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According to recent statistical data1, due to the booming economy in the U.S., there are more job openings in construction than there are people to fill those jobs. In addition more people are leaving their jobs than ever before2. The evidence is clear - keeping your best employees has become more important than ever, but also equally as difficult.

In his book Good to Great3, Jim Collins wrote: "…start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats." Building the right team is integral to the success of your business, but if you don't know how to keep that team in place, the effort is pointless.

What Gets Measured, Gets Improved

It is helpful to do a "self-diagnosis" of your company to find out where you can improve your culture of retention beyond just the salary. Nearly every company professes to hire great people and have a great culture, but that can't always be the case, especially if you are having issues with retention. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why do employees stay at my company, and why do they leave?
  • What attracts new employees to my company?
  • Is our compensation range and benefits package competitive for our market?
  • Have we laid out a career path for our people, and are they on board with that direction?

When the "check engine" light flashes in your car, the mechanic needs to diagnose the problem before he can begin repairs. Find out where the "check engine" light may be flashing in your company by identifying the problems before you try to fix them. These issues can include work/life balance, to compensation and benefits, an undefined career path, or an unhealthy office environment.

Once you have identified and remedied some of the known issues, you should be proactive about retaining your top employees. "Exit interview" data can be helpful for identifying problems; however such data comes too late to fix the problem. It is like driving forward using your rear view mirror. A more proactive approach is to schedule face time with each of your employees on a regular basis and conduct "stay interviews" to identify the issues before they become catastrophic. Utilize the data you receive to reinforce and improve your culture of retention.

Know thyself Thy Team

Referring back to Jim Collins, "It's a people business." Knowing your team is essential to long-term success today and, importantly, for tomorrow. Planning for tomorrow can help many companies improve their "today" by implementing strategic succession planning. Succession planning is only effective if the key members of your team buy into the goal, yet can become moot if those team members leave. Take the time to listen from the key members of your team to hear about their career goals, to communicate your succession plans to them, and to ensure they are aligned.

Strategic planning requires communication, creativity and flexibility. There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution for every company. The plan should include open communication between both parties to make sure the right person is placed in the right seat on the bus. Building a culture that allows for critical and honest conversation is easier said than done, and takes significant time. However, the results are worth the process. Well implemented, this can ensure key employees have: (1) bought into the plan, (2) can see career growth, and (3) feel they have both a say in the future as well as their best interests represented.

Retaining your top employees should be built into the cultural fabric of your company, and focus on the family as much as the employee. This can include hosting family picnics and sending birthday cards (pro tip – send birthday cards to the children of the employees), to company-paid trips and sporting events. Anything that "tips the scales" in your favor is a tool you can use for retention. Other job postings and recruiter calls will be hard-pressed to show similar engagement in their pitch.

Once a company is tracking and aware of their retention, then real progress can be made in recruitment. Building a culture of recruitment goes beyond posting jobs and using third party recruiters. It involves utilizing all the resources and tools available to you in order to attract top talent to your company.

This includes the proactive use of tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Indeed; leveraging your company culture as a recruiting tool; as well as the best advocates of that culture – the people employed there. The things you have done to create a company of retention are now your greatest tools for recruiting - so use them!

Steps for Better Employee Retention

Become known as a great place to work. Always look for top talent and implement referral bonuses to benefit from your employees' network. Each employee is your company's #1 brand ambassador and can be trained to stay alert for opportunities to connect with industry peers or contacts. Utilize these industry relationships to identify potential candidates, then get to know top prospects over a cup of coffee. Let suppliers and vendors know you are hiring, and – when needed – don't be afraid to use industry aligned recruiters.

The goal is to become the obvious, logical and desired choice for any prospective candidates.

With a strong culture of retention, recruitment becomes easier. With a strong culture of recruitment, it is easier to make sure the right people are on your bus. Pretty soon, it may be time to get a bigger bus!


  3. Collins, Jim (2001) Good to Great, William Collins, ISBN 978-0-06-662099-2

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