The Sarasota-based firm didn't skip a beat amid a pandemic and worker shortage. All it needed was free coffee. And the desire to challenge normal conventions.
Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors has hired 10 team members since March 2020 — a 47.6% increase in payroll, from 21 to 31 people.
While other companies struggled to hire and retain people, how did the Sarasota-based firm find its sweet spot in hiring and retention while other companies struggled? Lots of Zoom calls. A bedrock adherence to maintaining a strong culture. Providing diverse and interesting opportunities for new employees. And free coffee.
“I believe it's because they see a firm that is exploring design and challenging normal conventions,” says partner Todd Sweet in an email exchange. “We want to attract designers who are highly creative and motivated. If we produce creative solutions, they, in turn, see a place where their talents will be realized.”
“We try not to pigeonhole employees,” Sweet adds. “One month they may be working on a home, while the next we will ask them to assist with a theatre renovation. We have a nice variety of building typologies.”
Sweet Sparkman is another company that’s also found success on the other end of investing in its workforce. It offers continual training on different design software, for example, while also pairing up new and seasoned employees to strengthen familiarity.
“Providing our employees with education while keeping the atmosphere in the office collaborative helps keep a strong labor pool,” Sweet says. “We support and encourage our employees to become registered in their field of study; whether it is architecture, interior design, or sustainability.”
Sweet adds that employees are encouraged to pursue leadership programs through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota Chamber of Commerce or American Institute of Architects. And that they'll always have access to the latest design technology.
“Our staff is the most valuable asset in our practice and we try to treat them as such,” Sweet writes. “We want them to feel safe and happy and provide them with an atmosphere where they can truly explore and be creative — this, in turn, helps retain them.”
— Amanda Postma