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Reflecting on Labor Day 2021

With Americans back at work in 2021, this Labor Day was a well-earned holiday. Low staffing paired with increasingly high demands across all industries, especially within construction, has left many companies stretched thin and their employees donning many hats. We aren’t returned to where we were pre-pandemic. In fact, despite many new employees taking advantage of the labor vacuum, skilled employment is still on the decline. It’s time to reflect on the new direction of American labor.

Why “Working for the Weekend” is bad for Company Culture:

The average American will spend over 90,000 hours at work within their lifetime. With about 9 of our waking hours spent at desks and job sites, many of us – salaried and hourly— recognize that work has a significant impact on our quality of life. Employee happiness in the workplace means greater productivity towards long-term goals and better employee retention. Job satisfaction leads to personal fulfillment; it’s the difference between enjoying your workday versus working for the weekends.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with looking forward to Friday; but a weekend-only mindset is toxic. It is a symptom of a more significant problem that modern workplaces are working to overcome: weak company culture. This past Labor Day, seeing employment once again on the rise after the depression of the 2020 lockdown, American businesses are reevaluating what it takes to attract and motivate a productive and positive workforce.

So, what actually attracts today’s workers?

It might surprise you that salary expectations play a minor role in the top ten reasons employees globally say lead to job satisfaction. In fact, given the opportunity to earn a higher salary with longer hours, many Americans would refuse the offer for a position with better hours. Work-life balance is essential to the modern worker, considering that both partners work full or part-time in most family households. It is the prevailing reason behind the popularity of remote offices; working part-time remotely allows employees a more flexible schedule, meaning more time spent with family or on self-care.

So then, what factors make the greatest impact? The answer is recognition, coworker relationships, and career development. It’s no different than the methods a coach uses to lead his team. Players who are recognized for their talents and efforts channel that positivity into productivity. Recognition is an indicator that your superior values your work and that you are making strides in the right direction. A good team also relies on communication, of which acknowledgments are only one part of the whole. A team doesn’t play well if they don’t have the trust of their teammates. In the same way, a contractor’s team at the construction site will struggle to meet timelines and building standards with a dysfunctional team. We don’t like to lend a hand to unfriendly coworkers, and we certainly won’t support a boss who doesn’t help us.

Yet when it comes to career development, employers often make the same mistakes. It is a simple solution to onboard a new, skilled employee, but the oversight may slight an existing long-term employee. Hiring within the company means employers can retain qualified employees through promotion – you may even save on time and cost instead of training new hires! Want to let an employee know you see them as a long-term asset to the company? Invest in learning and career development. Contrary to popular opinion, sponsoring training and education does not lead to employee defection; employees that benefit from higher training more often stay at their current company to reap the benefits and return the loyalty.

Labor Day 2021 is a major turning point in American employment. What started as a union holiday now serves as a much-needed break before the end of summer, but it’s also a milestone in American Labor this year. Potential employees return to the workforce with a refreshed perspective on what they need from the daily grind. The overwhelming answer is “work-life balance.” A company culture that fosters positivity, trust between coworkers, and the opportunity to progress within their field will secure talented individuals, bringing businesses to the next level.

Looking for a great place to start or the next step in your professional career?

GE&S is looking to hire construction industry veterans and experienced warehouse personnel. Wanted: drivers, material handlers, forklift operators, business development, outside sales representatives, and senior project managers. GE&S provides benefits to our full-time employees, including health, dental, accident, vision, and more. Join a growing, dynamic team and work towards ongoing projects and long-term sales goals. For more information, contact our GE&S Human Resources department here.