Collaborate 2021: Construction Technology Conference, Day…

Collaborate 2021: Construction Technology Conference, Day…

Retention in the construction industry is largely based on pay, benefits, culture and engagement.

A panel session on retaining employees through empowerment highlighted several of the workforce challenges the construction industry faces today — from an ongoing skilled labor shortage to burdened HR teams amid massive project demands.

The panel noted that retention in the construction industry is largely based on pay, benefits, culture and engagement. 

Pay should be competitive, but neither the lowest or the highest. “Find the sweet spot to make it work,” said Brad Babcock, director of human resources for CROELL. He suggested researching wages through reputable platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed and others, and consider referral bonuses for employees that recruit others to come work for the company — something Babcock said CROELL has had huge success with.

CROELL’s director of human resources, Brad Babcock notes that being transparent with things like full compensation packages can help retention.

Today’s contractors should acknowledge that the workforce is fickle and will leave for a number of reasons. Sharing total compensation packets with employees, including base pay, overtime, benefits, PTO, etc. can go a long way toward retention. As can having solid health benefits and employee contribution plans in place.

Company culture and engagement also mean a lot to employees and new hires alike, and good culture and engagement can mean more than just fun lunches and comfortable workspaces. 

“People first is more than just a talking point for us,” said Tony Phillips, vice president of human resources with Mario Sinacola & Sons Excavating. “We have a very diverse workforce, with probably 60% of our workforce being Spanish-speaking. Many have strong ties back to Mexico or Central America. We’ve got to recognize that these people have lives and obligations outside of work. We demonstrate a lot of flexibility. If an employee is out of PTO, but needs to go back home to Mexico to take care of family obligations, we work with them and allow them to take care of their obligations. That people-first focus has really spelled the difference in our company culture.”

Today’s contractors are becoming more diverse and with that comes the need for sound DEI programs.

Another factor that is changing contractors’ company cultures is heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Trimble Viewpoint Vice President of Talent, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Melissa Uribes and Nehemiah Heye, Trimble Viewpoint’s program manager for talent development, diversity, equity and inclusion gave a join presentation on some of the strides Trimble has made with DEI and best practices other companies can pull from.

The makeup of the construction industry has traditionally been that of white males. But these demographics are changing. A recent Department of Labor study noted that 63% of today’s construction industry is white, but a significant part of that workforce is quickly retiring, which will change the makeup of the industry. By 2023, people who identify as white will represent less than half of the U.S. population under 30 years of age.

The industry today is just 9% female, though there has been a much stronger push in recent years about empowering female construction professionals at all levels.

Many companies understand they need to further diversify their workforces, and while some have DEI programs in place, others may not know where to start or need assistance.

“It can be overwhelming to figure out how to start a new DEI program. Just like any new business initiative, you need to understand your audience,” Uribes said.

“Systemic change doesn’t happen fast. It has to be thoughtful and is usually time-intensive,” Uribes noted.

Trimble did it’s homework by understanding how leaders and employees felt about DEI — where there were biases and where people were excited. The company developed a list of strategies to understand employee sentiment, brought in consultants to do senior leadership listening sessions, undertook a global survey to get baseline feedback on demographics, and put together focus groups to understand opportunities for change. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

Trimble Viewpoint Vice President of Talent, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Melissa Uribes talks about things to consider in developing DEI strategies.

She provided a few takeaways when looking at your own DEI programs:

  • It’s ok if you’re not an expert at DEI.
  • Be willing to take it on with a growth mindset.
  • It’s a great time as a leader to share your vulnerability; it’s a learning process for all of us.
  • Listen with your heart. Having a personal willingness to share your experience can be really rewarding. As more people are willing to do that, the more they’re bringing their “full” self to the workforce.
  • If you’re not slightly uncomfortable, you’re probably not doing it right. Uncomfortableness is totally normal.

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