CEO Insights: What construction CEO’s can do to improve executive retention

Construction CEO’s have more control over executive retention than they may realize. Top talent can be kept as evidenced by the low executive turnover rates of many contractors, and by research studies like the annual¬†“Construction Executive Retention Survey”¬†conducted by Hornberger Management Company.

These studies indicate that construction executive turnover is primarily due to “push factors” inside their current employer (such as poor supervisor relationships, lack of meaningful career challenge and need for job flexibility), rather than “pull factors” from of an alluring outside job opportunity. Many push factors are within the CEO’s control, placing the CEO in the best position to fix the problem.

According to a recent interview with Frederick Hornberger of Hornberger Management Company, “Executive retention is primarily about relationships. Our executive retention surveys consistently indicate that the number one reason executives choose to leave or stay with their current employer is the relationship they have with their direct supervisor.

Consequently the best investment of time and money for an employer is to have their CEO and managers focus on building quality, loyal relationships with their direct reports. Quality work relationships that inspire loyalty can usually be achieved by simply establishing trust through consistent actions of fairness and integrity, permitting participation in decision making, empowering subordinates to reach greater heights of success and challenge, offering genuine recognition and appreciation, demonstrating flexibility, following through on promises, and improving overall communication.”

Hornberger offers the following advice to CEO’s:


  1. Continually survey direct reports.
    CEO’s should regularly meet with their executives to ask them why they stay and what would cause them to leave. Most executives are remarkably willing to talk about their career concerns and needs, and what the issues are which might be driving them away. CEO’s should also require the same informal survey to be done by all management and their direct reports.
  2. Establish a formal employee retention program
    CEO’s should establish an executive retention committee to develop and implement a formal retention strategy based upon specific reasons why key personnel leave, and why others stay.
  3. Become great managers of people.
    CEO’s should invest in company training and education that prepares managers to be highly effective with people. CEO’s need to allow executives to have the job autonomy and flexibility each requires, and evaluate them for performance and not time on the job. CEO’s should also break away from a company culture of compliance to a culture of trust.
  4. Become an employer of choice
    If they are to win in the talent wars, CEO’s must become employers of choice. They must build employee retention and recruitment as a core competency with management. They must also remove the problem supervisors and hire the best managers that they can afford. CEO’s should also build their organizations around their best people, and treat employees like valued customers – only better.

The article above was written by construction recruiter Frederick Hornberger, CPC, president of Hornberger Management Company in Wilmington, Delaware (, a construction recruiter specializing in senior level, executive search.