Communication, recognition, and inclusion will help your company retain its most powerful asset. It’s not strange to regularly think about employee retention given the workforce challenges we all have been facing. Many business owners and managers have been spending a big chunk of their time on this specific area of business and rightfully so. Working on employee retention is more important than ever. The pandemic forced us to examine every aspect of our businesses to identify any number of “non-essentials” — perks that we had enjoyed during prosperous times. (It’s amazing to me all the non-essential “things” we identify when we are forced by external circumstances to significantly tighten our belts.) When doing this examination, you need to also focus on keeping your best employees and protecting the company for their benefit.
During the balance of 2023 and into 2024, we should be defining success in terms of preparing for the future so our companies are ready to capitalize on the opportunities that will surface when supply chains recover. There are huge backlogs of business. Some equipment manufacturers have 12-16 month delivery times on commercial equipment. As deliveries speed up it will require contractors to retain our very best employees and keep them motivated and interested in the long-term success of our companies. As a leader, you must plan for this now.
As you consider how to retain your key employees I encourage you to think about a few things:
Continue to Communicate
Communication is always important, particularly right now. Your team is working long hours you must spend time with your key employees to clearly articulating your strategy. Explain the thought process, logic, and rationale for the strategy, and explain the implications on both sides of the equation. Left to their own devices, most people will assign negative reasons to business decisions they don’t agree with. Don’t allow that opportunity to exist. Instead, actively communicate to key employees what is going on, why it’s going on, and what it means for them. If you really are protecting the company for the best employees, then tell them! They will appreciate being included, and many of them will recognize that there are greater opportunities ahead for them as a result.
Involve Key Employees in the Process
Involve your top people in the strategic decision-making process, especially when it comes to getting in front of challenges. I know of a company that chose to do just that — they convened a group of key employees to collectively examine the business. Ultimately, they decided together what actions to take regarding long work hours, expenses and employee retention. This process received a heightened level of buy-in on the part of key employees and created positive peer pressure to dig deeper to find more creative ways to get large jobs done. When the changes were implemented, they were broadly understood and supported because there was a built-in communication network to take the message into the company.
Consider Non-Financial Rewards
Giving non-financial rewards isn’t a new concept, and it’s definitely worth reconsidering. The volume and scope of work is pressuring businesses to work longer hours because finding additional qualified employees to maintain is so challenging. There is plenty of overtime to go around and often to avoid burnout other rewards can help. Focus especially on thoughtful rewards such as responsibility, opportunity, recognition and praise, and inclusion in the decision-making process. Are you out in your business thanking your team for their efforts? Are you letting them know, frequently, what is happening in the business and marketplace? Are you asking them for advice on situations and/or challenges? When one of your team members goes above and beyond, or is exceptionally creative with ideas of strategic importance, are you recognizing them?
It’s easy in times like these to get overly concerned with managing your business, focusing on the details, and adopting a “bunker” mentality. Keep in mind that your employees — and in particular your best employees — are the company. They need encouragement, honest feedback, and specific thanks and praise right now.
All the things I’ve mentioned revolve around interpersonal relationships. Make sure you and your key managers are spending significant time on those relationships. Employees will fully invest themselves in an organization when they feel valued and respected, and when they believe leaders sincerely care about their success
The reality is that your best employees are thankful that they have a job, but they will not be satisfied with just having a job — they want to be part of something important. Furthermore, they can and do go elsewhere, even in tough times. We all know who our best employees are, and our competitors usually do as well. We are always at risk of losing them — in good times and bad. Now more than ever, you and your management team should focus on employee retention because your top employees are your most powerful assets now and in the future.
Paul Grunau is chief operating officer, Api Group, inc. APi Group is a family of more than 33 independent construction and construction related businesses. Its life safety division includes fire protection sprinkler systems, air sampling, and low voltage alarm systems. Its industrial and specialty construction division includes steel fabrication, thermal insulation, distribution, electrical and mechanical construction.