Today’s workforce is different. The society they live in is different. With low unemployment and worker shortages in many occupations, today’s workforce has a lot of leverage in the job market. And in most cases, it takes more than good pay to get employees to stick around.
“Employers have to view the employer-employee relationship differently than ever before,” says Cara Silletto, MBA, president and chief retention officer for Crescendo Strategies, a consulting firm that helps companies reduce unnecessary turnover by bridging generational gaps and making managers stronger. “Employers are starting to view that relationship differently because things like excessive overtime, worker shortages and turnover are beginning to really impact the bottom line. It can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 per employee that walks off the job.”
There is positive news for employers in the construction and utility industry, though. Silletto says there are some basic things companies can do to immediately begin strengthening their employee retention efforts.
#1 - Get a Handle on the Problem
The first action is to recognize that retention is a problem. Silletto says that in order to do that, it’s important to take long-term employees out of the turnover calculation.
“Long-term employees have what we refer to as golden handcuffs,” Silletto says. They are largely loyal to a given company because they’ve earned inherent benefits as a result of their loyalty and tenure, such as considerable paid time off.
Conversely, a company’s turnover problem often resides in its newer employees. “Most of these employees don’t have a pension and are offered little in the way of paid time off or bonuses,” Silletto points out. “I encourage senior leaders to look at the current tenure of their new hires over the past five years. What many companies find is that the average tenure declines every year.”
To begin reversing that trend, company leadership can do the following:
3 Things Senior Management Can Do
Plan for shorter-term workforce. If people used to stay 5-10 years, they are now staying 2-5 years. Plan for that.
“Operationally speaking, companies should look at how they are scheduling and planning for turnover on their teams,” Silletto says. By revamping the onboarding process and creating better training paths, employers can better maximize the time they have with an employee. Videos and group training, for example, could help expedite the learning curve.
Create a retention champion. Someone in the company needs to be in charge of the workforce retention initiative. It doesn’t even have to be a full-time position, and it doesn’t have to reside in the HR department. This person would help monitor employee perceptions, serving as a liaison between employees and management. This person would also oversee the implementation and evaluation of different retention initiatives.
Gather feedback. Conducting employee surveys should be a core element of what the retention champion does. “It’s important to collect real data about why employees leave,” Silletto says. “If a company assumes it’s all about pay and schedules, they are wrong. All of the data points back to things like company culture, communication and management effectiveness.”
3 Things Middle Management Can Do
Communicate expectations. Today’s new workforce wasn’t raised like the previous generation. New hires cannot read their managers’ minds. “The phrases ‘work ethic’ and ‘professionalism’ are very subjective,” Silletto adds. “Managers must spend more time and effort communicating expectations if they want employees to hit the mark.”
Appreciate a job well-done. Many managers feel like they should only show appreciation when an employee goes above and beyond. “Remember, it’s an employee’s market,” Silletto reminds. “Many employers say they have a problem with too many employees not showing up on time every day. I encourage managers to dig down deep into their hearts and admit the fact that they are grateful for the employees who do show up on time and do their jobs. A manager can become a better boss by just saying ‘thanks’ to their employees.”
Have an onboarding plan. Employees always start out in the HR department filling out paperwork. But the new hire experience continues once HR hands the employee over to his or her supervisor.
“A manager should have a plan for what they are going to do with the new hire once they get them,” Silletto says. Are the new hire’s tools in order? Are the other team members aware that the new hire is starting?
Cara Silletto spoke about these topics and more at ICUEE 2019 in Louisville, KY. ICUEE is now known as The Utility Expo.
ABOUT THE UTILITY EXPO
Formerly known as ICUEE, The Utility Expo is the largest event for utility professionals and construction contractors seeking comprehensive insights into the latest industry technologies, innovations and trends. The biennial trade show, known for equipment test drives and interactive product demonstrations, takes place in Louisville, KY. The next edition will be September 28-30, 2021.