Organizational Health
(6 Minute Read)

Fostering healthy relationships with your employees from the office to the jobsite.

Most business owners have a common set of desired business outcomes. The goal is for the organization to be profitable, efficient, productive. Logically, they would want to be successful in recruiting talent, have less turnover, and have fewer safety incidents. At first glance these outcomes may seem too varied to have any meaningful connection. However, there is one factor that they all have in common—your employees.

Let’s imagine two general contractors, Tom’s Construction and Joe’s Contracting. The employees go to their respective worksites, and have very different behaviors. Tom’s crew is focused. They communicate effectively and follow best practices for safety and productivity. Several crew members go out of their way to help out a relatively new teammate who is struggling with a section of drywall. On the other job site, Joe’s team looks drastically different. Several employees aren’t wearing their hard hats. They are taking frequent breaks, and paying little attention to their work or the struggling new guy who makes several mistakes while framing a door. Two crews with two very different stories that will both impact the owners and their business outcomes.  

When asking why these employees act the way they do, there are countless factors to consider: Who are they? What is the recruitment process like? What training did they receive? Do they feel fairly compensated? Do they enjoy their work? The list could go on and on. Instead let’s start with one dimension of a healthy organization—healthy relationships between managers and their employees, and see what impacts it can have on your team and business.  

The Impact of Leadership

Leaders are under pressure today, and that is particularly true in the skilled trades like electrical or general contracting. Talent is hard to find, turnover is high (over 20% in construction) and they face pressures to increase their profit margins (a tall task nowadays) and keep their team safe and their business growing. Among all of this pressure lies one often overlooked weapon in a leader's arsenal: the ability to impact the individuals on the team. At this point, let's circle back to the employee’s from Tom’s construction. Their behaviors will drive the positive business outcomes that business owners crave. But what drives their behaviors? There are a number of dimensions that matter here, but in the context of manager-employee relationships one of the most vital is engagement. We have written at length about employee engagement, but at a fundamental level, Tom’s construction workers are prime examples of what engaged employees look like. They show up early and leave late. They take time to help their teammates, they go the extra mile when necessary, and they aid your recruitment efforts by speaking in glowing terms about your company to  the most qualified people they know.  

What does this mean for a business owner or leader? Well maybe more than you might think. Research by Gallup examined engagement in the U.S. and found that less than one-third of employees are engaged with their job in any given year dating back all the way to 2000, when they first started recording the metric. [1] As for management: they are the driving force for engagement, accounting for 70% of the differences in employees engagement scores, and 50% of employees who left an organization did so to get away from their current manager. [2] The takeaway: your relationship with your employees matters and has the potential to transform your workforce.  

Driving Healthy Relationships with Your Team

As is the case with most relationships, sitting idly by or just reacting to issues will be detrimental. The dynamic between Managers and their employees is never stagnant. If there is no growth in the relationship, that means that it is declining—becoming more distant. Leaders will need to be proactive in driving this growth. So what are some of the key ways to build a healthier dynamic with your team?

Communicate

Ok, so this one seems quite obvious. Whether it was your parents or a TV show, most of us have heard something along the lines of “communication is the key to a healthy relationship.” As obvious as it may seem, many organizations fail in this arena. Only 17% of the U.S. workforce described their company as having open and clear communication [3] So what are employees looking for?  

Regular

The more consistent the better. Employees who have regular meetings with their manager are three times more likely to be engaged than those who do not, and these rates are even further accentuated when daily communication is involved. While face to face is most effective, you can mix in phone calls, electronic communication as well as video calls. The goal is to give your team consistent touchpoints with you to express whatever is on their mind and relay important information.

Meaningful

Employees want more than a daily check in about how their current work responsibilities are going. Gallup research revealed that employees want to have open lines of communication on work topics, but also on what goes on in their lives outside of work. The more employees felt that their managers were invested in them as individuals, the more likely they are to be engaged. [1] The goal here is to create an environment where your team is comfortable to challenge and support each other. This psychological safety empowers them to experiment, share concerns and give the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst.  

Manage Performance

What does my boss expect from me? How much progress do we need to make on the worksite each day? How will my success be measured? These questions often fill the minds of employees and performance management aims to answer them and allow employees to become more productive and profitable contributors on the jobsite or in the office. This goes beyond a simple job description. Just like communication, be consistent. Stay away from annual performance reviews in favor of regular check-ins on progress and responsibility. Your team should go into each day with an understanding of what is expected of them. Here are a few things to prioritize:

  • Connect individual progress to the overall goals of the organization
  • Hold your team accountable
  • Treat everyone with equity: favoritism won’t slide with your team
  • Reward and recognize those who perform  

Many companies go wrong with performance management. Sometimes they focus on the wrong metrics that aren’t leading indicators of performance. Other times they have the right metrics but set unrealistic targets. [4] Consider sitting down with a trusted advisor and developing a performance management system that is accurate and transparent so your team can function at its best.  

Focus on Strengths

Often it can be easy to focus on your team's weaknesses. A mistake in the foundation of a new build could derail the entire project after all. This risk analysis leaves many people highly tuned to let mistakes and weaknesses be the main thing they see in their team instead of the daily execution of quality work. Healthy organizations focus on their strengths: engaging their employees by developing their strong suits to improve performance instead of trying to combat weaknesses, and data suggests it pays off. Studies showed that 67% of employees whose manager focuses on strengths or positive characteristics are engaged vs 31% of employees whose managers took a weakness focused approach. [5]  

You can get more out of your team if you align them with their role and the organization. Each person brings unique capabilities to the team. Alignment is your tool to empower your team to operate at maximum capacity.  

Remote Control

In today’s workplace, remote employees cannot be ignored and these relationships have different requirements than an employee you may see face to face regularly. Just how prevalent is remote work? Consider a couple of statistics:

  • Globally, 52% of workers work remote at least once a week
  • In the U.S. alone 4.3 million people work from home at least 50% of their time
  • By 2028, 73% of all departments across industries will have remote workers [6]

Construction and the skilled trades were often considered immune to remote work simply due to the nature of the job. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought change to those industries. Remote working quickly became the norm, requiring off-site design and project management from afar. While it remains to be seen whether remote work is here to stay in these industries, you should be prepared to manage your remote employee relationships. Here are a few tips.

Don’t Micromanage

The temptation is there. With less access to your employees who are off-site, it can be easy to want to track and control every detail to ensure that it gets done. However, some of the main reasons that people choose to work remote is the flexibility and the freedom it allows. [6] Instead of micromanaging, set up regular (but brief) check-ins to monitor progress. Just like we mentioned before, having clear and consistent communication will go a long way toward making sure your remote team members feel engaged and known, without cramping their style. We aren’t throwing accountability out of the window here. It is good to track progress and ensure employees hit deadlines and goals, but just because they aren't working at a desk just across the room from you doesn’t mean they aren’t being productive.  

Build Connections

Remote work can isolate your team members if it isn’t handled correctly. Do everything in your power to provide meaningful opportunities to connect and collaborate. This could mean having meet-ups on a consistent basis or utilizing technology to work together on a project or design. One thing we do with our remote teams is have a bi-weekly game time where we hang out on a video call and just talk about life and play anything from tetris to battleship. Get creative and stay focused on connecting your people. Remote work has the potential to have a positive impact on your organization: those who work from home are 24% more likely to be happy and productive, and companies that allow it have 25% lower employee turnover. [6]

Lead and Learn

We all want our employees to be engaged. Who doesn’t want a team full of people who come in early and leave late, look out for their co-workers, market your company to their friends, and are more productive and safe? The bad news: companies with highly engaged workforces are exceedingly rare. The good news: leaders can drive engagement and alignment within their organization and start to transform their team. Healthy relationships are just one dimension of a healthy culture that truly addresses your employees’ needs and drives behavioral change. We think it is a good place to start, but don’t worry, you can keep coming back to the blog as we break down more ways you can drive culture change and business outcomes. As always, if you have any questions about healthy workplace relationships or just want to connect, just click here to contact us!

  1. Harter, J., & Adkins, A. (2021, October 25). Employees want a lot more from their managers. Gallup.com. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236570/employees-lot-managers.aspx.  
  1. Beck, R., & Harter, J. (2021, August 23). Managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement. Gallup.com. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/182792/managers-account-variance-employee-engagement.aspx.  
  1. Duggan, K. How Employee Alignment Boosts the Bottom Line. Brighton, MA; Harvard Business Review. 2019.
  1. Carpi, R., & Douglas, J. (2020, October 20). Performance management: Why keeping score is so important, and so hard. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/performance-management-why-keeping-score-is-so-important-and-so-hard.  
  1. Sorenson, S. (2021, October 11). How employees' strengths make your company stronger. Gallup.com. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/167462/employees-strengths-company-stronger.aspx.  
  1. Simovic, D. (2021). The ultimate list of remote work statistics - 2021 edition. SmallBizGenius. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.smallbizgenius.net/by-the-numbers/remote-work-statistics/#gref.