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Employee engagement for construction companies

Steps for improvement that can deliver a stronger bottom line

Elliot LePoidevin

Elliot LePoidevin

Construction businesses are struggling with one of the highest rates of employee turnover and the continual need to attract new labor.

According to  the AGC’s 2018 Outlook Survey, worker shortages top the list of business concerns for contractors in Wisconsin. A full 50 percent of the respondents to that poll said they are turning to increases in base pay to attract and retain talent. Further exacerbating the situation in Wisconsin, the reported non-seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rate for May dropped to 2.9 percent – the state’s lowest rate for the month of May dating back to 2004.

With massive construction projects such as Foxconn in Racine moving ahead full steam, many employers continue to raise pay, add overtime or increase benefits to build and maintain a skilled workforce. However, recent research reveals these methods may not be adequate to deal with a much deeper-lying situation.

A surprising result of the construction and engineering consulting company FMI’s 2017 Industry Survey shows employee engagement is one of the most prevalent drivers of job satisfaction, yet only 39 percent of construction firms report measuring employee engagement.

Low engagement can lead to reduced productivity, poor relations among employees, disregard for health and safety protocols and other long-term concerns, all of which can affect your bottom line through increased insurance claims, and the resulting premium hikes. This can also affect your top line, since more frequent or severe claims will drive up your experience mod, possibly enough for you to be excluded from certain jobs or bid opportunities. Additionally, companies with poor engagement suffer from demonstrably frequent turnover, and finding new qualified employees is getting increasingly costly.

Although there is not a “one size fits all” solution, there are best practices that leading construction companies have successfully adopted to increase employee engagement. Here are some of their proven methods:

Think about mission statement and values  

Review your mission statement and company values. If you don’t have anything official, now’s the time to produce something. Are your leaders’ and company’s actions in line with the mission statement and values? If no, do something about this right away.

Take your company’s pulse    

This takes self-reflection. Are your employees really aligned with your mission statement and values? Surveys can be helpful in this assessment, but to be effective, transparency and anonymity are critical. Using a third-party to administer a survey can help immensely with gaining employees’ trust and participation.

Respond to your “pulse” check quickly

Employees can easily become suspicious and even disheartened right after surveys if there is no follow-through. It can help to share a survey’s results openly, or at least some of its central themes, as well as some proposed action steps. It’s most important to be open and involve your people.

Be thoughtful and strategic

Don’t waste the time and energy you’ve already spent be neglecting the ways to improve employee engagement. And remember, you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Engage your employees. They know their colleagues’ concerns often better than you. A small committee comprising people across various departments, specialties, teams or other business units can bring a sense of ownership and ongoing improvement to the process.

Stay involved

Organized activities such as a mentor program and regularly scheduled training days to unite employees are ways to easily complement your employee-engagement strategy. However, the essence of engaging employees is in establishing a clear, consistent plan and providing open responses. Don’t just tell your employees you care. You need to show them through purposeful, routine check-ins. They will be more responsive to regular involvement and find it more meaningful than annual reviews alone.

Invest in your people

It’s not surprising that construction companies that support ongoing professional development and offer frequent discussions between employees and company officials are faring better in their recruitment and retention efforts. Be a leader in the industry who takes committed action and makes a meaningful change for the good of your company and employees.

Your insurance broker should be a trusted partner who provides the means, solutions and resources needed to alleviate these concerns. With consultants who have dedicated expertise in the construction industry, Marsh & McLennan Agency understands the obstacles construction businesses face when they’re trying to hire quality employees and keep them on your payroll. Our team has access to industry-specific programs to suit your needs and the ability to deliver them locally with a personalized touch.

Elliot LePoidevin a risk management consultant and vice president of sales at Marsh & McLennan Agency in New Berlin. His team helps construction clients design and carry out effective and efficient risk-management and employee-benefit programs to protect and support profitable growth.

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