Employee Engagement and Development 

Drucker Success Element #2

In our 2021 quest to define the success elements that mark a “best-in-class” construction company, we began with the Drucker Institute’s five success elements:

1. Customer satisfaction

2. Employee engagement and development

3. Innovation

4. Social responsibility

5. Financial Strength

We covered the first element a few weeks ago. Today, let’s take a look at number two – Employee Engagement and Development. 

Not Our Strong Suit

Let’s face it, the construction industry has never been noted for its ability to engage and develop employees. Why? What are the issues with our industry? Let’s take a look.

1. Structural Nature – Because our industry is a collaboration among owners, designers, general contractors, sub-contractors, and suppliers, no single contributor’s personnel is responsible for the project from conception to completion. The owner takes no responsibility for the performance of the general contractor’s employees, and the general contractor has no role in motivating the sub-contractor’s tradesmen. 

2. Project-Based – General contractors move from project to project with a small core of home office employees but usually end up a new team of sub-contractor-employed tradesmen on every project. Therefore, they take little or no responsibility for the “engagement” or “development” of the vast majority of personnel who actually build out their projects.

3. Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills – General and sub-contractors focus on the “hard skills” of tradesmen to build-out projects. The “soft skills” of leadership, communication, and time management are largely neglected.

4. Entrepreneurial nature of construction – Management skills like leadership, motivation, long-term vision, strategic planning, and communication are assumed to be the purview of the founder and owner of the construction enterprise. Many see little need to cultivate these “soft skills” down the employee ranks.

5. No touchy-feely – Most construction entrepreneurs are not touchy/feely types. They see employee engagement as a straight-forward carrot and stick proposition; money is the carrot, possible unemployment the stick. In which case no human resource department is required. 

For these reasons, few contractors see value in expending time and money to engage and develop large segments of their labor pool. Beyond journeyman certification in the trades and “on the job” apprentice training, the majority of construction companies engage in little or no formal training and employee development. 

The Path To Best-In-Class

During my career as a construction industry “turn-around expert” I was engaged by clients to discover why they were not performing to a higher standard in either workmanship or profitability or both. 

In 90% of the cases, the problem came down to a lack of management skills. Although most construction company employees were equipped with the technical skills required to perform a specific task, they often lacked the soft skills such as leadership, communication, and time management required to enhance productivity and performance. 

Most construction CEOs see external growth as the path to best-in-class construction performance. It is not. Internal performance is the magic element that puts a construction company on the road to best-in-class. Leadership that trains and motivates loyalty, efficiency, productivity, workmanship, and team-work is the key to long-term success.

What Leadership Sounds Like

Let’s listen to our favorite “best-in-class” leaders. 

  • The construction CEO who helped inspire this “best-in-class” series said this about leadership: “We foster relationships of truth and trust. Complaints, criticisms, and grievances are there. However, they can only do harm if you don’t get them out in the open quick enough and deal with them.”
  • When asked about his secret to successful innovation, Steve Jobs, Chairman of Apple (#2 on Drucker’s Top 250 best-managed companies in America) said this: “Working together well with other people and seeking to combine your complementary strengths.”

A Belief Shift

Employee engagement and development is the key element to success in the construction industry. This is a reality. It is, however, not a widely held belief by most construction CEOs. A belief shift is required. The most daunting challenge management faces in any industry is organizational change; a change in what all participants believe to be the company’s purpose and their individual roles in achieving its goals. Next we will talk about how true organizational belief change can be accomplished.

Please circulate this widely. It will benefit your constituents. This research is continuous and includes new information weekly as it becomes available. Thank you, Tom

For more information on organizational transformation and incorporating the 5 Success Elements into your business click on this link: https://simplarfoundation.org/category/organization-transformation/ and see other info at : https://simplar.com/business-of-construction-library/

To receive the free weekly Construction Messages, ask questions, or make comments contact me at research@simplarfoundation.org.

Read More: Business of Construction Library and Weekly Construction Message: Imagine and Organizational Transformation