With Michael Baer from Sunland Asphalt
Let’s take an industry that is not known for an incredibly uplifting or encouraging culture and mix it with a niche that is hard to hang with for a number of reasons, and we have ourselves an uphill battle when it comes to fostering an empowering and career-boosting environment. This is one of the most important factors when we choose jobs in this era. We’re looking for where we will feel valued and taken-care-of, and with present business saturation, we don’t really have to settle for less anymore.
Asphalt work is among the trickiest of the facility management niches to work within. Not only are we struggling with our main topic, company culture, which we will cover below, but we also fight against external factors like ever-changing safety regulations, weather, other subcontractors working on the larger project, and the list goes on. But there are several elements we can control, and one of the most impactful of those is workplace environment.
With a severe lack of people going into the construction industry as our biggest strategic weakness in growth, how do we make our company stand out as an amazing place to work and thrive? Sunland Asphalt, where our special guest, Michael Baer works, openly strives to be “The best place in the world to work.” That’s a high standard, but we believe that anyone can get there by doing a few key things:
Pay attention to exit interviews and take them seriously. Michael notes that the most noted reason that a worker leaves a company in the construction industry is because they were given an insulting nickname within their first days on the job. This sounds so far-fetched and incredible, right? But no, we need to be taking these claims seriously. Not only is it a seemingly small issue, but it is a very simple one to fix. By paying attention to these small issues that arise, we can stop larger problems in their tracks and very easily keep our employees happy.
Break your larger employee count into small groups. This will ensure that every single team member is being poured into and taken care of regularly. It will make certain that complaints or issues are heard and addressed before they fester into something larger, and it tells our people that they matter and that their role in the company is important, no matter how small it may be or how “replaceable” their position is.
“Make safety contagious.” Nothing shows a person that they are valuable and cared-for than ensuring their safety. This can look like the obvious physical safety concerns when we hold project managers and team leaders to a high standard when it comes to staying above the bar on safety. It can also look like mental safety; let’s pour into our workers on a heart level and ensure that they feel safe emotionally as well. Lastly, it can look like family safety. When we show our teams that their lives outside of the job matter to us as well, that a parent’s well-being on the job and whether they get home safely is important to us, we create a company loyalty that can be seen through generations.
Consider recruiting a profit-and-loss issue. When we look at the money spent on team-building events and free food for our workers, updated equipment that is easier for our people to use, paid vacations, good employee benefits, etc, and stack them against a loss of money when disgruntled employees steal company time, a lack of worker care on quality and having to redo or fix projects, high turnover rates resulting in completion time pushbacks, and more, we’re looking at a no-brainer in terms of where our values should lie. We will always save money and resources in the long-run by keeping our team satisfied and loyal.
Have a good relationship with competitors and work with unsatisfied employees to help find them other jobs. We can’t be the best fit for everyone, so when we show ethics and care for people when they quit, it will prevent the spread of negative reputations and will show people that even when they leave, they are still valuable. It also creates a system where those competitors are returning the favor and sending us good people as well.
We believe that by following these 5 rules, we can retain our good people and weed out those who will not match these values and help us reach our goals. These are Michael and Sean’s best pointers for building an amazing company culture. Comment below and tell us yours!
Sunland Asphalt has been around for over 40 years. It is still run by its original founder, which it truly something they can boast about. They have moved from a one-man operation doing seal-coated striping to around 600 employees doing about $200 million in asphalt maintenance a year across 38 states. Right from the root of the company, they have worked with large facility management companies and they pride themselves on company culture and making that the top priority as they grow.