Satisfying Today's Workers

As an employer, it is necessary to find talent, train them, and keep them happier than ever before.

If your employees are happy, your clients will see that and it will be a positive reflection on your company.
If your employees are happy, your clients will see that and it will be a positive reflection on your company.
T&N Asphalt Services, Salt Lake City, UT

I never thought I would see a time when so few workers were available, and then when you do manage to hire someone you wonder if they have a hard time finding food at night. Just kidding…well, not really. Today’s laborer is much different than any I have ever worked with, hired, or trained. 

Covid has changed everything as we know it, but I believe today's workers have been evolving for some time; they’re just more prevalent now. As an employer, we need to find talent, train them, and keep them happier than ever before. This offers two considerable challenges. 

Challenge Number 1: Finding people. After spending thousands on recruitment, we still couldn’t fill some positions at our company in 2021, so re-shaped our operations into something a little smaller.  We haven’t given up on hiring, but we needed to move forward. I am optimistic and feel that the workforce will return, but not everyone shares that optimism. I hear of trade school closings and a flat-out lack of desire in just about every profession. I think that most companies can ride out the storm, but it might require re-shaping your operation as we have done.  

Challenge Number 2: Keeping the workers you have happy.  Today’s workers seem very different from workers of my generation. They simply expect more, and I’m not saying this is a bad thing. They expect a competitive and living wage and an opportunity for growth. But once that’s covered, what’s left? I have always said that if you don't enjoy your job, you should find one that you do.  So, I have worked hard to make that happen for our people. I firmly believe in making our company a fun and enjoyable place to work, but when is it too much?  Today's worker seems to require a little more effort than when I was younger.

Our thought has been that if we continue to solve challenge #2 and make working at our company enjoyable, it will naturally solve challenge #1 because workers will want to work here.  In my book, that starts with a bit of empathy. I don't ask anyone to do a job that I haven't done or wouldn't do. I think keeping everyone on a level playing field really goes far in your company’s culture. 

Being a smaller company, we can't just throw money into higher salaries (we’re more than competitive in our market) or offer the same benefits that a more extensive operation does, but that doesn't mean all or nothing.  While we don't provide health or dental insurance, we offer fitness club membership, provide bottled water and ice on the jobs, often buy lunch each day and have a free snack table fully stocked with a selection of snacks and light food. 

One of our main efforts involves what we consider worker-friendly scheduling.  We don't overbook crews, we understand long days and we won't schedule large projects back to back with the same crew. This helps avoid burnout and lets them know we’re concerned about their welfare as well as their personal time. Again, it's just little things and having and demonstrating an understanding of our workers. I have been told over and over that doing any of that is ridiculous.  Maybe so but a little empathy for the hard work our crews do does go a long way. 

I know we won't be able to get every employee we want, and I know we won’t be able to keep every employee we have. But creating a positive culture and environment that reflects empathy and our appreciation of our workers goes further than you think. In many ways, a good working environment and company culture can mean more than the actual per-hour dollar amount. (We’ve had employees leave and want to return who told us that.)

Creating an environment that people want to join and where people want to stay not only helps recruit new talent, but it flows through to your customer as well.  If your employees are happy, I guarantee your clients will see that, and it will be a positive reflection on your company.