How to Hang on to Your Employees


This article was originally published in Exterior Advantage magazine, Summer 2000 edition.

Employee retention or hanging onto your employees in a tight labor market is important to the success of your company and not as difficult as you might think.

Here are a few low cost things you can do better than your competition that will maintain employee retention.


Provide career guidance and encourage life-long learning among your workers. Your employees are ambitious and want to advance in their chosen profession. Once they reach the journeyman stage there is little advice available to help them continue their professional growth. Let your workers know what skills to develop, what classes to take, and what they can do in the workplace to achieve that next step up the professional ladder.

Helping your employees reach professional goals will show them that your company cares about them and at the same time will provide the company with increasingly qualified and professional employees. Find out what your worker’s goals are and help them put together a plan to achieve those goals.


Provide training programs for all employees.  This employee benefit is the next natural step to career guidance.  It can be very difficult for ambitious workers to find needed training in the market place.  You can make your workers aware of supervisory courses currently being offered over the Internet and offer to pay for them.  You can encourage your  local university to offer extension courses for construction professionals.  Let your employees know about currently available courses.  Paycheck stuffers are a great way to inform your employees about educational opportunities.

Company sponsored training programs are viewed as one of the most desirable benefits a company can provide to workers.  Training can be held in-house or out sourced to training providers.  Companies can bring in professional speakers for in-house seminars and they can offer tuition reimbursement for classes directly related to job skills.

Many of your employees are looking for craft classes to fill gaps in their experience and previous training.  They are looking for classes to help them make the transition to foreman or lead person.  Your senior workers are looking for classes that will help them advance to superintendent and your superintendents may be interested in classes to help them take on the responsibilities of project manager.

Training you provide for supervisory personnel will improve working conditions on the jobsite and help create a culture of loyalty among employees.

Only very large companies can offer all training in-house.  Smaller companies should look for qualified training providers, classes at community colleges and online courses that can be offered as part of the company training program.

Companies who offer comprehensive training programs have found the programs help with employee retention, increase employee morale and make recruiting easier as potential employees are attracted to your training programs.


Your employees enjoy working on well run, efficient projects.  They want to be a part of a winning team and they want to take pride in the accomplishments of that team.  The essential ingredient to well run projects is leadership.

Your supervisors can provide this good leadership by:

    • Understanding and applying the principles of human motivation
    • By being competent problem solvers
    • By making good and timely decisions
    • By being open to communications with their subordinates
    • And by being a technically competent supervisor.

Technical competence involves more than just knowing the trade.   Technical competence involves planning, scheduling, cost control, productivity enhancement, and efficient material handling.  When all of these supervisory components are in place, your workers will have a sense of job satisfaction that will keep them excited about being on your team.


All construction companies look the same to the worker in the field. Communicating with your workers will give them a sense of actually being a part of the company rather than just another disposable cog in the wheel.

You should communicate a wide variety of information to your workers. Let them know how the job is going from a management point of view. Tell them about other current projects your company is working on and how those jobs are doing. Brag about new equipment you have purchased, spotlight employees, announce new hires, and announce promotions.

Inform your employees about the new foreman you have just promoted or about the journeyman who just completed the apprenticeship program. If it fits your company’s culture, you can even announce new babies, marriages and birthdays.

All of this will allow your employees to feel ownership and belonging in your company. They will participate in your victories and share your pain when things do not go right. They will feel a part of the big picture – and they will want to continue working for you.


Our workers often learn of their mistakes too late or not at all. We should be providing honest, straightforward feedback at all times. Let them know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Provide the feedback in a positive, non-threatening manner and provide suggestions or training that will help them improve. Be sure to tell them the good things as well as the bad.


Well, there you have it.  It is really very simple.  If you want to keep your people, treat them well.  In construction, treating your workers well means that you:

    • Provide career guidance
    • Offer training to everyone
    • Lead them well
    • Keep the lines of communication open at all times, and
    • Provide feedback on both good things and corrective items.

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