As a recruiter, my job entails building long term relationships with industry professionals, understanding their career drivers, aspirations and endeavouring to match them at the right time with a job that is as close to their goals as possible. This gives me insights into the reasons why they leave the organisations they work for, and how these companies could prevent their staff from leaving to work for the competition.
When someone leaves your company, they take valuable knowledge and experience with them, which requires a significant amount of time and money to replace. Whilst this cost to a business is huge, many companies treat staff attrition as simply a given – with a 20% per annum rule of thumb. Even faced with a larger percentage, many firms find justification for why the rate is high and very rarely does anyone in an influential position take significant responsibility for why people are leaving their company.
From what I have seen over the years, companies that retain staff effectively tend to have much better employee engagement. This doesn’t necessarily mean extra salary, benefits or perks, this means the actual relationship the employee has with the employer and their overall ‘employee experience’.
A recent Harvard University Study across 250 diverse organisations found that by investing time and money into their employee’s career experience led not only to happier, more engaged employees but also to easier access to talent and increased profitability and productivity for the business.
In the current economic climate, where most contractors are very busy and their main constraint to growth is finding more quality staff, some construction companies are getting smarter in terms of engaging with employees and appear to be reaping the benefits.
Some strategies to consider are:
Talent Pipeline – Engaging with potential recruits much earlier than you need them and building strong pipelines of talent through referrals, smart marketing and networking
Recruitment process – turning employment offers around in days, not weeks, and removing barriers such as multiple levels of approval. Nothing says, we value you! like a fast offer
Flexibility – guaranteed 5 day working weeks, flexible hours and multiple work locations – while it depends on the role and project, this is becoming more prevalent in the industry
Empathy – in a male dominated, fairly old-school industry, this one is hard for some people to come to terms with, but times-are-a-changing and companies that truly understand and care more about their people, are winning the battle for talent
Career planning – sometimes to need to accept that a staff member will only work for your firm for 3 years. What can you do to ensure that you get the best from them over that period of time? How can you help them transition to a new role with another company if you don’t have a pathway for them?
Training people managers – The biggest reason why people leave their jobs? Their manager. By training and supporting your managers to be better at assisting their teams with individual career journeys and allowing them to spend more time on staff, you’ll likely have a more engaged workforce
So why does anyone need to change? Construction is a notoriously old-fashioned industry, from its contracts and procurement models, to its ‘she’ll be right’, get-on-and-do-it mindset. If companies don’t get serious about engaging their employees effectively, then the skills shortage will become even more acute, and the entire industry will be at risk of losing talented skills and minds to other sectors of the economy.
Whilst campaigns such as the CCNZ sponsored EPIC are a great marketing tool for civil contracting, we need to ensure that our organisations back up the flash advertising and that we deliver on the dreams we are selling. People want to be supported, valued and want transparency from their employers, from career development to understanding and being flexible around their home and lifestyle situations.
Ironically, in this industry a lot of our value as an employer is driven by the project pipeline we have, yet it is often the skills and quality of the people that help our firms win work. Therefore, we are stuck in a chicken and egg situation, where if we don’t invest enough into recruiting and retaining the best staff, we run the risk of not being able to win the projects and becoming less attractive as an employer.
But all this recruitment and retention costs money! Yes – but you may have heard the quote: CFO to CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave?” CEO to CFO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”. While most companies are always watching the bottom line, the hidden costs of losing experienced staff often far outweigh the potential expense of running a company that allows employees to get the engagement they want.
Multiple studies have shown that people want meaning in their work, and that those who that don’t get the meaning they require or lose their sense of self at the work place, are much more likely to look for other employment. Unfortunately for firms, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and company culture is something that is constantly changing and something that can’t really be managed.
I think the biggest influence is the mandate and mindset that comes from the senior leaders. If they are humble, empathetic, authentic and have the ability to effectively trust their employees, then staff should feel comfortable, engaged and secure and be able to perform at their best.
Is this easy? not at all - but it is time to take it seriously, as a new job for most people these days is only a button on a phone away.