Fast Tracking Solutions Blog
I recently conducted an online survey of over 1200 home building employees. The survey asked the question,” If the US market was good today, would you strongly consider leaving your current employer”?
The options in answering this question were;
- In a Heartbeat
Not surprising to me, the survey answers point to an enormous problem that is facing the US housing industry.
43% responded that they would leave their current employer in a heartbeat. 29% answered yes to the question and 28% responded maybe.
So 72% of the sample indicated they would leave their current employer if other good options existed for employment today. No-one in the survey indicated they would stay with their current employer definitively. That is a frightening statistic.
We have all gone through hell since 2006. Anyone who is still in business in our industry has had to change almost everything we do and say in order to survive this depression. In making these changes, we have shifted from being a consciously competent model of how we manage our employees and subcontractors to an unconscious incompetent model. Specifically, prior to 2006, most builder leaders were purposely creating a motivational, highly developed, tactically focused workforce. We were aware that by having certain people practices in our business that promoted fairness, adequate communications, compensation equality for work achieved and leadership behaviors that demonstrated people centric ideals, we would not only be able to retain and recruit the best employees but our balance sheets would be positively impacted by those decisions and behaviors.
Since 2006, our focus has had to be on reduction of force, cutting every variable expense, minimizing fixed cost and being less than democratic in our day to day decisions and behaviors. Situational leadership models would support this leadership style change stating it had to occur to get through our largest industry challenge in the history of recorded homebuilding.
That being said, I believe we all need to start paying attention once again to the people that will represent the backbone of our industry in the coming years. This is truly a wakeup call and I believe we can no longer afford to ignore this issue.
Begin putting the people strategy back into your business. It’s time to re-engage the people leadership principals we so greatly discussed in our trade magazines and trade shows in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. To ignore it could place your organization in peril.
I’ll get right to the point. Today’s business owners have lost a huge amount of loyalty, commitment and productivity from their employees. Leaders in the construction industry since 2007 have seen hundreds of experienced personnel either leave our industry or desperately hold tight onto their jobs while having to assume a 25% to 50% increase in scope of work with a reduced amount of compensation. As I talk to many professionals in our industry daily I hear this common theme.
“I am stressed, burned out and my boss only cares about himself”
Another typical response is “I can’t wait until this market improves because I will be out of here in a minute”.
I always follow up with the question” have you spoken to the owner, division leader or your boss about how you feel”? The answer is always the same; “they would not care if I did”.
It is no wonder why we in leadership have had to focus on other critical areas during these past several years, Concerns about whether we would even have a business standing drove us to be intense about, cash flow, bank requirements, and reducing cost….. This is not about indicting anyone, it’s about now seeing our reality as it really is and recognizing now’s the time to refocus on our people.
Here are three quick ways to begin turning your people back into highly productive, committed employees.
- As the leader of your organization. the attention you show for your employees is almost always appreciated. Start immediately holding one on one session with your key personnel. The agenda is to recognize their additional workloads, disclose that you understand how difficult it has been for them, commend them on their achievements and solicit feedback on their ideas and concerns. Where you can make changes to accommodate this feedback given, do it ASAP. Your direct reports should repeat this process through their departments as well.
- The time where a small group of people in a room developing the vision, strategy and initiatives for an organization and then expecting flawless execution is long gone. Employees today need to be engaged and participatory in strategy discussions in order for them to have buy in, ownership and ultimately accountability. There is nothing better to energize your employees than to send them a message they are valued in this process. There is a process called Fast Track Strategies that engages 10 to 100 people representing a cross section of the organization over a three day 20 hour session that is focused and effective. It’s not rocket science but delivers an outcome that few leaders can claim. If you’re interested, I can fill in the details for you on this methodology.
- Offer personal disclosure to anyone that will listen. A leader’s greatest attribute in building a loyal, trusting following is being honest with others about their feelings and concerns regarding where they are challenge and how the business needs to turn around. The greater the openness, the greater the employee support and ultimately their productivity and commitment. Employees need to feel like their valued and trusted enough to hear this stuff.
Now is our time to turn employee’s opinion from one that will present disaster to us as leaders when the market does improve to the peace of mind that you will create in a stable, productive work force.
Over my 30 years of working with senior leaders, I have seen the good the bad and the very ugly. It seems that any “C’ level person who has the privilege to put a “E” as their second letter in their title through a promotion automatically is hit with a cosmic ray from deep space that creates behavior that many times creates a lack of optimization in their workforce.
Specifically, most CEO’s, senior leaders lose their perspective on the reality of their business and their people both direct and indirect. I have concluded this behavioral change is not out of malice or intent but a brain cell alteration that tends to create ego maniacal characteristics. I am joking of course but if you’re honest with yourself you have to acknowledge my point.
The best Leaders formulate the vision for their company, integrate all employees. Subs and vendors into the execution of that vision, and then become cheer leaders throughout their organization indentifying and acknowledging behaviors that demonstrate momentum towards the desired outcome. Additionally, on a qualitative level, nothing helps create trust more with the entire workforce than a CEO being real with their people. Leaders need to understand the enormous power you have with the lives of your employees. With that power comes intimidation and a natural filtration of information. Unless employees really see the real you, and that you consistently demonstrate your desire to get honest feedback, you will always be removed from the pulse of your business.
Many leaders are convinced they are in touch with their employees and that their demeanor is nothing short of Dr Phil. Sorry, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here is a short list of how to be the very best ………
- Get everyone involved in the development of strategies and initiatives required to make your company the best it can be. Accountabilities for results will be enthusiastically owned by everyone participating. The days of a few smart leaders in a room developing the plan and then dictating what needs to be accomplished is long over.
- Take the mask off. I know it’s scary but most leaders believe in order to obtain respect, trust and compliance they need to be aloof, tough, demanding and impersonal. Try being open, honest, engaging, caring and personal. Your employees want to follow you up the mountain. Give them a reason to.
- Look for the wins not the mistakes. Sure you need to stay on top of problems but most leaders only really engage employees when there is a mistake made or a business performance problem. Find behavior that demonstrates your values and your success factors and go out of your way to appreciate it. It will not only further increase the productivity of that employee but everyone around that employee will be clamoring to understand what they need to do to obtain that positive attention.
- Listen, listen, listen……As a leader, one of the biggest challenges we have is to ask questions, make positive visionary statements and stay away from pontificating and making everything about you. It’s not about you, it’s about creating a cultural that is upbeat, confident, open, communicative, and results driven. That can’t occur unless your people believe they matter.
- Celebrate the wins….Give time to success and recognize all that assisted in achieving that outcome. In this economy we spend 95% of our time in crises, take the wins and make it a memory. Employees need a time to bath in their good work before setting upon the next hurdle.
So, it’s not rocket science but certainly from this writer’s perspective something rarely seen in today’s leadership model. Give it a try, I promise you will see immediate results