How do you keep your top talent from going to another company? Find the middle ground between what your company values and what your employees value, even in the face of economic headwinds.
We took a look at what current and former construction employees had to say about the biggest cons and the biggest pros of their jobs. The top two topics? Work-life balance and company culture. These perspectives can help you learn how to keep your best employees without losing them to other companies.
Defining work-life balance
Construction employees, both current and former, had the same top complaint: poor work-life balance. Some of their workmates, and even the companies themselves, dismiss the complaints with responses like “it’s how construction is, so get used to it or go do something else.”
Across all industries, 43% of surveyed employees agreed that it’s the employee’s responsibility to balance their work with the other parts of their lives, while 44% think the employer is responsible. However, there is a clear generational disconnect on the topic. A large percentage of workers surveyed, younger than 45, say the employer should be responsible (42%), while 52% of those 45 and older say the individual is responsible.
Exactly what “responsibility-for-work-life-balance” means is open to interpretation, especially in light of construction’s traditional work ethics and todays’ always-connected employee. But employee motivation to accept or not accept poor work-life balance is often rooted in pride and how much the work contributes to the individual’s self-identity.
Some people get an emotional boost when others see them working longer and harder, and they feel proud of their toughness and resilience. For them, their work IS their life because it’s where they feel the most successful. For those who don’t tie their identity to what they do for a living, the goal is to have time and energy for things other than work.
There are other variations of what constitutes work-life balance, and it shows just how differently people view it. From an employer’s perspective, though, productivity, safety, and the employee’s health should stand as primary aspects to consider. Multiple studies and research show a good work-life balance positively affects them.
Check what options your company might have for improving employee work-life balance and find out what your employees see as balance. Ask them, compile the results, and create new solutions. Any programs to improve work-life balance should be meaningful to the employees and as all-encompassing as possible.
Here are examples as suggested by employees:
Make paid-time-off accessible and easy for them to use. You might have to take a look at your staffing and how you allocate work, and that, in turn, will prompt improvements across many fronts.
- Make it okay to leave work when the workday is officially over. It will require retraining people to look ahead, see the workload before them, and assess where the best stopping point is. It will also require some cultural changes so people aren’t looked down upon when they leave work at the end of their shift.
- Reinforce that long working hours don’t necessarily mean getting more work done and done right.
- Keep your employment promises. If you told a potential employee that they would work a 50 hour week, don’t increase the workload until they are working 60, 70, and beyond.
- Try using flextime where it fits.
- Be more realistic with scheduling and assignments so the work really is what the person could do, given the challenges and disruptions they might face.
Good Culture = Happy Employees
By far, the biggest positive found in comments from current and former construction employees centered on company culture and how positively the commenters viewed the people working at the company.
Some research bears out the idea that culture determines employee attrition. For instance, company culture predicts employee turnover better than money satisfaction. Not only that but mission and culture are huge predictors of whether people stay or leave.
A large percentage of people (65%) stay on their jobs because the culture agrees with them. When the culture deteriorates, 71% start looking for other jobs. Culture scrutiny starts before people even apply for a job. Over three-quarters of job seekers say they look closely at the culture of any company when considering whether to apply.
Company and employee values should align
So, what are they looking for? Seventy percent want the company’s values to align with theirs. If you read the typical construction company’s list of values, you find they are all pretty similar: integrity, honesty, safety, quality, service.
These are often the very minimum values a construction company would need to be successful. Construction company values are often thought of as the values the company expects in its employees. But increasingly, people in the job market are flipping the values discussion on its head and expecting companies to have values that align with their own.
Potential employees today want to work for companies that not only value but show they value the environment, transparency, equity, inclusion, respect, and ethics. Potential employees also often want to see a very clear mission and purpose so they can assess whether they can get behind the company goals. Besides seeing the company acknowledge its values, potential employees want to know the company actually acts on those values.
Many potential employees (69%) are acutely tuned into the attitudes of existing employees. They say they want to work with people who are motivated and engaged because of a strong company mission. Of the current employees, 64% say one of the main reasons they stay on their current job is the company’s mission.
Have you done a culture check-up?
Company culture is often defined as how employees act and react when no one is telling them how to act and react. If you’ve done a culture check-up and found yours to be outdated or lacking, here are ideas for improvements so people don’t start leaving.
- Address toxic cultures that don’t value differences, that disrespect people, or promote unethical behavior.
- Foster job security by building resiliency into your work and workforce plans to minimize the upsets from layoffs and downtime.
- Don’t let innovation run rampant by clearly defining its trajectory and timing, and by preparing people for change.
- Recognize and reward good performance.
- Have company-wide social events.
- Encourage transparency through communications, open discussions of company business, celebrations of wins, acknowledgments of losses, and information about company equity.
- Invest in the workforce using career progression training and mentorships with an eye toward the employee’s goals.
Work-life balance and company culture are two aspects of construction companies that are hard to get right. But companies that do, go on to have a more resilient workforce.