News  |  

Bringing New Meaning to “R&R” Transforming Recruitment + Retention at B&A

Kirstin Starkey, vice president of human resources, is no stranger to growth and change. In the eight years since Starkey joined Bulley & Andrews (B&A), she has seen the firm expand from a 75-person in-office team, to being 190+ and transition from a one-and-a-half story building to a four-story, LEED certified office with a rooftop view of downtown Chicago. Couple this with the firm’s current field force of roughly 450 and it’s plain to see how much development Starkey has witnessed during her tenure.

She attributes B&A’s steady clip in talent acquisition1 to the firm’s great reputation, healthy backlog and noteworthy assignments, such as The Belden-Stratford, Downers Grove School District 58 and the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. These projects are well recognized in the marketplace and bolster our name recognition in the industry, which makes us top of mind for those seeking new opportunities.

“It’s clear that our dedication to fostering a dynamic work environment, combined with appealing projects for great clients, has made B&A an employer of choice for top-tier talent seeking rewarding opportunities,” said Starkey. Considering the stream of sizable projects coming down the pike, she added that leadership anticipates adding more positions in 2024.

Increasing B&A’s workforce not only supports the firm’s backlog, but it has the residual benefit of infusing our established team with new ideas, Starkey explained. “New talent brings new energy and a fresh perspective on problem-solving and processes that help keep the firm nimble and innovative,” she said.

A seasoned human resources professional with a background in the media industry, Starkey’s pivot to the construction industry was a welcomed challenge. She started at B&A as a department of one. From the onset, she was encouraged to share new ideas and develop policies and programs that would elevate and enhance the employee experience.

“I had never been a sole practitioner before and wanted to be respectful of the long-standing history of the firm,” she said. “I learned in my career that you can’t just implement what you had at one company and apply it someplace else. You need to learn and understand the culture before making recommendations or changes.”

Fast forward eight years—and with the much-needed support of Clarissa Moreno, HR administrator, Emily Wipperfurth, HR coordinator and, most recently, Yanira Otero, training and development administrator—workplace culture is the focus of B&A’s two-pronged growth strategy, which includes retaining great employees and recruiting new talent.

A central element of B&A’s retention strategy is ensuring employees are afforded a healthy work-life balance, provided opportunities for professional development and have a clear understanding of their career path options.

Starkey noted that flexibility, robust volunteering opportunities and paid time-off options are just some of the perks B&A employees enjoy. The establishment of leadership training programs and staff development tools, such as the new Bridge Learning Management System, to help create, manage and track training for employees, are also key investments in retention.

“We want to develop from within to the greatest extent possible,” said Starkey. “We give people the tools, resources and a clear understanding of how they can advance their career. Our size allows our talent to go in a lot of different directions in their career. The company is highly supportive of that.”

Starkey cited Dana Erdman, vice president of technology and innovation, as a prime example. Erdman joined B&A in 2008 in an administrative capacity. She demonstrated a clear aptitude for technology and process improvement. It didn’t take long for the executive team to realize how to best leverage her talents and skill set.

Dana had an interest in technology along with the qualities B&A values: ingenuity, a strong work ethic and motivation to succeed. B&A recognized and invested in her development. Today, nearly 17 years later, she oversees a team of seven and leads the firm’s virtual design and construction services group.

When it comes to cultivating new talent, B&A’s internship program has evolved into an industry-leading experience for undergraduates. The curriculum provides the next generation of professionals an enriching experience and gives B&A access to new talent.

Each year, B&A attends a variety of career fairs across the region. The intern program is B&A’s talent pipeline with 15 former interns becoming full-time hires—many of whom have advanced to assistant project manager, project manager and superintendent roles.

Starkey believes that the momentum B&A is experiencing with upcoming projects and interest from new talent is a strong reflection of the firm’s brand and the enviable reputation it’s earned and maintained. “All the candidates we interview recognize the quality of our work and the valuable relationships we’ve cultivated with clients and industry partners,” said Starkey. “A good brand and an engaging work environment are a winning combination.”

She also points to the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and the Young Professionals Alliance, as drivers for attracting, acquiring and retaining top talent.

In an industry historically dominated by men, Starkey is particularly proud of B&A’s effort to nurture and promote female talent in the office and the field. ”It’s been great to see more women interested and excited about a career in construction. I expect the number to increase as STEM programs are introduced at an earlier age in schools.”

For Starkey, the increase in B&A’s level of diversity is not only a step in the right direction for the firm, but also plays a strong role in how its teams build relationships outside of the office. “We are evolving in the truest sense of the word. As B&A grows, we’re more reflective of the communities we serve,” said Starkey.

When Starkey started in 2016, B&A’s volume hovered around $350 million; our current volume for 2024 is projected to be over $600 million. The substantial growth in both volume and talent within B&A has reaffirmed her belief that embracing change is essential for personal and professional development.

“Joining B&A has been the fulfilling opportunity I envisioned. Every day presents fresh challenges and the chance to make a positive impact,” said Starkey.

“Joining B&A has been the fulfilling opportunity I envisioned. Every day presents fresh challenges and the chance to make a positive impact.”

Kirstin Starkey
Vice President, Human Resources
  1. In 2023 alone, B&A onboarded 50 new hires. ↩︎