How you can attract and retain the best surveyors

SMEs have to think differently to compete against the big firms in recruitment.

To help businesses like you, we asked SME directors and recruiters for their hiring and retention advice.

Make the size of the opportunity your USP

Peter Smith MRICS, Director, BFHEE Property Group

“We find it difficult to attract people because many surveyors are attracted to the corporate structure. Within smaller businesses, you don’t get the structured graduate programme that the bigger firms offer. However, within a team like ours, you can make progress quickly.

“Our co-director was a tenant of ours when he was a student, and now he’s grown to become a director and a shareholder within a couple of years. The pathway to becoming an associate partner would take you 10 to 15 years at a large surveying company. That’s why we look for a different type of surveyor for our business: ones that are more entrepreneurial and that will thrive being a bigger fish in a small pond.”

Atrract and retain the best surveyorsOffer a clear career path (and more than just money)

Kirsty Phillips, Training and Marketing Manager, and Steve Williams, Project Manager, Gully Howard Technical

“We find that offering a clear and concise career pathway from the beginning helps to reassure new employees. By investing in having these pathways and being honest about people’s responsibilities, employees feel secure and give their loyalty back to us. We also find that employees who are given a clear path perform much better than those who we recruit externally.

“The studies we’ve looked at show there’s often a disconnect between what an employer thinks a prospective employee’s priorities are and what their actual priorities are. These reports also show that, for employees, choosing a new job is not all about the money they’re being offered. This works in SME’s favour because, even if you’re not the most competitive on salary, potential employees see extra training and mentoring as far more valuable.”

Think differently about recruitment

Liz Rhodes, Executive Assistant, George F White 

“We are a business of mostly rural and multi-discipline surveyors located in the North East. It is extremely important that we attract the right type of surveyors for our business. We recruit a lot at graduate level, mostly from universities such as Harper Adams, as well as occasional placement students that perform strongly and show a commercial approach and good working attitude.

“We’re also looking at starting higher degree apprenticeships in our rural offices where there are strong and good schools. We’re happy to trail-blaze these in our area as they mean that we can find people with the right attitude and that we can help to grow. The multi-disciplined nature of our business means that we can cover all of the APC competencies, which is a major attraction for many.

“In addition to this, we have a strong relationship with our regional RICS office in Newcastle, meaning we can take advantage of all of their courses and opportunities. They were the ones that encouraged me to take the APC Supervisor and Counsellor course and are always looking to help us improve our training and recruitment. I cannot sing their praises enough!”

Sell your supportive environment

Joe Arnold MRICS, Managing Director, Arnold & Baldwin

“We operate a more traditional model with a surveyor-based hub. Although our team have a lot of work outside of the hub, we encourage them to come back as often as they can to the office. This has helped us create a sharing culture that people can benefit from and where knowledge can expand and grow.

“We’re also still small enough so we know everyone. This means we can invest time and energy into each individual’s needs. We know who they are and can be flexible with their working hours or give them the training they need to progress down the path they choose, as well as the support they need during their training, especially with the APC. This support, along with our honest and approachable values, mean that we have a really good retention rate.”

Be creative with your benefits

Andy Williams, Managing Partner, Powell Williams

“Although we find that money is still important to people, I believe you’ve got to offer more than just a salary – you’ve got to provide a combination of remuneration, plus a place where people want to work. The feel-good factor of working on interesting projects and in high-profile environments is a big pull for us.

“I believe that to compete, small businesses have to be more creative with their bonus structures. Ours is based on a six-part plan that remunerates employees for completing training, extra curricular work, business generation and client care.

“Our industry has seen a significant increase in salaries. If it’s going to continue in this way, something has to give. Whether it’s with holidays or days off, businesses need to be more imaginative with their benefits packages to keep ahead of competitors.”

Promote your specialism

Dan Knowles MRICS, Director, Sawyer Fielding

“We specialise in compulsory purchase, which means our surveyors need to have a mix of skills. They need to know hard technical legislation and case law but also have softer social skills: to explain complex information to people who don’t have a legal background and are in a highly emotional state. I always say to recruitment consultants, if you can find me a chartered surveyor who used to be a social worker and has Jeremy Corbyn on speed dial, that will be perfect!

“You need to perform tasks outside of standard surveying, as well as having a range of skills. This means it’s a niche role that’s not for everyone but really attractive to some. I think it’s important to be honest about that as retention is key in a small company. You can’t afford to lose people because they’re not getting what they signed up to. We’re a bit different in many ways, not just in our specialism; we’re a young company who’s forward thinking, technologically adept and open to flexible working too.”

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