Retaining Your Skilled Employees: It's More Than a Free Lunch

The construction industry’s labor shortage means residential builders are busier than ever.

We’ve covered how to find and recruit talented new employees for your construction business, but solutions to the current labor shortage don’t just entail finding more skilled employees. It’s also important to understand how to retain current workers.

Retaining your employees, especially experienced, skilled workers, is key to growing your business. If you lose skilled workers, you lose your consistency, and in turn, lose the leverage needed to attract new clients and grow a healthy business.

But retaining your current employees requires an understanding of what your current employees need. How a company hires, maintains and keeps those workers is often the difference between the business’s success and failure.

How to Keep the Good People You Have

Penn Foster’s 2018 Workplace Development Report found that retention rates in the construction industry have decreased in the last several decades, down to 43 percent in 2017.

To understand why workers are motivated to leave their jobs is the first step in learning how you can keep them around. The key is knowing where employees are at in their career.

Retaining Your Skilled Employees: It's More Than a Free Lunch

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“In an era of skilled labor shortages, the answers vary for employees at different stages of their careers,” reports Kimmel and Associates.

Let’s take a look at a few solutions companies have used that have shown success in retaining their skilled tradesmen.

Training and Apprenticeships

Retaining Your Skilled Employees: It's More Than a Free Lunch

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Employers can keep new and current employees invested in the company by giving them opportunities to learn a variety of useful skills. By offering training programs and apprenticeships, you’ll give employees motivation to stick around.

An electrical contracting firm, A. West Enterprise, registered their Electrical Apprenticeship Program through the US Department of Labor. The four-year program included 8,000 on-the-job hours and online training with Penn Foster.

As a result, A. West to retained 86% of the workers who participated.

Employee mentoring programs, which partner more experienced employees with new hires, can also build loyalty to your company. This kind of program offers opportunities for new and experienced employees, establishes deeper connections among staff and provides training to help fresher recruits build their knowledge base.

Give Them Broader Experiences

Companies can keep quality, eager employees on board by providing them with valuable work experience and training. But more diverse opportunities give employees additional reasons to stay on board.

Early stage employees, for example, are more likely to accept positions that require travel. A new environment and different responsibilities can go a long way to keep these hires interested, so they’ll be more likely to put down roots in your company.

For workers with more than a decade under their belt, they’re looking to build on their experience with career advancement and more responsibility. Giving these employees managements opportunities or more oversight in a project can help to keep them engaged. “These employees are most likely to make a change if they feel there is no room to advance,” reports Kimmel and Associates.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Companies can keep employees loyal by respecting their time, whether they’re at work or home.

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A busy construction site can be a source of stress for anyone. Multiple deadlines, hard labor and long hours are often the cause of serious burnout.

Keep your team happy and healthy by establishing a company culture that encourages work-life balance. Make sure your workers use their vacation time and build in breaks throughout their workday. Show your employees that you appreciate their time and understand that sometimes life is unpredictable: offer time-off during life events or allow for more flexible scheduling.

Whatever programs you put into place, supporting work-life balance benefits your company in the long run.

“The long term benefits for organizations that support work-life balance greatly outweigh any policy changes or temporary inconveniences they may experience,” writes Connor McNally for iniatify.

“These benefits can help construction companies beat what may be considered the top challenge in the industry today—recruiting and retaining experienced, highly skilled construction workers.”

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Evaluate The Perks You Offer

Employees enjoy authentic gestures of appreciation and recognition for excelling at the work they do. You’d be surprised how many skilled tradesmen end up falling through the cracks of a reputable construction company simply because they don’t feel connected to the community of employees that make it all work.

Pizza lunches are a good way to show appreciation to workers for a job well done. But your company’s culture can establish further loyalty among team members with ways of recognizing them that won’t go unnoticed:

  • Celebrate individual successes
  • Establish a rewards system in your company (this can include anything from movie tickets to more time off)
  • Incentivize your team to find new hires by offering a referral program
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You can also ensure the team understands how important they are to you by offering competitive benefits. If your competitors can give them a sweeter deal, it will be hard to keep your employees on board.

Offering employees opportunities to earn beyond their salary or hourly wages not only gets them excited about work, but it reinforces the connection they have to the core of the business. Christmas bonuses are great, but introducing incentives based on performance encourages employees to work harder.

Build a Culture of Excellence

Rewarding good work is an effective way to keep the most valued employees happy, but retaining employees goes beyond free lunch. Giving your employees opportunities to grow in their role and encouraging work-life balance opens the door to a long-term relationship.

By establishing programs and a work culture that your employees love, you’ll be able to keep great people around for good.