Talent retention and
attraction of skilled employees

Downer understands we need to retain, develop and attract the best talent in order to successfully deliver on our Purpose, Promise and Pillars. Downer’s strategic approach to maintaining and developing the best talent starts with supporting and retaining our existing leadership and workforce talent.

We do this by constantly monitoring the labour and business markets to:

  • Understand national and state-based skills shortages
  • Benchmark and adjust employment packages
  • Align our talent development and succession programs to business needs
  • Direct our workforce development strategy and plans.

Our strategy for attraction has a focus across generations and gender. Developing pipelines of talent to meet our requirements ensures Downer’s continued success. By identifying and fulfilling the right skillsets, knowledge and experience in our people, we ensure collaborative relationships remain effective, our operations are productive, and our customers are supported.

Downer workforce by age group
Age category
Percentage of workforce
Under 30 years old
30-50 years old
Over 50 years old

Talent Management and Succession Planning (TMSP) framework

At Downer, we apply a Talent Management and Succession Planning (TMSP) framework across the business which involves assessing current business challenges and opportunities, and ensuring workforce plans meet Downer’s strategic objectives. It provides strong foundations to ensure Downer has the right capabilities and provides the best career opportunities for its people. Effective TMSP supports our managers to have direct and open conversations with employees about their performance, potential and aspirations and then plan and execute strategies to develop their people to meet business needs.

Downer’s TMSP framework supports a culture where talent is identified, developed and retained. The model is made up of the following components:

    • Nine-box talent matrix
    • Talent profiles
    • Peer reviews and calibration sessions
    • Strategic succession plans.

    Downer uses a balanced approach consisting of:



learning through day-to-day tasks and practice



learning through structured courses and programs.

This ensures that each of our people can be challenged, and can influence their development against career aspirations and trajectory.

The education of our people occurs across gender and generation.

Internal courses were delivered either by Downer or through Downer-approved facilitators and covered a range of subjects including company compliance, technical skill development, soft skill development, cultural development, project compliance and trade certificates.

In FY19, Downer delivered over 170,000 hours of internal courses. Course participation was 40 per cent female and 60 per cent male. Based on workforce profile, this amounts to 3.8 hours per female and 3.0 hours per male.

These total hours of training exclude external training, such as courses delivered by TAFE or another Registered Training Organisation, University or other forms of mandatory or licensing training.

Discovering and developing the capabilities of our people is how we deliver the best solutions for our customers.

The Downer capability frameworks have been developed to ensure we:

  • Identify the behaviours and performance standards needed at Downer
  • Design roles that meet the needs of Downer
  • Employ the right people for the right roles based on capability, behaviour and technical skills
  • Support all leaders to succeed in their role
  • Encourage skills and knowledge development
  • Recognise and reward those who achieve excellence.

Downer has many capability streams, but views leadership, project management and Zero Harm as key disciplines that are fundamental to our continued success. The performance requirements are different at each level and are articulated in the Leadership Capability framework.

Leadership Excellence programs at Downer are a suite of leadership tools and programs that support a consistent approach to leadership development to produce highly skilled leaders. The ability to manage a team with strong leadership skills will create safe working environments, inspire action and increase engagement and productivity in the workplace.

The breadth of Downer’s operations provides diverse and rich career development opportunities, so employees remain engaged through structured career growth. We recognise that embracing difference fuels innovation and enables more informed decision making.

Career pathways – room to grow

Downer invests heavily in the professional development of our people. We work with our people to identify career goals and develop structured career pathways. Combining a career pathway focus with our large employee footprint, we offer opportunities for career growth within the confines of our teams across all Divisions.

Remuneration and reward

Downer implements a remuneration and reward strategy which focuses on market competitive remuneration packages to attract and retain industry leading talent. This strategy draws on the collective remuneration experience of our team and includes a focus on market competitiveness and further incentives.

Employee benefits

We understand that Downer employees are also everyday consumers. By leveraging on our company size, we provide access to a variety of benefits at large discounts to support our employees and their families.

All full time and part time employees at Downer’s major Australian and New Zealand sites receive access to benefits including:

  • Professional development: study assistance, training, mentoring and secondments across the business
  • Financial and other benefits: salary sacrifice superannuation, novated leasing, leave entitlements, banking discounts and offers, and employee recognition
  • Health and wellbeing: flexible work arrangements, discounted health insurance and gym memberships, and health check-ups
  • Lifestyle benefits: travel and accommodation deals, discounted vehicle rentals and leasing deals, discounted technology products and a wide range shopping offers.

Employee engagement survey

Downer conducted its fifth annual organisation-wide Employee Engagement Survey in 2019. This year more than 50 per cent of our workforce provided feedback, an increase on the 2018 participation rate.

The survey is an important opportunity for people at all levels of our workforce to provide honest feedback on how Downer performs across a range of key areas including leadership, career development, recruitment and selection, rewards and recognition, Zero Harm, cross unit collaboration and technology.

We benchmark our performances against previous years’ results to track our progress. This analysis is also refined to examine year-on-year performance of our Divisions and the business units within these Divisions. Downer uses the feedback and insights gained from this survey to shape the strategies we implement to improve employee engagement.

This year Downer achieved an engagement score (which

measures the positive attitudes and emotions that contribute to employee retention and productivity) of 72 per cent, and a progress score (measuring staff perceptions about organisational performance) of 65 per cent. Both scores are increases on Downer’s 2018 results, which were 69 and 61 per cent respectively.

Safety continues to be a key strength for Downer, with 84 per cent of people responding favourably. Teamwork (86 per cent) has also remained a key strength of the organisation, while Diversity (78 per cent), Results Focus (77 per cent), Mission and Values (76 per cent), Role Clarity (75 per cent), and Supervision (75 per cent) are also among Downer’s higher performing practices in 2019.

Consistent with 2018 results, Career Opportunities and Cross-Unit Cooperation were lower scoring categories in 2019, and will remain key focus areas for improvement.

To address the valuable feedback, Divisional leaders will consult with their teams to create and implement action plans.

Creating the culture – building an engaged workforce

Downer draws on the values and experiences of our people to develop and foster an organisational culture which is engaging and rewarding. We aim to provide a direct line of sight between our peoples’ effort and delivery success. This provides them with a sense of meaning and purpose through their deliverables, leading to stronger business outcomes.

Where opportunities and growth are unable to be fulfilled internally, our talent sourcing teams use insights to work with employment providers and directly source talent across Australia and New Zealand to meet business imperatives.