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High Turnover? 5 Ways to Improve Employee Retention in Construction

High Turnover? 5 Ways to Improve Employee Retention in Construction

High employee turnover is one of the most challenging issues construction HR managers face. A similar issue is the difficulty in making the construction industry appealing to fresh graduates and new talents.

According to the Commercial Construction Index from the USG Corporation and the US Chamber of Commerce, 58% of contractors report a high level of difficulty in finding skilled workers in the last quarter of 2018. The issue worsened from the same quarter in 2017--it shows a persistent problem in the industry that HR managers need to address.

Employees are a construction company’s greatest assets. Losing one employee may not affect your business that much, but when you lose several employees in a pattern of increasing employee turnover, you need to address the problem immediately. If it continues, it will reduce your company’s productivity and workforce morale, and worse, threaten the existence of your business.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to addressing the construction industry’s turnover problem. Every company has a different set of factors to consider when dealing with workforce woes. However, there are several practices that are proven effective in addressing high turnover and improving employee engagement and retention. Here are some of them.

1. Be clear about your company’s values and culture.

The mission and vision statement, as well as its values, are the guiding principles by which the company conducts its business. These are identified early on and provide a starting point for company culture to develop. But with frequent employee separations, it will be hard for your organization to shape its culture. In turn, this will also make it difficult to find new employees who are “culturally fit”.

It’s important to note that a disconnect between company values and the company leaders’ actions and decision-making will inevitably affect your employees’ perception of the company. If they feel that the leadership does not “walk the talk,” they will walk away.

Visit construction sites for a culture check and observe your organization’s current style of work and overall workplace culture. Ask how workers feel about their working environment and what they want to change. If there is a disconnect between the company’s values and its perceived culture, do something about it immediately. Remember that you can consciously shape the culture with consistent leadership.

2. Focus on improving teamwork and mentorship.

Camaraderie is important in construction work. Workers face a lot of challenges and very real dangers while they are on the construction site so it is important that they have one another’s back while working. Because of this, it is important to foster an environment that values equality, trust, and respect.

There are several ways you can approach this.

  • First, you need to have a well-structured management system. This will put employees on the right track and prevent confusion and work errors.

  • Improve transparency by creating open communication channels to superiors.

  • Finally, having a mentorship program can further improve the relationship between workers and their superiors while allowing the transfer of knowledge and skills.

3. Provide opportunities for professional growth.

Because of the increasing demand for construction services, the industry is quite competitive in acquiring skilled workers. Uncertainty in the constantly changing economy and living situation brings a huge concern about professional development to all employees. Some will inevitably look for new and better opportunities elsewhere if their company does not provide them from within.

Given this, it is important to discuss opportunities for growth with your employees on a regular basis. Professional growth does not simply mean getting promotions. You need to provide opportunities for them to acquire new skills and techniques through training and mentorship that can enrich their professional career.

4. Celebrate employee achievements.

All people want to be recognized for their achievements in the workplace. It means that their effort and time invested in the work are not for nothing and someone higher up appreciates their work. Celebrating successes in the workplace sparks employee motivation and the renewed disposition will show in their work.

For this reason, it is important to have a system in place to reward these successes. It doesn’t have to be costly either. One of the simplest ways you can do is to write about a particular employee or team with a significant achievement, such as meeting safety goals or the development of new techniques, then share it in a company-wide newsletter.

5. Include employees in the decision-making process.

A huge part of improving employee engagement is making them feel that their perspectives and opinions are valued. Getting input from employees in the construction industry is doubly important as being on the field means they have insights that management-level employees may not possess.

Including employees in the decision-making process will instil in them a sense of responsibility. When employees see that their input brought a beneficial change to the company, it will make them feel that they are making a difference.

Conquering the issue of high turnover in construction starts with the willingness to look at the current situation and the willingness to change from within. But the most important thing is to trust and invest in your employees. As Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.”

  Aki Merced is the Content Manager at Handle, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers secure their lien rights and get paid faster by automating the collection process for unpaid construction invoices.