10 Aug 2012

Culture and Engagement Keys to Employee Retention

An impressive panel lineup was the focus of Colorado State University’s Alumni Association presentation entitled Employee Attraction and Retention in an Upswing Economy, a long title for a great event. The panel included local business leaders from small business, large corporations and sole proprietorships. Companies such as CH2Mhill, Humana and CoBank were well represented.

For me, attending really shed some light on what really affects some of my clients. While many companies recognize their employees as an asset, some designate attrition as a cost of doing business. I would agree, but I have found most don’t put as much emphasis on turnover as they should. Patrick O’Keefe, VP of CH2MHill, shared his turnover rate of 13%, which Patrick indicated was much higher than the past where it was in the low single digits. With CH2MHill being such a large corporation in 90 countries and having over 30,000 employees, turnover is a significant cost. Putting a hard number to that can be difficult but using Patrick’s numbers, his company loses 3,900 employees per year. Taking conservative numbers from some HR consultants, it costs one-third of an employee’s salary to recruit and hire them. Using current minimum wage (and CH2MHill definitely isn’t paying minimum wage), each employee costs $4,900 to find. Multiply that by 3,900 new employees a year, CH2MHill is spending over $19 million a year just hiring people! So attracting and retaining talent is a significant issue.

Since this panel recognizes the implications of talent management, they shared with us some strategies and tactics to help retain employees. The overwhelming theme for retention throughout the panel was culture. The culture of the company significantly contributes to attracting and keeping your workforce. Some of these companies have formal culture programs where they concentrate on ensuring employees are engaged and feel they are an integral part of the success of the company. Another theme that surfaced was that of career development. People (successful people, that is) want to know they are working toward a goal that has them growing and advancing in their career. The key to this is: the employee has to own it. They have to have the type of personality that is entrepreneurial while still being a team player.

As a marketing and advertising agency in Denver, this type of presentation was really interesting to me. It not only let me learn something new, but it gave me some insight (Encite, Ha!) into the challenges my clients endure outside of their marketing and creative obligations. Engagement and understanding of my clients is a key element in the consulting portion of my business, which is so critical to communicate their brand. In addition, it is absolutely applicable in my own small business strategy to engage my contractors giving them ownership of Encite’s projects.

I always highly encourage my friends, family, clients and colleagues to attend events such as these. You initially may not think the topics don’t apply to you or your career, but they can and do. Besides, the ones provided by my alma mater, CSU, are free!


Adam is a graduate of Colorado State University (bachelor’s degree in marketing), and he has experience on both the client and agency side of the marketing world. These experiences led him to come up with a unique, more efficient business model, which he’s incorporated into Encite Marketing. Adam sets the strategic direction for all Encite projects, developing integrated marketing campaigns that bring results. He takes a consultative approach with clients, educating them about how the process works, and keeping them in the loop about end goals, steps, and tasks.