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Luxury homebuilder aims to keep top talent

London Bay Homes uses unique retention strategies to keep A players.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 6:00 a.m. April 27, 2018
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Stefania Pifferi. Sabra Smith oversees human resources at Naples-based London Bay Homes.
Stefania Pifferi. Sabra Smith oversees human resources at Naples-based London Bay Homes.
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A retention program is like gold to a fast-growing homebuilder, which is why London Bay Homes Vice President of Human Resources Sabra Smith and her team spend so much time on it.

It starts as soon an employee starts working at the luxury homebuilder. “The time we spend with them post hire — introducing them to the entire company, our processes, procedures, staff — can make a tremendous difference in their success and retention rate,” says Smith.

Retention becomes even more targeted once an employee spends time at the company, and executives and managers assess the quality of his or her work. The company, starting recently, has begun to emphasize its top employees and spend less time on C and D-graded staffers. “We want to spend our time working on our A players,” says Smith.

Smith says the firm doesn’t necessarily “move out” mediocre or subpar employees, like Jack Welch’s famous rank and yank program at GE. Instead, it’s more a recognition that some employees aren’t going to be All-Stars, and should be handled that way. Those employees have what the company calls two-plus-two employee reviews. At those sessions, managers go over two things an employee does right and two things they can work on in the next 90-120 days.

Meanwhile, for top employees, Smith says managers hold stay-interviews every six months or so, where the discussion revolves around how an employee can move up in the company. “People are responsible for their own careers,” Smith says, but this process enables them to see their future better at the firm, which leads to longer retention rates. Adds Smith: “You never want to have to replace a top employee.”

In several high-end markets from Sarasota to Naples, London Bay Homes has been on a hiring surge of late, nearly doubling the payroll since 2015, from about 60 people to 110 today. Smith says like other builders, the tight labor market is a factor in hiring, but it seems to impact subcontractors more than London Bay in finding and attracting talent.

Even before the recent growth period, London Bay has long emphasized employee perks to help retain top people, down to providing a $100 Fitbit activity tracker and free gym memberships to employees. It also holds an annual end-of-season party; this year’s is scheduled for May 5 at the beach, where there will be a DJ, paddleboards, food and beverages and spouses are welcome. Says Smith: “People want to feel engaged and embraced when they come to work.”  


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