Hiring, Training, Retaining, and Firing Employees

During the 2023 Q4 Division Meetings, we found a common theme among several of our members within each division regarding employee hiring, training, retaining, and firing. Our strength as a network of paving and construction industry professionals comes from shared experiences and knowledge and the willingness of each member to help other members grow in that knowledge. We put together this article to help address some of those frustrations experienced by our members.

Difficulty Hiring Qualified Workers

Many of us are experiencing this frustration. People are applying for open positions, but finding people who are qualified continues to be a challenge. Let’s look at what has worked for some PN members:

  • Competitive pay with benefits. Competitive pay is straightforward, but offering benefits isn’t. Health insurance and coverage continue to be one of the major benefits employers can offer alongside competitive salaries.  
  • Several of our members noted changes in healthcare packages at the meeting. Some have seen insurance consolidated, while others have asked workers to use the healthcare market options available through the state or their partner’s insurance. One member noted they provide a KAISER plan that includes a health card for up to $4,000 of out-of-pocket expenses. That is a significant benefit that is likely to draw in qualified workers. 
  • One member also offers MEWA plans through their local chamber of commerce. MEWA plans are Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements that seek to assist small businesses with health insurance coverage. If you’re struggling to find affordable options for your employees, this is a possible solution. 
  • Consider offering partner/spouse plans for employees, especially those at the manager level or higher. This is another valuable benefit for employees. 
  • Instead of relying on job boards to attract candidates, reach out to technical schools in the area. Attend career fairs or arrange to speak to upcoming technical school graduates as a guest speaker.
  • Support careers in construction and industry by reaching out to technical schools and industry associations with your name and an offer of support. Keep your business top-of-mind so they can reach out to you when they note qualified candidates. 

Training Employees in the Field

This problem runs hand-in-hand with finding qualified employees. When qualified candidates aren’t available, we have to provide more training, and training employees in the field is time-consuming for both the new employee and those overseeing training. Here are a few member tips for training in the field.

  • Offer small daily cash bonuses ($25 to $50) for training goals met and for those training new employees. 
  • Offer similar rewards for the first time an employee passes a safety check or inspection.
  • Ask veteran employees if they’ll consider taking on a mentorship role for new employees and offer an extra stipend as long as they fulfill it.
  • Rewards don’t have to be cash only. They can include accruing hours of paid time off for use later, gift cards to restaurants and movie theaters, or tickets to local events.
  • If possible, train employees in the off-season when you have more time to dedicate to this process. Another avenue is to identify possible employees (or subcontractors) during the off-season, communicate your high season needs, and learn what training these potential employees need. Run an off-season workshop to bring them up to speed.

How to Keep Employee Turnover Low

Training new people is expensive and time consuming. Keeping qualified and well-trained employees should be a key focus in your business. Consider some of these tips for maintaining low turnover outside of offering good salaries and benefits.

  • Allow employees to use Volunteer Time Off (VTO). VTO programs offer employees paid time off to volunteer at their favorite non-profit, school, or other community organization. Read more about instituting a VTO policy in your company from Indeed.com.
  • Celebrate employees. Recognize hard work and achievements with monthly shoutouts and awards. Recognize employees who hit employment milestones with your company. Offer birthday greetings or lunches. Recognize employees during meetings for exceptional customer service or on the job performance.
  • Offer additional training at no cost to the employees. Some of our PN members identified this as a great way to retain good employees. Sending employees who are already a good culture fit to more training shows you’re investing in them as a person and in the upward trajectory of their careers.
  • Be sure your employees have a clear path to success within the company. Clearly communicate how to receive promotions and if there are qualifications and training that must first be obtained. Help employees reach these goals. 

What To Do When An Employee Isn’t Working Out

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of running a business is letting people go when it’s obvious the employee isn’t a good fit for your company. Here are a few tips on letting employees go.

  • Before considering termination, be sure you’ve offered the employee enough constructive feedback for them to change their behavior and document this meeting. Communicating your expectations is key. If you’ve done this, and they still haven’t met these expectations, move forward with termination.
  • Bring someone else into the room when you let an employee go. This offers a witness for both parties that the termination is done respectfully. Your HR person is the likely candidate for this.  
  • If possible, offer clear reasons for the termination. It’s helpful for an employee to understand why they’re being let go, whether it’s due to budget constraints, absences from work, missed goals, poor performance, etc.
  • If it’s your policy, delineate what severance they’ll receive. If not, guide them to your local unemployment office and offer an unemployment verification letter they can use to apply for assistance or health insurance while they search for a new job. Speak with your HR representative about putting together a letter or how to obtain unemployment benefits and COBRA insurance that can be given to terminated employees. 
  • Finally, address the termination with the rest of your employees. You don’t have to go into details, but you will need to communicate why the employee was let go and follow up with an emphasis on your company policy and goals if necessary.

These are just a few of the themes from our last quarterly meeting. We learn a lot from each other in the Pavement Network and look forward to our next quarterly meeting. If you’re interested in becoming a member with access to network resources like this, reach out to us at admin@pavementnetwork.com