The share of workers quitting jobs hit a post-Great-Recession high in 2019, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics, challenging employers even further in this era of low unemployment and competition for qualified workers. Construction companies large and small are flush with projects. Yet, their ability to fulfill those projects could be jeopardized by the realities of today’s labor market, in which workers are in such high demand that both candidates and current employees are being actively targeted by job recruiters.
And, according to the ADP Workforce Vitality Index, the industry suffers from an average turnover rate of 21.4%. For business owners, this has sparked an increased interest in strategies to reduce attrition, rehiring and retraining costs, and to create long-term workforce stability.
Most employers are keenly aware of the need to pay competitive wages and, therefore, include it in their projected costs. But it doesn’t stop there. They’re also strategizing ways to improve the employee experience and create a positive work environment.
An October 2019 report, “Workplace Satisfaction Report: What Workers Want—And What Doesn’t Matter,” revealed that there is often a disconnect between what employees want in their jobs and how often they experience those benefits. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and the best way to find out what motivates employees in the workplace is to start a conversation.
You need to specifically ask your employees, “What’s most important to you?” For one employee, it might be more flexible hours. For another, it might be additional time off. And for a third, it might even be the opportunity to lead a new initiative or be considered for more responsibilities. Providing benefits that employees want but don’t necessarily expect allows employers to deliver benefits that make a real impact on employee engagement.
What Workers Want
As part of the survey, skilled trades workers were asked what factors they prioritize in the workplace. The top responses were: opportunities for growth and advancement, business practices in line with personal values, opportunities to gain marketable skills, recognition for their work and job security. These factors aren’t just valuable for the skilled trades, but for all employees. Keep them in mind as you consider the following components for inclusion in your retention strategy.
1. Prioritized Onboarding
One company I work with sends each new hire an onboarding package that includes a letter from the supervisor, as well as a hard hat, t-shirt, safety vest and short bios about all the people they will meet during their first day. It’s a great strategy for kickstarting a feeling of belonging for new employees. Effective retention of top employees begins even before an employee’s first day on the job. Successful onboarding strategies include:
- Consistent communication—Making contact with candidates between the time an offer is made and their scheduled start date is crucial to the onboarding process.
- Clearly defined job expectations—Be sure to document expected duties and set 30-, 60- and 90-day goals. New employees should have access to all the information they need and managers who can answer questions.
- Regular check-ins—Schedule a meeting with new hires on their first day, first week and first month to answer questions and mitigate concerns.
2. Culture of communication
Your employee value proposition (EVP) isn’t just for attracting talent; it also helps retain workers by defining what your company (and current employees) stand for. When creating an EVP, be sure to:
- Make sure your EVP is an honest statement of your culture, workplace and brand.
- Establish trust by following through on the values articulated in your EVP.
- Consistently look for new ways to demonstrate your EVP.
3. Consistent Feedback
Ensuring that employees feel productive, invested and appreciated will make them more likely to say no to other job offers and choose to stay on your team. You can offer your employees this security by:
- Offering frequent performance conversations and in-the-moment feedback, which create better work habits for all employees
- Normalizing regular communication about what “good work” looks like for specific tasks and how employees can get there, which makes the process of correcting mistakes more palatable
- Offering consistent feedback to reduce the opportunity for misunderstandings and clarify what is good behavior and what falls short; keep in mind that high-performing employees might interpret a lack of feedback as a lack of appreciation for their good work
4. Opportunities for Growth
Even satisfied employees are often looking ahead to the next chapter. Take advantage of their strengths to help them succeed.
- Make sure you’re challenging your workers and allowing them to develop skills that will help them contribute more and advance in the company.
- Create opportunities for employees to grow within your organization rather than making them feel they have to move out to move up.
- Make workforce development a top priority—it’s an investment that pays.
Upskilling, or training and advancement practices that help workers learn new skills and take on new responsibilities, is being used more frequently to keep workers on top of their game. Consider these best practices:
- Identify and address your company’s skills gaps.
- Pinpoint high-performing workers and ask what training or certifications will help them achieve their future goals.
- Consider the impact of mentorships and other opportunities that cultivate a leadership mindset.
Today’s labor market is already challenging, and workers are setting the terms of their employment. To make a real difference, companies need to know why workers quit and understand how to create a work environment that makes them want to stay.