Josh Thompson is the founder and leader of Thompson Exterior Services, a construction and building maintenance company.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has perpetuated a phenomenon known as the “Great Resignation,” or the “Big Quit,” as various employees around the world are voluntarily leaving their jobs.
Due to the pandemic, some employees have reevaluated their work-life balance and opted for professions that will grant them more time with their families. Others have found it far more convenient to work from home. Although it was initiated out of necessity, working from home has grown so much in popularity that transitioning back into the workplace has proven to be quite a challenge for many employers.
Since 2021, there has been a huge jump in the number of people quitting their jobs: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, an average of 4.34 million people in the United States quit their job in the last four months of 2021. For the construction industry alone, the average in those four months was 197,250 people quitting their jobs per month, and November 2021 had a quit rate of 3.0. That means, for every 100 construction workers that were working, three construction workers were quitting.
The Great Resignation calls for a shift in the way leaders see their employees, and nowhere is that more evident than in construction. The construction industry is grappling with a large amount of resignation, as well as a lack of interest in the industry by younger generations.
To increase worker retention, we must pivot in light of these recent events and begin to reimagine the possible roles within our companies. Leaders should work to create clear paths within the company structure that allow for employee growth. Construction can be labor and time-intensive, so employees will want to know how they can progress to the next step in their career.
Leaders must also work to create a supportive environment for all of their employees. Employees look up to their leaders when it comes to directing the team and creating a positive environment. A leader must ensure that they treat each employee with respect and must make sure to always keep themselves in check.
At the same time, a strong leader can ensure that each employee treats other employees with respect. Such an environment is likely to both retain and gain employees. While employees have always deserved respect, the Great Resignation has been a wake-up call for employees that if they do not receive the respect they deserve, they can pursue more fulfilling paths.
The pandemic gave many employees the opportunity to assess their work-life balance. While receiving a decent income is important, the ability to have a slightly lower income with a greater work-life balance seems to be preferred by many workers. The best leaders in the industry will find ways to improve the work-life balance associated with working in the construction industry.
A great way to go about such initiatives is to speak with your employees and see what improvements they believe would benefit their work-life balance. Because a construction manager is not always on-site, employees can give them valuable insight on how projects can be done more efficiently. More efficient projects usually mean getting people out the door (or, in the case of construction, off-site) sooner in the day. Allowing employees more of a say in the construction schedule can also be beneficial to improving employee work-life balance.
Though construction often requires long hours, there are ways to reduce those hours. This can be done by analyzing the efficiency of processes to see what can be done in a less time-consuming manner while still abiding by safety and aesthetic standards. One great example is ensuring that all materials are prepared and tasks are assigned before starting work at the job site. This means that less time is wasted waiting for materials or figuring out what each person should be doing, which can easily take an hour of the day.
At the same time, if a leader can make the proper adjustments, workers’ work-life balance can be improved by working in the industry. Having a serious and productive work environment can help create clear boundaries between work and personal matters, making it easier for employees to enjoy personal matters when not working and set aside their time at home for their families. Construction in a big city should no longer focus on efficiency and quantity but should rather branch from the said starting point into a realm of quality living.
Companies that wish to progress in years to come must learn to maintain a virtual and in-person staff balance. For construction companies, this may include bringing in more technology, like drones for inspection and planning, which is something my company just started.
Innovative technology can allow a lot of the planning stages to be done remotely or semi-remotely. Those who have required full in-person work will not find employees as easily as they once did. Virtual work provides flexibility for employees and will only add to a healthy work-life balance.
Keeping your employees happy is a significant part of the battle. Allowing them to have a couple of virtual workdays will prove highly effective in the years to come. Although the pandemic has challenged employees and employers alike, it seems the construction industry is heading towards more inclusivity, flexibility and tolerance than ever before.