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Business Observer Wednesday, May 25, 2022 2 months ago

Builder, in war to retain employees, rewards employees with $1.6M

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Construction firm DeAngelis Diamond gets creative in finding ways to not only get new employees to join the team but also to stay.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Southwest Florida construction executive Brett Diamond says hiring people is (somewhat) easy at the nearly $400 million builder, DeAngelis Diamond, where he’s chief administrative officer. That’s in spite of the pinching labor market. The real bugaboo? Keeping them.

“One of the toughest challenges of construction is retention,” says Diamond, 32. “You can get the people in the door, but getting them to stay when a headhunter comes calling to poach them is a real challenge.”

The Naples-based company, tied for No. 3 on the 2022 Business Observer’s Top 50 Contractors list with $365 million in revenue in 2021, has been pounding away at the challenge for more than year — with some tangible solutions. The effort is coming at the right time, too, as the 185-employee company has a big goal for 2022: hire 100 people. Some of those employees will go to current projects, in health care, multifamily and other commercial sectors, in markets that include Naples, Sarasota, Orlando and Nashville.

Given DeAngelis Diamond ‘s model is to mostly assign project work to subcontractors, many of those positions are project manager and site supervisor roles, which normally require higher salaries and better benefits.

Enter Team Beni.

Named for benefits, the 12-person inter-departmental team at DeAngelis Diamond set out to create a benefits package that would be a magnet for employees who either get recruited or fall into the grass-is-greener Great Resignation rabbit hole. “As we grow as a company,” says Diamond, of the firm, founded in 1996, “we have to stay on top of” all the benefits competitors offer.

Team Beni studied what other companies were doing to keep people, and not just builders. They contacted HR departments at companies like LinkedIn and software and cloud computing form box.com. And one element stood out: potential for financial compensation beyond salary.

That led to one of the biggest benefits steps ever taken at DeAngelis Diamond: The DD Wealth Builder plan. The plan allows employees to receive a guaranteed match of up to 6% of their salary, regardless of company profits. An additional discretionary match of up to 4% is provided based on company profits, combining for a potential total of up to 10% of a team member’s salary. 

For fiscal year 2021, in April the company gave $1.6 million back to employees — more than $1 million over 2020 under the previous 401(k) plan, says Diamond. Even employees who were no longer employed by the company, who left on good terms during the fiscal year, were paid out on a percentage basis. “Those former employees were really impressed by that,” says Diamond.

Courtesy. Brett Diamond was named chief administrative officer of Naples-based DeAngelis Diamond in May.

Diamond adds the program has also already begun to pay dividends in the other side of the labor market, hiring. “Recruiters really love this,” he says, “because they’re going to people and pitching this as a extra bonus.”

Diamond, who joined the firm in 2014 and is the son of DeAngelis Diamond co-founder and CEO David Diamond, was promoted to chief administrative officer in May. He’s a partner and previously oversaw the data & analytics and talent departments, so benefits, and how to improve them, was something top of mind.

Diamond took that experience into conversations with the company’s 401(k) support partner, Tampa-based risk management and insurance firm BKS Partners. BKS officials had initially said the match was too high. “They told us what we wanted to do wasn’t possible,” he says, “and we said “‘yes, it is.’”

BKS Partners designed and revised several options for DeAngelis Diamond, before coming up with a program for DD Wealth Builder that satisfied both regulatory concerns and the company’s goals. “What we were able to come up with,” says Diamond, “was really impressive.”

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