Follow these three steps to retain the best employees.

The current economic climate has caused a certain amount of business upheaval. Nowhere is that more evident than in the construction business.  This is the time to look at your employees and make sure they are the ones you need. Owners should take actions to dismiss those employees who are a distinct drag on business and hire employees who will be needed both now and in the future. 

It is important to focus on acquiring and maintaining the right complement of employees-those who are technically capable but who also invest themselves and their efforts into your business. When a business owner has employees who value the business endeavor, then that owner will also have a group of employees who will remain with the company and promote its growth as well as their own growth. By learning the steps\required to reach a "value-added" level of doing business, you will maintain a strong employee base to sustain in the current business climate.

Getting Started

Unless you have gone through a drastic lay-off process in recent months-to the extent that only two or three employees remain-then you will be able to look around at your current employees and determine those who fall into one of three groups:  1. Those who have the best intentions but never quite function at the level needed; 2. Those whose attention has drifted from the work at hand and the company's best interests to focus instead on alternative pursuits; and 3. Those who actively engage in the organization's purpose and try hard to put forth their very best effort at all times.

Evaluate Your Construction Employees

Now is the time to look closely at those in groups 1 and 2 to make a serious determination of who should stay and who should go.  For those in group 1, it is a straightforward decision; however, for those in group 2, it will require a serious effort of determining who could be re-engaged or retrained.  You will also want to estimate what portion of your employees can be maintained on part-time status-this is another critical decision because part-time employees often are not as loyal as those in full-time contracts. 


Once these employment decisions have been made, you will know the size of the pool that requires retraining as well as the number of new employees that you will be seeking.  Both of these groups will then join with employees from group 3 to form your pool of "valuers."

Step One

Once you have a wholly competent group of employees, you are not automatically ensured that you will have employees who know how to add value to your company.  Employees generally have to be taught how this is done.  To provide this instruction, you will need to decide how it is done.

The first step is to understand what it means for an employee to be considered a "valuer."  The three checkpoints are as follows: 1. An employee who goes beyond normal duties by offering more-either in the form of better quality or enhanced production; 2. An employee who seeks solutions independently, without being prompted to do so; and 3. An employee who acts responsibly.

Let's take these factors one at a time.  Going beyond normal duties means that an employee is not satisfied to simply work at a minimal level but will actively seek ways in which he or she can enhance the job by adding embellishments-taking the time to continually enhance his or her work until it is of superior quality, coming up with new product ideas, contributing service to other employees and so on.  Seeking solutions is the act of knowing the intent and purpose of the work so well that one does not wait for a supervisor to assign work tasks but takes the initiative to actively look for solutions to challenges and problems that arise without being directed to do so. It is this level of accountability that identifies an employee who will add value.

Step Two

The second step in providing an employee base that adds value is to set actions in motion that will allow all employees to grasp what the company is all about-what it stands for and what it is trying to achieve-as well as for employees to fully understand what they can do to contribute to the company's well-being.


The best way to provide this critical understanding is to have employees engage with you in planning for the company's future. Only employees who have a good functional knowledge of the company's goals and directions can fully understand their roles and potential for adding value.

Step Three

Leaders who create sound companies are absolutely clear about what the direction should be and what will be required for employees to contribute to the process. The third step, then, is to set the company's clear direction and invite employees to join you in determining the strategies and goals that will facilitate achieving the purpose. 

This step is accompanied by reviewing where your company has been and where it needs to go.  During this process, you and your employees will also determine how to carry out the goals and how to measure when they have been achieved.

Construction company owners are sometimes reluctant to invite employees to participate in the tough decisions about the company's future for fear of overloading employees beyond their level of interest.  In fact, the opposite is true-only when employees are engaged in the heart of the company will you be able to maintain a company comprised of employees who care about the company's future as much as you do.  This is a critical juncture-making the decision to have a company of "valuers" is making the decision for a better future for your company.



Construction Business Owner, October 2010