Putting People First: Strategies for Employee-Centric Construction Businesses

Demi Edmunds looks at five ways for construction businesses can achieve an employee-first approach

As the UK continues to navigate its way through the coronavirus pandemic and second national lockdown, it’s clear that 2020 has presented a number of challenges for both businesses and their employees.

The impact on the construction industry has been significant, with furloughing peaking at 721,000 workers on 14th of April. However, since allowing construction sites to reopen once again, albeit with reduced worker numbers, this figure has fallen to 277,000. However, this uncertain time has given many people the opportunity to re-evaluate their existing roles, it is estimated that 50 per cent of those currently employed are looking for a new job.

Given that it can cost a business 33 per cent of an employee’s salary to hire a replacement and the Commercial Construction Index reported that 58 per cent of contractors find it very difficult to find skilled workers, a people-first approach could really help construction firms retain valuable workers at this essential time.

Support employee development

One of the most common reasons interviewees give for wanting to leave their current workplace, is a lack of growth and development opportunities and this also applies to the construction industry. Given that many training courses and certifications are tax deductible, it makes sense to encourage this internally.

In a major long-term study, businesses whose culture encouraged all-around leadership initiatives were highly appreciated by their employees and consequently experienced four times the revenue growth. While it may be difficult to prioritise more formal, sit down meetings to discuss employee development, it is certainly still worthwhile. Even scheduling these once or twice a year could make a real difference to your staff turnover and ability to maintain more skilled construction workers.

Adapt your communications

Although in many ways, construction firms tend to benefit from increased in-person interactions when compared to other industries, it’s important to remember that reduced worker numbers and increased financial and health anxieties, still call for a review of your employee communications.

A recent report confirmed that teams who had continued to communicate using pre-lockdown methods and had failed to adapt to the new circumstances, were facing significant difficulties as a result. Simple messages to staff to reassure them that there are plenty of jobs in the pipeline and being upfront about any current or changing requirements regarding furlough, could go a very long way in the current environment.

Share your company goals

Ultimately, employees that understand a business’ vision are more likely to feel like they have been a part of its success and consequently are far more likely to remain loyal. The only way to achieve this is to ensure company goals are communicated and reiterated, regularly.

This can be included as part of a business’ internal newsletter, employee reviews and even as part of the induction process. Any opportunity to engage with employees and set that North Star, can help employers to ensure that the business is run in a more co-ordinated way, which in-turn delivers a more consistent output for clients.

Remain actively involved

This will largely depend on the size of your construction firm, but it is important for employers to try and remain actively involved. By making yourself available to both customers and employees, you can curate a culture which is more open and ensures that individuals feel comfortable enough to come to you with any potential concerns. Even things as simple as occasionally showing up to a site to personally supervise, can really help set a more approachable tone.

Encourage employee feedback

Seventy-one per cent of executives believe employee engagement is essential to their business’ success. A huge part of improving this is making employees feel that their opinions and feedback are valued. Construction businesses and the 9way construction sites are run, have understandably undergone certain changes as a result of the pandemic. For example, many are required to operate using a one-way system to minimise contact between workers. More generally, as workers are ‘on the ground’, they can provide valuable insights which may help improve efficiencies, or even identify further business opportunities.

A simple SMS survey encouraging employees to feedback on how they feel the new safety measures are being implemented and upheld on sites, could prove very effective, especially in this uncertain climate. Additionally, as SMS benefits from an open rate of 95 per cent, and the average response time to an SMS is just 90 seconds, it is a very quick and convenient way to collate feedback.

Ultimately, even for businesses within the construction industry, a people-first approach will look slightly different within each business. But for businesses that are serious about reducing staff turnover and retaining skilled construction workers, those willing to trust and invest in their employees, place themselves in the best position to reap the benefits.

Demi Edmunds is a Specialist at TextAnywhere. TextAnywhere is a robust SMS business communication service that empowers organisations in the business and public sectors to communicate better with their customers and colleagues. Since 2003, the business has grown from a simple SMS partner to a business messaging partner that understands the associated pain points, from small and medium-sized businesses to enterprise level.
For more information, please see www.textanywhere.com