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If employees do not feel appreciated, they might have one foot out the door—something most construction companies cannot afford to risk right now. The U.S. construction sector is set for a jobs boom but still faces a talent shortage. One of the most effective ways to retain employees is to ensure they feel appreciated.

It makes sense that employee retention is a top concern for construction leaders. A 10-year study by O.C. Tanner Learning Group found that an astounding 79% of employees who quit their jobs claimed a lack of appreciation was a major reason.

Retention is a bigger concern for leaders who plan to retire in the next five to 10 years. Many of these leaders are among the 41% of the construction workforce who expect to retire by 2031. It is hard for many leaders to let go of the reins when no one else is prepared to take over.

“I don’t want to get to the end of my career and be trapped and feel like the company does not have a path forward without me at the helm. I don’t need that kind of pressure. That’s critically important for me in my own mental health as CEO,” says Keith Costley, president of Keck & Wood, a civil engineering firm.

Appreciation is as simple as recognizing an employee’s worth as a person and expressing gratitude for something the person has done. Below are three ways leaders can make sure employees feel appreciated—before it is too late.

1. Show appreciation frequently

How frequently should leaders show appreciation to employees? It is telling that one of the 12 inquiries on Gallup’s Employee Engagement survey is, “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” This question might come as a shock to leaders and managers who are accustomed to showing employees appreciation during annual reviews and quarterly check-ins.

Workers want to know their work is appreciated more than a few times a year. Employees who do not receive appreciation on a frequent basis tend to be less engaged at work. However, when employees believe they will be recognized, they are 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged, according to Quantum Workplaces Recognition in the Workplace study.

2. Encourage appreciation from multiple sources

Since employees value frequent appreciation, it needs to come from multiple sources. This requires a culture of appreciation that starts at the top. CEOs need to be talking to their people. It is not enough for leaders to direct the management team to make sure employees are appreciated.

Appreciation can also come from peers, the human resources department or from a manager. Formal programs may be needed to encourage this kind of feedback. They may come in the form of a peer-to-peer recognition program where peers directly reward their fellow workers for their efforts. Managers can recognize specific employees at the start of meetings. HR can also provide more formal rewards, perks, additional time off work and great benefits.

3. Give employees the space and resources to do their job

Showing employees appreciation is important, but it becomes meaningless if it is not backed up by actions. It does not benefit employees to say “Good job!” and then set them up for failure by not giving them what they need to succeed and grow.

Employees know their work is valued and important when they are given the space, tools and resources they need to do their job well. They see this as an investment in the work they are doing. Without these tools, there will be fewer successes for leaders to recognize.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Sabina Nawaz writes: “Yet we more often offer praise or rewards, like gift certificates for coffee. These remedies might make us feel better about our jobs as managers, but do they really make an impact on our employees and their work? During your stay interviews ask, ‘What barriers can I remove for you?’ Then communicate what action you will take and follow through or brainstorm with your colleague how you can be most helpful. Instead of saying, ‘Good job,’ ensure your direct report can perform their job well.”

It is less tempting to leave a company when there is frequent appreciation from multiple sources and the tools and resources at hand to accomplish great things.


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