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Employee Engagement Will Help Keep Labor Moving

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Employee Engagement

In our final segment on the Labor Shortage Crisis in Construction series that began in February 2017, we wrap up our coverage by taking a look at some hard numbers to better understand how to best recruit and retain any company’s most valuable asset – its people. While terms like “employee engagement” may sound like some new-age buzzword, many successful firms understand that the key to keeping great talent is to build it up in-house and helping good workers connect to the work that they do. The costs of losing experienced workers often outweigh the savings of hiring cheaper, less skilled labor.

Employee Engagement and the Bottom Line

In a recent survey by Hays U.S., salary remains the top consideration by employees of multiple industries and across all age demographics. While cash is still king, more often employees are looking at the bigger picture when contemplating accepting an employment offer or leaving their current positions. While some of these factors are tangible benefits like dental/medical insurance and 401K’s, more often employees are looking at fewer material benefits like flexible schedules, more paid time-off, and company culture. As tempting as it might be to “throw money at the problem”, an overwhelming percentage of workers (80% overall) would leave their current jobs, many at a pay cut, for one that meets more of their wants (more paid time-off, flexible schedules, and paid professional development).

In Your Neck of the Woods

As bleak as that data presents, no industry is more at risk of losing experienced workers than the construction industry. According to the Hay’s survey, construction professionals in the NY-area are 81% more likely to leave their current job if they receive an offer. This figure includes employed workers who may not be actively looking for another job. Another 65% of those surveyed would consider leaving their current job even if it meant a cut in pay and/or leaving a senior position. Worst yet, only 46% of respondents reported being happy in their field.

Understanding the reasons good people leave their companies is all about grasping the effects of employee engagement and appreciating what matters on a personal level to your employees. Before jumping into what “employee engagement” is, let’s briefly discuss what “employee engagement” is not.  Employee engagement is not creating company slogans or filling out feedback surveys with no visible action. Employees can be cynical and will see right through these half-hearted programs. Instead, a strong emphasis on company culture, leadership, and actionable steps in response to worker feedback are the backbone of employee engagement.

This emphasis on aligning your corporate values to your employee’s personal beliefs spans across generations and isn’t limited to being a Millennial trend or an appeasement to Boomers. According to the Hay’s survey, of the 81% in construction that would consider a move, the vast majority of those polled cited company culture – the company’s core values and their (in)ability to make actionable decisions based on employee feedback – as the main reason they’d consider leaving.

The current labor shortage doesn’t just affect an employer’s ability to hire new workers. Employers must also find ways to retain workers who’ve acquired the skills that help keep your business growing. At a recent Grassi & Co. event, representatives from consulting firm, FMI, discussed that one of the biggest problems facing many family-owned, construction firms are the lack of succession plans. As experienced workers leave the ranks or the industry altogether, many firms find themselves contending with trying to new blood and replacing experienced mid-tier leadership. A recipe for financial disaster.

Turning the tide isn’t done overnight but there are some key considerations that the construction industry should take note of. While many news pieces focus on free lunches and corporate sponsored happy hours as examples of “good company culture,” most workers are looking for far more practical indicators of good company culture like those mentioned earlier. In construction, one of the most sought-after employee benefits is professional development stipends – your workers are looking for additional training and would stay on longer if an employer funds their training!

Always Forward, Forward Always

Over the last year, we’ve taken a deep dive into understanding the ongoing labor shortage crisis in the U.S. We’ve covered various strategies for turning the labor shortage crisis around – from actively recruiting more women, creating new partnerships with schools and universities,  and we’ve even dispelled some myths about the construction industry. As we wrap up our coverage for the year, we’re ending the series on a positive note – you have the tools and the know-how to get past the labor shortage crisis. As an industry that prides itself on getting the job done, there isn’t anything you can’t tackle. As the year wraps up TSCTA looks forward to another year of reporting on the stories that matter most to our readers. As 2018 approaches, we just have one more thing to say about the labor shortage crisis – “We quit!” (For now.)