In 2021, more than 47 million Americans quit their jobs, with more than 13.5 million quitting in Q1 2022 alone. Much has been written about The Great Resignation, and it’s become clear that the issues driving this movement are complex and extensive. 

Workers – overwhelmingly women –  left the workforce to stay home with children during the rise of COVID-19, the demand for flexibility in scheduling and culture shifts increased, and employers felt a push for higher salaries during an unprecedented inflationary period.  Employee needs are at the forefront of the conversation, making employee retention a hot topic for nearly every company across the United States. In fact, a recent survey reports that 44% of employed individuals in the U.S. are actively seeking new employment opportunities. From entry-level positions to tenured executive roles, employees have realized that the greatest likelihood of a substantial pay increase, opportunities for advancement, or a more compatible culture sometimes involves taking the risk of working for a new company. With so many factors at play, how do companies – particularly those most impacted by the pandemic and sociopolitical turmoil – retain good workers? The answer is more complicated than a bigger paycheck.

Within the hospitality and construction industries, many employees who continued to work throughout 2020 and 2021 did so with decreased wages and an increased workload. Hotel managers worked valet stands and stepped in to clean rooms. Construction teams worked harder to manage more projects at lower margins amid inflation and supply chain challenges. Everything became more complicated, and there were fewer people to share the burden. Fortunately, both industries are headed in the right direction, with demand for lodging, project management, and skilled trades at nearly pre-pandemic levels. That demand, paired with an overall labor shortage, makes employee retention critical. And now that the adrenaline of surviving a pandemic (that appears to be inching toward endemic status) is wearing off, people are, quite simply, tired.

At Continental, we are aware of the incredible hard work that has gone into the projects completed in the last 24 months. We have a growing team of professionals who have put heart and soul into their work; supported, trained, and mentored each other, and continue to work together to find new ways to help our customers. We have also witnessed a steadfastness among the Continental team that is inspiring and humbling. We do not have the perfect solution, nor are we immune to making mistakes, but here are three ways that we strive to keep our Continental family intact:

  1. Our core values are humility, integrity, and respect. They have been our core values since day one, and every decision made that impacts the Continental Contractors team is made with those core values in mind.
  2. We seek to know the person, not the role they fill. While a pay increase may be the driving factor for some – and certainly every employee should make a comfortable, fair salary – money is not the sole motivator. For some employees, the need for flexibility is key; while for others, finding deeper meaning in their work is paramount. Some seek an opportunity to express creativity, flex leadership muscle, or simply spend the day in an environment that is conducive to their unique work style. We strive to acknowledge and meet each of those needs however we can. 
  3. We understand that things change. As a company, we love seeing our team members grow, both personally and professionally. With that growth comes change – priorities adjust, interests shift, and what feels inspiring and motivating in one phase can feel burdensome or repetitive in another. We encourage Continental employees to grow – through training initiatives and continuing education reimbursement programs, through an effort to promote from within, and through celebrating work and life milestones together. 

The truth is, there is no silver bullet that will solve the complex employee retention issue for any company, of any size, in any industry. Increased salaries, cultures that embrace diversity and inclusion, leadership development, flexible scheduling, acknowledgment of hard work and sacrifice, mutual respect among team members, and opportunities for advancement are very good places to start. When asking employees what they need to carry on in their current roles, the answers will be as unique as the people who give them. 

Categorizing individuals by groups – and making assumptions about the needs of that particular group – is serving no one. And, while the quit-level rates are striking, it’s important to remember that the people who leave a job are more than just another statistic. They are people whose individual needs were not met. Perhaps it is time to shift the focus to the specific and unique needs of the individual. Instead of asking “what do they need,” let’s also be sure to ask “what do you need?”

Complex? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

— Renee Bagshaw, Chief Operating Officer