Having worked with numerous senior leaders across a spectrum of architecture firms of all shapes and sizes, it never fails to amaze me how many of them still struggle to hold on to their top talent. Even more surprising is how out of touch these same senior leaders are when it comes to understanding the reasons why their key employees keep leaving.

There are few comparable situations in business that cause such a drain on resources and such a disruption of operations like the departure of a key employee. Yet, while the leadership at the firms most struggling with the counter offer culture may be paying lip service to concepts like, talent management, leadership development, and employee engagement, a closer look at the firm’s operations and culture reveals that the systems to support these lofty ideals just aren’t there.

So, the obvious question is why is this happening? What is causing the break between the things that are being said and the things that are happening on the ground?

Here is the answer in one sentence:

When it comes to talent acquisition, these firms are too focused on what they can get out of the arrangement instead of what they have to offer.

Think about this for a moment.

Almost every single reason why top talent will leave, boils down to this point. When the leadership at a firm is too focused inward on their own perceived greatness, then it is very easy to miss the opportunities that may lie even slightly outside of their orbit. These opportunities include losing top talent to the competition, but also involve recognising and responding to the trends that are shaping the industry, both now and in the foreseeable future.

Many firms are just expecting that every candidate they meet will know all about them and instantly fall in love with them. They expect that their name or brand alone along with a few glittering benefits will be enough to hold on to the best and brightest. Usually, however, they’re wrong.

Employees who consistently feel challenged, valued, and rewarded for their hard work, will be much less likely to leave. They will also be more engaged, more motivated, and more pleasant to be around. But to achieve this, firms need to clearly show a real path for career advancement and not just focus on the exciting projects they have to offer. Prospective candidates need to not only be wooed and shown why exactly they should want to work for the firm, but there needs to be real opportunities and systems in place to support it. Otherwise, everything is just empty sound bites.

Before I end this article, I want to make something very clear: Every firm has it’s own unique culture and structure. Some will offer employees more of a voice than others. Some will offer more freedom or skill development or new experiences or exposure to high-profile projects. There is no one perfect way and no one-size-fits-all culture to attract and retain key employees. Each firm has to discover what they truly have to offer as well as which candidates will appreciate that the most.

The point is where is your focus? Do you actually care about the people who are working for you? Are you looking just to take, or are you making a real effort to give back to the very people who are turning your firm’s mission into a reality?