More causes of, and cures for, employee turnover.

Illustrated by: Cory Kintner

Last month we emphasized the horrendous cost of employee turnover, along with positive cures. I hope some of those cures will help you prevent any possible loss of a good employee. Keep in mind that every individual always has a choice of who they want to work for and, naturally, the best employees have the best choices.

Let’s look at the rest of those causes and cures to assure you remain one of their best choices.

Cause E

Damaged pride of a supervisor, foreman, superintendent, project manager office manager, etc.< br>
  • Public criticism or discipline. If you don’t respect them, how can their employees?
  • Monday morning quarterbacking. It’s easy to second-guess any decision.
  • Overturn his or her decision. Breaking the chain of command eliminates his or her authority.

    Cure 1. Write, explain and post your chain of command and follow it religiously. You must define who your managers are responsible for and back them in their decisions.

    Cure 2. Negotiate a thorough job description with a written scope of work included, parallel to every contract you negotiate with a customer. This eliminates the negative remarks - “You should have known better,” “Why didn’t you do something?” “That’s not your job.”
    This scope of work allows you to keep score on everything your managers do, above or below what you are paying them to do. All good employees want a scorecard.

    Cure 3. Communicate your policies and intentions to eliminate any doubts or mistakes. Today’s cell phones provide easy contact regarding any doubtful situation.

    Cure 4. Resolve any negative situation privately, one-on-one, and document the facts in that supervisor’s performance file.

  • Cause F

    Far too many outstanding employees leave a company and go to another just to get a company vehicle.

    Cure. The private use of a company truck is a benefit that is very prestigious, as well as a financial asset for your employee. This should always be an option to be negotiated with each employee’s wage or salary package. Keep in mind the tax advantages and disadvantages for the employee and for your company.

    Cause G

    Most office employee turnover is due to an unintentional lack of recognition and appreciation. In many construction companies, the office is secondary to the jobsite activities and becomes a “twilight zone.”
  • The jealousy, resentment and tension among office employees resulting from the lack of an office manager, job descriptions, written chain of command and company policies.
  • Office employees get little training or opportunities for advancement to better positions and higher wages.
  • Many office employees are expected to clean up, make coffee, serve drinks to visitors, etc.
  • Some office employees are expected to answer the phone and greet visitors during their breaks or lunch period.
  • Jobsite supervisors are promoted into your office and expect your office staff to do their jobs.
  • Jobsite employees come in or call the office and tell office workers what to do rather than ask for assistance.
  • Jobsite employees can be rude and use foul language in office personnel’s presence.
  • Jobsite employees typically make higher wages but cannot spell or do proper paperwork.
  • Jobsite employees are usually late with time cards and other critical paperwork, which requires extra time and effort from the office staff.
  • Many office employees are not happy campers - when your job is not fun, life is miserable.

    Cure 1. Maintain a friendly smile on your face and on every member of your management team. A smile is contagious and is the first step in the right direction for making your office employees respond. Your friendly and sincere greeting, referencing their personal life, will make their day. You should get involved, without interfering, in whatever they do after work hours.
    Whenever an employee is not smiling, it is unpleasant for your other employees and your customers. And it is good customer relations to hear a smile on the telephone. You should always talk with your office staff privately and ask, “What’s the problem and how can we help?”

    Cure 2. Post your written chain of command on the office bulletin board to eliminate any doubt about “who can tell me what to do.” Run your office as you run your jobs. One person is in charge with written job descriptions and performance files to assure proper recognition, appreciation and rewards. Your office manager can work with your project managers and job supervisors to assure cooperation and discipline of jobsite personnel on the phone and in the office.
    When this critical leadership is not designated by the contractor, one of your employees will assume this authority. There really is “one in every office!” Usually it will be a worker with seniority, a relative or a gutsy and pushy individual. It’s the same assumed leadership that happens throughout the animal kingdom with wild animals, farm animals and pets. Do not allow it to happen in your kingdom!

    Cure 3. You should offer flex-time options and the virtual office concept (working at home) to attract and keep good employees with outside commitments.

    Cure 4. Continually stress the critical importance each office individual has as a part of your winning team spirit.

  • Cause H

  • Some contractors pay by seniority. A new employee does not have a fair opportunity.
  • Some contractors promise wage reviews that never happen. Likewise with bonuses.
  • Many contractors do not maintain a scorecard in the employee’s performance file. His or her review is based only on memory. What do you think the contractor remembered versus what that employee remembered?
  • Many contractors try to keep their wages a big secret, but their employees compare wages on every jobsite, as well as at the bar. They also relate those wages to actual performance of each individual.
  • Union wages and Davis Bacon prevailing wages pay everyone the same, regardless of performance.
  • Some contractors will offer a big pay raise to an employee who gives notice that he is quitting. Your employee asks, “If I’m worth that much now, why wasn’t I getting it all along?”

    Cure 1. Wages are not a secret! All of your employees are aware of what each other is doing and also should know how much money that is worth for them and your company. You should proudly explain your wage structure in your market area.

    Cure 2. Every employee is worth what it costs to replace them. If they leave, you will undoubtedly realize this.

    Cure 3. You can use our 6-8-10 daily rating and monthly performance reviews to properly reward jobsite personnel.

    Cure 4. You can utilize piecework to keep score and pay a true merit wage.

    Cure 5. Use our database skill inventory to expedite learning new skills and earning better wages.

    Cure 6. You need to negotiate a wage or salary with your office staff and management team based on their job descriptions and scope of work. Maintain an active scorecard for above and below agreed-upon performance for effective wage reviews.

    Cure 7. A bonus is for a one-time, above-average performance; a pay raise is for continuing performance. Pay the bonus when it is earned, rather than at the end of the job.

    Cure 8. Do not overpay any employee. This causes resentment among your other employees.

    Although most contractors think the biggest reason for turnover is due to wages, you can review the other seven causes and realize why we listed it last. Our tough, rugged, macho employees who quit working for a company would never tell their buddies, “They hurt my feelings.” Low wages is, unfortunately, an acceptable excuse.

    My turnover list is simply a recollection of all the people I’ve worked with and known. You should write your own list of the good employees that you have lost:
    1. Who hired them?
    2. Why did they leave?
    3. Who was at fault?
    4. Did we do an exit interview?
    5. Where are they today?
    6. How much could they have helped us if they had stayed?

    Turnover is frustrating, heartbreaking and costly - you need to utilize these preventive cures.

    It is called momentum. When your employees are happy, you are happy.