating on old-fashioned practices. To me, flexibility means the ability to work remotely, or modify your schedule. It requires trust between the company and the employee for a flexible work arrangement to be effective. However, it's not always practical for civil engineering firms to allow for that kind of flexibility. Disciplines related to construction are also more likely to require engineers to be in-person or work on a regular schedule that is aligned with the construction schedule and activities of the stakeholders involved. 

    Although civil engineering might not be as flexible as tech fields, I believe the meaningfulness of the work is apparent and tangible. We are designing and building infrastructure that will serve our communities and tackle environmental and sustainability issues. It's important to use this as a source of inspiration for the young generation and to retain motivated engineers in this field because the work that we do has a lasting positive impact on future generations. In my hopeful idealistic mind, I think that if we inspire individuals early on about the field of civil engineering, their motivation to be involved with this work would supersede their desire to have the same flexibility and compensation that tech fields might offer. It's hard to change the compensation across an entire industry as it also depends on supply and demand (as a young person I wouldn't even know where to start with that), but it's easier to talk with young people and plant seeds that might inspire them to enter or stay in the civil engineering industry. 

    Wing-Mei Ko P.E., M.ASCE
    Rockville MD