It’s tough to hire great workers. And then once you have them, you face a new problem.
Our recent survey of construction businesses found that 70 percent of construction firms are trying to deal with their own skilled labor shortage problem by poaching talent from competitors.
The survey also found that of all the tactics a firm uses to retain skilled workers, the most common was to increase compensation and benefits (66 percent of respondents). This is difficult for a small firm, but you need to figure out a way to keep your employees or else suffer some dire consequences:
- You will be stuck in a constant cycle of hiring and training new workers, without ever fully reaping the benefits of the investment you’ve sunk into your employees.
- Your projects will get disrupted as you scramble to fill gaps in your workforce, leading to higher costs and disgruntled customers, ultimately costing you bids in the future.
So how do you, a small business owner, keep them from bolting for the higher paychecks of Bechtel or Turner—or even just a local competitor that has deeper pockets than you?
The Less-Expensive Solution to Construction Turnover: Loyalty
Retaining employees is difficult, and small firms must build loyalty with employees or your employees will be part of the one in five construction employees that change jobs.
You may not have the budget or the room for career advancement that a large construction firm can offer, but you have other advantages that may mean the difference between a worker staying or going.
Engage and communicate with your employees to foster trust, offer flexible work options, make the job site a great place to work, keep training and developing them and as they help you become more profitable, pass some of the profits on to them.
1. Engage and Communicate With Employees to Foster Trust
A big part of keeping workers is connecting with them and making them feel heard and respected.
You need to engage with your employees in order to build their passion and dedication for their jobs. If employees feel that they have an important voice in your organization, and that you will take their ideas and concerns seriously, they will develop a sense of loyalty. Here’s how to best engage with workers:
- Treat employees respectfully and fairly. Involve them in the decision-making process, like making it a routine to ask them for their opinion on whether certain tasks are possible and how long they would take, or if they have any ideas on how to better handle the task. Consult with them regularly and show that you respect their opinions.
- Continue to mentor your employees long after you’ve hired them. You’ve probably spent a lot of time training them, and that free education is valuable. Make the mentoring program formal. Reach out to community colleges and the Department of Labor to set up your own program.
Make it clear that your workers are crucial to your organization by finding as many touch points for engagement as possible. The more thorough the communication, the deeper the trust.
2. Offer Flexibility and Transparency Unmatched by Large Firms
As we’ve mentioned above, it’s difficult to compete with large firms when it comes to offering better pay and advancement opportunities. But there are ways in which small firms like yours can shift the playing field and offer employees certain perks that large firms can’t match.
If certain work doesn’t need collaboration with others to finish, provide the employee with 24-hour access to the job site and let him or her complete the job on their own time, as long as it is by a certain deadline. This has the double advantage of fostering trust in your employee, and instilling a self-starting instinct that will serve you well as the worker grows in your organization.
Another benefit you can offer is personal development that can only be gained by getting a look at the inner workings of a construction firm.
Construction managers often lack creativity when it comes to career advancement. Many assume they can only appease employees with a promotion to a new position or a pay bump, forgetting that they can offer the valuable opportunity of learning a part of the business.
Offer them a chance to represent your company at a conference as an expert. Or involve them in the fundamental decision-making of your business, giving them the opportunity to discover new areas for company growth.
You need to have a conversation with your employee about what they hope to accomplish at your firm, and how you can help them do that. Make it clear that you intend to work with them closely to make those goals happen.
There’s one more perk you can offer, if you are one of the many construction managers who also own the small business: Let your employees share in the wealth—something that will further motivate them to get projects done on time and under budget. Be transparent with your workers on how much a project made and break down how much they’ll see in their next paycheck as a result.
Sit down and figure out what your employee can do to boost your bottom line, and then set that as a goal or benchmark for their performance. Have a conversation with your employee about that expectation and how much extra money they would be in line to make, and you’ll find they’re excited about going the extra mile for your firm.
With these loyalty boosting tips in mind, here are a few things you can do to get things rolling at your small construction firm:
- Carve out a couple hours in your schedule to determine what perks you can offer to your employees, whether that be career advancement, revenue sharing or anything else we discussed.
- Draw up a detailed plan and schedule for when employees can begin to see these benefits.
- Call an all-employee meeting and announce these changes. Hold a Q&A session after so you can hear their concerns and make any adjustments as need be.
- Schedule regular meetings with each of your employees so you can hear their concerns and begin a regular one-on-one dialogue with them. Offer an anonymous comment box as well.