4 Ways to Improve Owner-Employee Relations

I recently presented a workshop entitled “10 Actions of a Successful Construction Owner and Leader.” One action in particular I felt needed more expansion — maintaining employee relations.

For construction owners and leaders, maintaining employee relations is necessary. In this current era of diversified workers, with some who might speak little to no English, communication can be difficult, yet still necessary, to build relationships with workers.

Better relationships with your workers can actually lead them to be more loyal to your company. Having a better relationship with your workers normally fosters greater motivation and also tends to result in fewer safety risks and greater productivity, quality and profitability.

As one contractor shared with me at another conference earlier this year, “I’ve never seen a group of mad or disloyal workers turn out first class results.” In truth, better performance doesn’t always guarantee a great relationship between worker and owner, but it almost always suggests things are not rotten to the core either.

Therefore, what might be some additional efforts that construction owners and leaders can take? Consider the following four tips.

1. Provide workers a glimpse of the future. Share with your workers where you are leading the company. Without letting go of strategies that need to be held tight for a while longer, provide a view of what the next 12 to 24 months looks like. Workers often begin to think about how they can assist or how they fit in.

2. Initiate more employee “touches.” Results of an interesting construction industry survey were released a few years back and it reported one of the top five reasons good workers stay longer with their companies was based on the relationships they felt they had with their companies’ owners and other senior leaders. Translation: Increase the time you spend with your workers. The more you share with them and listening to them, the longer they will stay with your company.

3. Create performance measurements and share with workers. Part of the working relationship between owners and their workers is that success comes ultimately when targets and goals are achieved. Results matter and it is the owner’s responsibility to present their expectations and production goals that need to be achieved. Such presentation engages the workers, clearing up any “gray” about what they are expected to accomplish.

4. Invest in your people by inquiring about their needs and expectations. There is an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is especially true of construction owners and leaders and their relationships with workers. As mentioned earlier, you may have employees working for you from another country or culture. Quickly understanding what is important to them may be difficult, but successful owners and leaders will find a way to connect. A few brief tips for this:

  • Ask employees (with translator if need) what they expect from you.
  • Allow employees to question your firm’s processes, decision making and why you do what you do.
  • Where needs or expectations can be met, do it!
  • Ask employees how you might be able to make their work efforts better, more consistent and safer.

There is nothing magical about the four tips just shared. Any leader can address their workers with such questions. The key here is that an owner makes the time to do so.

There are a host of ideas out their about growing and strengthening relationships with workers. The ultimate action, however, is left squarely in the hands of the owner and leader. Set out today to improve, strengthen and refine your relationships with your workers. It may be the best investment you will ever make.

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