Contractor Q&A: Retaining Quality Employees

Words: MASONRY Magazine
Photo: Tashi-Delek

Editor’s Note: As you know, we try to provide real-life experiences on hot topics from contractors in the field. This month we sat down with Joe Bonifate and Kent Bounds to get their take and experiences on employee retention.  

The masonry industry is often considered to have a transient workforce, and the biggest question that comes to mind is: how do we retain our employees? In an attempt to focus our efforts on the declining workforce issue, we set out to speak directly with contractors who wrestle with the challenge of employee retention on a daily basis. Take a look through their experiences and see what you can do to maintain and potentially increase your employee count. We would also like to thank everyone who participated in this Q&A- we know you all have demanding schedules, and sincerely appreciate your input. 

How many employees do you keep on during the year?  

Kent Bounds, President of Brazos Masonry: 300.  

Joe Bonifate, President of Operations of Arch Masonry & Restoration: Roughly 80 on average. 

How do you retain or keep those employees in your company?  

Kent Bounds: We have crew appreciation lunches where we cook or cater lunches for our different crews twice a month.  We pass out Brazos swag (Hats, shirts, mugs, etc.…), have an annual companywide picnic, and pass out BMI construction hi-visible coats to employees who been with us for 5 years. We also present the coat in the presence of the entire crew. We have two foremen’s meeting each year, which involves the office staff too. We have two safety stand-downs each year that involve the office staff too, and we are also starting a bonus system for all field employees based off the number of years they have been with us.  

Joe Bonifate: We have competitive wages, benefits, and steady work. We incentivize with quarterly safety bonuses, and we also put 5% of their base earnings into a profit-share (retirement) plan.  

How do you recruit employees? 

Kent Bounds: We’ve been going to high schools. Our crews have also used some of their younger employees to help recruit new employees as well. We really support the apprentices, and that really helps when recruiting laborers.  

Joe Bonifate: We primarily use a third-party recruiter; all of our field workers go through a temp agency for the first ninety days. We also have general branding and Facebook videos, and have an average compensation sheet on our website careers page. 

How do you retain younger employees? 

Kent Bounds: We market apprenticeships, letting them know if they want to improve their life, they have the opportunity to be more within BMI.  We really market promoting from within.   

Joe Bonifate: We offer paid time off for perfect attendance and pay 100% of employee healthcare. Also, we have an apprentice program and outline in writing a path or career progression. 

Is there an incentive program in place for those employees? 

Kent Bounds: We are starting a bonus system for all field employees based off the number of years they have been with us. We also incentivize our superintendents to develop lead foremen and future superintendents.   

Joe Bonifate: Same as all employees. 

How do you deal with problematic employees? 

Kent Bounds: We let them go.  Since we hold safety in the highest regards, we cannot tolerate problematic employees.  If they create too many issues, they go on our Do Not Hire list.   

Joe Bonifate: Document incidents, notify when improvement is needed. 

How do you make your employees feel valued? 

Kent Bounds: When we make visit to jobs, the ownership attends.  We personally go to each employee and thank them for their hard work.  We will do cookouts for them and pass out hats, shirts, and tumblers.  Afterwards, we gather the whole crew and simply talk to them and hear what they have to say.  It is good for us, and great for them to know we care.   

Joe Bonifate: We just started this. We had HR (who happens to be an owner’s wife, Mindy) visit every jobsite and speak individually with each employee when passing out the last quarterly bonus. She went over the annual review, gave them a short survey to complete, and showed them their total earnings to date including the value of the healthcare, retirement, life insurance, and everything on their paystub and beyond. 

How do you deal with company hopping? 

Kent Bounds: There isn’t much we can do. We don’t like to hire them back, but when you need people, it is difficult not to do so.  We currently do not have a company policy regarding people company hopping.   

Joe Bonifate: We have a hard rule not to allow anyone to come back after they leave us for a competitor. We have held this since we started the company in 2009. This past April, we did have our first ever “month of mercy” as I called it. During that month we let any previous employee apply to come back. That was a rare occurrence, and despite request I do not think it will become an annual event.