On a nationwide basis, construction businesses face a great challenge in hiring and retaining skilled workers. This means that, if a contractor currently has good people on board, he or she needs to keep them. This article reviews some employee retention fundamentals, including competitive compensation and regular feedback.

Following the fundamentals of employee retention

The skilled labor shortage has been a problem for so long that you might be tired of reading about it. Yet, on a nationwide basis, the fact remains that construction businesses face a great challenge in hiring and retaining well-trained and experienced workers.

If your construction company has good people on board right now, you’ve got to keep them. Given the cash flow fluctuations inherent in the construction industry and every business’s inherent budgetary restrictions, simply “paying ’em more money” probably isn’t the answer. What does generally help is following certain fundamentals when it comes to employee retention.

Safety and work environment

You might think employees’ chief interest is making as much money as possible. But workers understand that compensation tends to fall within a certain range and it’s unlikely that they’re going to find an employer who drastically exceeds that range. Many employees look much more at work environment. Simply put, will they be safe and happy working for your company?

Obviously, when it comes to construction, safety is paramount. A business that takes care of its employees and doesn’t cut corners on safety to save money or speed up projects will more likely retain its skilled workers. So, be sure to track your safety performance closely, and regularly check to ensure that everyone is following rules and protocols.

Beyond physical safety, company culture also plays a role in work environment. Most construction workers place a high value on hard work and sticking with a job until it’s done right. Sometimes this leads to competition between workers and teams. This can produce greater employee job satisfaction — and productivity — if it doesn’t cross the line into unhealthy rivalries or hostile conflicts.

Training and development

Most workers want to do a good job. So, determine which skills are the most critical to your employees’ success and then create a training program designed to “upskill” your workers. This means not only teaching them how to do their jobs currently, but also building on those skills for the future.

Don’t stop there. In addition, provide ongoing training directly related to their jobs. Consider offering seminars, workshops and informal “lunch ’n’ learns” to help your employees widen their knowledge base. This might include teaching them how their skill sets can contribute to keeping projects within budget.

Performance management

It’s human nature for employees to want to know how they’re doing, and your employees are no different. Many construction companies conduct annual performance reviews for in-office staff but may do so less frequently for field workers. Consider a companywide performance management program that includes regular reviews and goal-setting for everyone.

Giving employees feedback only once a year, however, probably isn’t enough. Encourage supervisors to meet with workers more regularly. These discussions shouldn’t involve only criticisms. On the contrary, they should be opportunities to provide praise, ask about well-being, and solicit ideas about how to complete work more safely and with greater quality.

Competitive compensation

While money isn’t everything, it does matter. Re-examine your compensation plan periodically to see whether it has kept pace with the marketplace and your competition. Also make sure that project goals and incentives are realistic, given factors such as the conditions on a jobsite and the availability of materials and equipment.

If you’re not sure what your competitors are paying, your CPA can help you conduct a benchmarking study using trade publications or other available data. You may need to adjust your compensation to keep up.

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A multifaceted approach

There’s no single, simple way to retain good employees. Every construction company needs to take a multifaceted approach that makes sense for their size, market and specialty. The good news is that, once you find the “formula,” you’ll likely see positive results and an improvement in your business’s reputation. This can make hiring a little easier, too.

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