How to Keep Construction Workers from Leaving Your Company


One of the most persistent challenges in the construction industry is finding skilled workers and keeping them. Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the government to impose stay-at-home orders and halted construction projects in the country, many contractors were already finding difficulties filling jobs. The latest Commercial Construction Index from the USG Corporation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that around 59% of contractors found it difficult to find skilled workers in the last quarter of 2019. As we continue navigating the coronavirus crisis, workforce problems will likely continue in the near future.

The problem of keeping construction workers is present in all business sectors, but it has a far greater impact on the construction industry than on most others. It is not an exaggeration to say that skilled workers are the lifeblood of a construction firm. Most construction roles—from site workers and project managers to office roles like sales and lien management employees—are highly specialized. An employee leaving a role for greener pastures poses a substantial risk of delaying a project. Not to mention the additional expenses and time investment to find and train new workers to fill the job that they left. 

For this reason, it is crucial that construction business owners and human resources managers look for opportunities that can improve employee engagement and consequently, employee retention. Not having an employee engagement strategy in place will inevitably lower your employees’ productivity and loyalty to the company. Eventually, they will look for other places where they think they will fare better.

One of the best strategies to keep more construction workers from leaving your company is by focusing on employee recognition.

Keeping Construction Workers from Leaving Your Company Hinges on Employee Recognition

The productivity of employees is a vital component of and a key metric in construction work. If your employees have low productivity, projects will get delayed and the resulting expenses can easily overwhelm your finances. On the other hand, if your employees have high productivity, your firm can finish projects on time, or even earlier. This allows you to free up your time to bid and move on to the next project. 

There’s no question that construction work is stressful. The safety risks that are present on the construction site and the fatigue that your workforce experiences during crunch time can significantly lower their morale. The best way to improve employee morale during these crucial times is employee recognition. Not only does it relieve the stress of construction work, but it also keeps employees motivated to reach work objectives. 

Aside from using employee recognition as an incentive, it can also serve as a way for you to strengthen the culture that you want to foster. By incentivizing good work attitude and behavior, you will be able to reinforce them so that they become habits. An employee recognition program is a perfect avenue to reward employees for embodying your desired traits. 

Unfortunately, a lot of construction companies simply do not bother with having a systematic implementation of an employee recognition program. As company leaders are fixated on reaching goals and making enough profit, they may not realize their disengaged employees until it is too late. In fact, a Gallup analysis found that only one out of three employees received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. Many of them feel that the effort they exert while doing excellent work is routinely ignored by the higher-ups. These employees will be twice as likely to quit their jobs in the next year. 

If the construction industry wants to keep more employees, firms need to implement a strong employee recognition program. 

How to Implement Your Employee Recognition Program

Thinking of starting your own employee recognition program? Here are some tips on how to implement one for your construction firm. 

1. Have clearly defined criteria for recognition. 

Before you can start, you first need to define your goals for your employee recognition program. This will serve as the foundation with which you can determine the requirements for how your employees can get recognized. Consider using the SMART approach in setting these criteria—specific, meaningful, attainable, relevant, and time-based. 

Read More: For more on selecting criteria, check out our video 24 Insider Secrets the Improve Employee Recognition Success.

2. Encourage managers and team leaders to show recognition.

There’s an oft-repeated business adage that goes, “Employees leave managers, not companies.” To a certain extent, this is true. Gallup has found that 28% of employees received their most memorable recognition not from their CEOs but from their managers. Talk to managers and team leaders and encourage them to provide personal feedback to team members. They need to know how impactful employee recognition is on employee productivity and take concrete steps in giving credit where credit is due.

Read More: For a simple way to remind leaders to keep employee recognition frequent and consistent, check out our free app Rise by MyEmployees.

3. Never exclude any group of employees

In construction, your employees are usually grouped into two—the office employees and field workers. When implementing an employee recognition program, it is important that you never exclude any employee or group of employees. The difference in the nature of their jobs may require you to create a different set of criteria for employee recognition. This may be challenging but the effort will be well worth it. 

4. Employee recognition does not always require monetary rewards

While financial incentives are good motivators for employees, not every type of recognition requires a monetary reward. For instance, a strategic monthly recognition program provides consistent praise and recognition for top performers. You can also hold an end-of-year program to recognize exceptional employees in the presence of your entire workforce. Featuring them on your company website or blog is also another great way to show appreciation. Even something as simple as taking a picture with your phone and posting it to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Here a few screenshots of leaders in other industries posting pics with their top performing employees:

Wrapping Up

The construction industry is currently experiencing a lot of difficulties in filling skilled jobs and retaining talented professionals. Because of this, the importance of employee recognition in reducing turnover cannot be overstated. Not only does it make your employees more engaged while on the job, but it also leads to higher productivity and a better work culture. 

About the Author:

Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.

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