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IMA Executive News & Views Blog

Why Industrial Tradesmen Leave Their Jobs

Xemplar Workforce Solutions is an IMA B2B Partner

Given how hard it is to find tradesmen and tradeswomen in this current job market, it is extremely important for industrial companies to work as hard as they can to retain the trades employees they already have. Additionally, it is equally important to be aware of the reasons that many tradespeople are deciding to make a move to a new job so you can speak to these issues and opportunities within your own company during recruiting and interviews. For these reasons, the Xemplar team decided to assemble an analysis of the most common reasons industrial tradesmen and tradeswomen are leaving their current jobs.

Our list begins with:

#9 Company Death Spiral

(Approximately 2% of our candidates)

Nothing sends trades professionals packing like the rumors of your company or division’s imminent demise. But it’s also not that common. Perhaps an acquisition of your redundant location just occurred, financing fell through, or there is a change in management. With change comes concern about the security of employees’ jobs. While you may feel like you have the situation under control, your team may already be proactively exploring new opportunities without you knowing, especially when communication is not great.

Some possible solutions are to turn communication up within your company and make sure that everyone understands that jobs are being protected or will remain in place. Your employees will appreciate it and you are likely to protect and boost your retention.

#8 Bad Commute

(Approximately 2% of our candidates)

Beware the brutal employee commute! Deciding where to locate your business is a complex decision that isn’t likely to make everyone happy. Some tradesmen and tradeswomen accept a difficult commute because they are excited about a position, but later realize how rough it is sitting in hours of traffic each day. Over several years, congestion can slowly grow denser in certain areas until it’s unbearable.

It is beneficial and important for employers to pay attention to employee chatter about commutes because it can majorly impact their quality of life. If there is an issue, think about whether there are any creative solutions. Is the issue that your shift starts too late so everyone is getting stuck in morning rush hour traffic? What if you moved the shift an hour earlier? Would it reduce the commute time significantly?

Talk to your tradespeople about their commutes and find out if it is a hot button. There may be something that you can do to relieve the issue.

#7 Moving

(Approximately 2% of our candidates)

Cross-country or regional moves can arise for various reasons. At Xemplar, we generally see them in the context of a move to be closer to family or to pursue a new career opportunity. In either scenario, an employer’s focus on providing exciting long-term career opportunities may make these situations less likely to occur.

#6 Too Much Overtime 

(Approximately 4% of our candidates)

With the skilled labor shortage in full swing, many employers are compensating for smaller headcounts by pushing their existing tradespeople harder, extending hours significantly. The result is that many employees have had enough. Many are glad to have the extra overtime at first, but find that the long hours become constant and never ease up.

We recommend a two-fold approach in this instance to manage production. Communicate with your team so that they understand that the extension of hours is a short-term fix, then commit yourself to a recruiting strategy, like the one provided by our firm, that can enable you to get the trades professionals you need to sustain your business for the long-term.

#5 Broken Promises & Bad Managers

(Approximately 8% of our candidates)

There is a saying, “Employees don’t leave jobs. They leave bosses.” That said, we were surprised to see fewer candidates leaving jobs because of bad managers than we expected. The first version of this scenario is big and obvious which is an unpleasant relationship with an employee’s direct supervisor. The second version of this scenario is more subtle, where a manager gets along well with the tradesman or tradeswoman and makes a series of promises about his or her long-term opportunity at the company. The employee dives in and keeps up his or her side of the bargain, but the manager, who is generally inexperienced and overworked, forgets about his or her side of the deal. The result is deep resentment by the employee towards his or her circumstance at the company. A raise is forgotten, a bad shift is never changed, new tools or training is never provided, and so on.

In many of these cases, the manager only hears about the broken promise when it is too late (or never). By the time the employee quits, he or she has been harboring this frustration for so long any chance of rebuilding trust is fruitless.

#4 Culture of High Turnover or Poor Safety

(Approximately 10% of our candidates)

At Xemplar, we believe this cause for leaving a trades job is probably one of the most destructive to your organization. This dynamic can arise when managers for various reasons start lowering standards in terms of worker quality and/or worker safety. They might do this because of a tight labor market and/or intense pressure from management. In terms of poor hiring standards, the result is an unreliable, inadequate, job-hopping workforce that starts to erode the quality of the company’s products or services and the culture of the company. Seasoned employees generally have little patience for these lapses and are quick to seek better opportunities. Lower safety standards often result in rapid exits from principled and safety-conscious tradespeople who risk life and limb to work for your business.

This situation arises more than you might expect and a simple rule is to never allow your business to lower its standards for both hiring and safety.

#3 Bad Shifts & Lack of Schedule Flexibility

(Approximately 20% of our candidates)

While a night or swing shift may have worked for a tradesperson for several years, things can easily change in a person’s life that no longer make that schedule possible. An employee may have gotten married, had children, had a parent become ill and so on. These normal life events may impact the employee’s ability to fulfill the same role that you had in mind for him or her when hired.

Many employers struggle to adapt well to these situations, which is why this reason for departure is so common. There may be little you can do. Most employers and tradesmen recognize that a night or swing shift employee is not likely to stay forever. He or she may benefit from a shift wage differential and receive excellent training that will be valuable to his or her career down the road. But it is worth some consideration of ways that a potentially valuable employee could be retained. Are there any other workers that may actually prefer the night or swing shift?

A new generation of employers is offering greater flexibility with schedules so that their employees can take care of life issues that are guaranteed to arise. Start times can be bumped forward or back, hours can be made up on other workdays, etc. These more flexible schedules are easing the strain on workers and enhancing retention rates.

#2 Lack of Opportunity (Wage or Role)

(Approximately 22% of our candidates)

Ambitious trades professionals can sometimes find themselves at the peak of the wage scale or perhaps working under a manager that is just a few years older and unlikely to leave the company for years. These situations are common and are a challenge to management teams that feel limited by their options or long-standing compensation structures.

We encourage employers to think creatively. There is very little benefit to losing skilled tradesperson because they don’t feel that a career track exists for them within your business. In fact, it is your job to create that career track for your employees, which will keep them engaged on the job. If manager roles are not available, perhaps additional pay increases can be tied to the development of high-value skills. We encourage employers to consider the merits of a results-oriented work environment (ROWE) where workers are compensated based on their contribution to the team and the company’s financial success. Beware! This is not the same as a commission-only pay structure, which could make the situation even worse. It may take some time to move your organization in the direction of ROWE, but the benefits to your business and your employees could be well worth it.

Lastly, it’s also worth the time to think about each of your positions and what type of job opportunities you are offering. If a job feels like a real dead-end to you, it’s likely to feel like a dead-end to the person in the job or the next person to consider it.

#1 Lack of Benefits or Cost of Benefits

(Approximately 30% of our candidates)

Despite a nationwide conversation regarding health benefits that came along with the rise of Obamacare, there are a lot of companies out there in the market that are still not offering health benefits or benefits of any kind. For most of these companies, the owners feel that the expense of offering these plans is too high or too complicated for their small businesses. In some cases, businesses have been lucky enough to attract team members with alternative insurance options such as plans through a spouse, parent, Medicaid, Medicare or the military.  Some industrial companies manage to offer a health plan, but can not pay enough of the employee’s expenses to make it sustainable to the employee or competitive in the job market.

At Xemplar, we are finding that the top employers are offering health benefits (with significant coverage of those monthly expenses) as well as additional voluntary benefits, such as 401K, life insurance, paid vacation and PTO, and even additional company benefits such as lunches and even financial education seminars. These companies have recognized that it’s essential to take care of their people so that they can retain them for the long-term.

Given how often we are seeing employees leaving employers over this issue, we see the adoption of employee health benefits as a huge gain for industrial employers seeking high-quality employees. If you are having trouble offering benefits or affordable benefits, take the time to look around at what is being offered and talk to your employees. You may begin to see some patterns in terms of their needs that may be less expensive than you expected. Be sure to do the research to see what your competitors are offering and sign up for as many low-cost voluntary benefits as possible. An example is marketing the availability of a low-cost local health clinic or encouraging employees to use a free discount prescription drug app called GoodRx. Offering health benefits may increasingly be a necessity if you are serious about attracting quality long-term talent. Remember that employees will take care of you, if they feel like you are taking care of them.

In this historically tight skilled labor market, it’s more important than ever that we are thinking about ways that we can attract top trades talent to our industrial companies. There is no better way to do it than by being able to understand, talk to and relate to the past frustrations of your candidates. It’s your chance to form a deeper connection with the candidate and offer a superior alternative to what they are leaving behind. Good luck on the hunt for great industrial trades talent!

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