How to Retain Top Employees in the Construction Industry

Employee turnover can have a negative impact on any industry, but the effects are even more harmful for construction companies and contractors. Any construction employer knows it’s a specialized industry, and a project often can’t risk losing one of its top engineers or heavy machine operators.

This is especially true in the construction industry of today. The U.S. is experiencing a massive shortage of skilled craft workers — recent industry data shows that two-thirds of contractors are having a difficult time finding skilled employees.

That’s why it’s important for the construction industry to manage turnover and retain those employees who will get a project done as safely and efficiently as possible.

One way to do this is to practice the principles of good management.

The Construction Industry Institute says construction companies often lack structured, formal workplace management strategies, meaning employers are failing to pinpoint the reasons why skilled workers are seeking jobs elsewhere.

Best practices from the HR world can help your company become the exception, rather than the rule when it comes to retention in the construction industry.

Reducing Turnover in Onboarding

What many employers fail to realize is that reducing turnover and retaining employees starts as early as the recruitment and onboarding period. Employees who go through a formal onboarding process are 70% more likely to stay with a company for 3+ years, and setting up a mentorship program during the start of a contract can play a similar role in retention. If your human resources team is already stretched, there are a number of tools available to ensure you’re finding qualified staff and onboarding in the best possible way.

On the job, regular employer-employee check-ins are a way to diagnose problems before they occur. Creating an environment where project and crew supervisors feel comfortable coming forward with employee conflicts will empower staff members and reduce issues on site. Ultimately, it’s about creating a workplace where there is mutual respect between managers and employees.

Since construction projects are closely linked to a timeframe, try sharing with your employees the goals they have to meet. Linking their piece of the puzzle into the bigger picture will make them feel part of the project as a whole, and encourage productivity so the project can move on to the next step.

A common misconception is that money is the sole factor in retaining top employers. This is not true, so long as employees are getting paid a wage consistent to competing companies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has outlined the average pay grade of employees in the construction industry, and their tables are a good way to ensure your pay meets industry benchmarks.

Increasing Productivity

Once you’ve started the management practices to eliminate employee turnover, it’s time to ensure employees are working as productively as possible.

While pay doesn’t have as great an impact on retaining employees, lower than industry wages can affect productivity. Lower compensation can lead to employees focusing on the unfairness of the situation, rather than on getting work done. Ensure equally skilled employees are being paid within a set pay grade and eliminate the pay gap between male, female, and minority workers. This is especially important, given the shortage of the latter two demographics in the construction industry.

Finally, there’s no doubt that the construction industry involves more physical labor. That’s why there must be an added emphasis on employee health and safety. This can come in the form of bigger picture items such as health benefits for muscle strain and repetitive motion disorders, to everyday items, such as making sure your staff has access to a cool, covered place to take their breaks, and ample food and water. Not only will this ensure your employees are physically at their best, but investing in an employee’s health and happiness has proven to make them more productive on the job.

Taking your management strategies up a notch can play a huge role in employee retention, and help avoid some of the understaffing issues that are plaguing the construction industry as a whole.

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