Dirt World Summit Focused on Workforce Development

Extreme ownership and retaining talent are keys to the personnel shortage solution.

Aaron Witt during his keynote at the Dirt World Summit.
Aaron Witt during his keynote at the Dirt World Summit.
Lori Ditoro

At a networking event, Lori Ditoro met Blacktop Banter host Marvin Joles.At a networking event, Lori Ditoro met Blacktop Banter host Marvin Joles.Lori DitoroAs we close out 2023, I am reflecting on my time this year as editor-in-chief of Equipment Today and how much I’ve learned from readers, manufacturers and events. One of the last events I attended this year was Dirt World, sponsored by Ariat and produced by BuildWitt. It was filled with networking and education around talent recruitment, training and retention. This was the first year for the event. It was well-attended, and I look forward to attending again next year.

Among the highlights were presentations from Jocko Willink and Aaron Witt.

Extreme Ownership

During an inspiring and informative presentation, Jocko Willink, retired U.S. Navy Seal, podcaster, author and leadership instructor, talked about how combat leadership can help any leader of people.

According to Willink, a large part of leading is taking extreme ownership of the team, the results and the problems.

A leader cannot let ego get in the way. No one is perfect, so Willink recommends a mindset of no excuses. No one else is to blame but the leader. Taking ownership and not blaming others on the team keep personnel from getting defensive. Instead, the team listens and learns. In many instances, if the leader takes ownership, everyone else on the team will, too. This will become the culture at your company.

Willink discusses extreme ownership at the Dirt World Summit.Willink discusses extreme ownership at the Dirt World Summit.Lori DitoroWillink also advocates for decentralized command. Everyone on the team should be well-trained and allowed to do their jobs and make calls when needed. How do you know if your team members may be good leaders? Some nuanced aspects to look for are humility (balanced with confidence) and an open mind.

Some barriers to extreme ownership include:

  • Thinking that combat leadership is not for you
  • Fear of losing respect, the consequences, being the only one to take ownership and responsibility
  • Uncertainty or not being confident
  • Being overwhelmed
  • Using ownership as a weapon

The Workforce Challenge: Retain First

Daily, the conversation is about the workforce dilemma in the construction industry. The reason that Aaron Witt, CEO of BuildWitt, and the BuildWitt team conceived of the Dirt World Summit was to bring the industry together to discuss the shortage and workforce development.

During his keynote during the Dirt World Summit, Witt suggested that contractors start with retaining their current workforce first. How can you retain your employees?

Several steps can be taken to help retain your workforce. First, invest in your people to help them be more effective and efficient. This includes training and focusing on their health and wellness. Also, be flexible and work with people if they need to work different hours. Try to find a solution that gives them what they need or want. Regularly show that you appreciate the hard work your team does; make them feel valued. In addition, find ways to equip your personnel to be leaders. Finally, create the workforce you need. Have pathways for growth and for entry-level positions (of course, this is part of attracting talent). Train your team to be the workforce that you need.

Get Started in 2024

Witt suggested that contractors and business owners just start, especially with training. Focus and work on one thing and then move to the next step. Let us know if you decide to get started in 2024!

Companies in this article