In a word: yes.
The days of promoting people based exclusively on seniority are over, in most every industry, though the practice lingers somewhat in construction and could be what prevents some companies from retaining staff.
After all, the idea of taking a job with a company as a young person and remaining with that same company, moving up the ranks until retirement, has more or less gone the way of the dodo bird. People will move and construction has some of the highest attrition rates of any industry. It’s hard to attract and train new people with potential and it’s even harder to keep the people you have.
After all, construction is one industry where experience really counts, so you don’t want to lose your more senior personnel either. Frankly, you don’t want to lose anyone, right? So the goal is to figure out how to develop and promote high performers, actual and potential, regardless of age.
Look for potential and develop it
Look at your teams and figure out who has the potential, if not yet the full knowledge or experience, to be the kind of team member you need at a higher level. Once you’ve figured out who those people are, do what you can to develop their skills.
“If employees understand how they can advance and progress in their careers, then they are more likely to remain with their companies long term.” (Source)
Many people leave companies for a lot more reasons than just pay. Some of those reasons include a lack of opportunities to learn, grow and get promoted. While it might feel counterintuitive to spend a lot on training , when those people could just leave and another company could benefit from your efforts, you are far more likely to retain high quality staff if you offer them ways to grow in their jobs and a path for achieving this growth.
Remember too that training and development isn’t just for the younger set. More senior personnel could be getting bored in their work, without new challenges and opportunities and a path to promotion. If you want to hold on to your high performers, regardless of age, you need to make sure they are given the responsibilities and challenges that suit their abilities.
How can you develop potential, beyond training programs?
There are myriad ways to develop high performing staff so that they can grow and reach potentials that will allow you to promote them.
“Offering competitive pay is important – perhaps even a given in today’s tight labor market – but beyond that, employers need to start thinking about how they present opportunity in a strategic and compelling way to their workforces. Training is important and has its place, but if it’s not offered as part of a comprehensive career development program, then training is simply a way of paying attention to human “doings” rather than considering employees as human “beings.” (Source)
The key is to have a process for doing so. You want to avoid spending resources on people who aren’t high performing or interested in promotion, which is valid: some people enjoy what they do and would prefer to stay put! You also want to avoid spending resources without having a way of evaluating whether or not they are effective. In other words, are you getting a good return on investment? Any process that doesn’t allow you to assess that isn’t going to be effective, in the long run.
However you establish your career path / growth development process, it’s a good idea to include benchmark evaluations of skills that align with corporate objectives. For example, safety—and having as close to a perfect safety rating as possible— is a major corporate objective at OE Construction. So evaluating someone to groom them to a management role might include more than looking at their specific hard skill set; we would need to look at their way of thinking, their ability to initiate and deal with change and so on.
How can you evaluate skills that your employees don’t always use / display in their day to day work?
One evaluative method could be to bring the high potential employee in and ask them to work on a problem that the company is currently having in the area of safety that they might be able to lend perspective on. They can be tasked with researching and developing a solution to the problem, which they will then recommend to you. This gives you a chance to really assess their ability to think, learn, adapt and assess, all important qualities as one moves up the ranks of any organization.
Another option is to send them to an industry conference on your behalf, with the requirement that they provide you with a detailed report on what was achieved / learned at the event. These are all important views into the way an employee thinks and performs when given something to do that is outside of their normal zone of operation. It will provide tremendous insight as to whether or not they are the high performers you want to groom for growth.
In an industry that finds it increasingly difficult to staff positions, in addition to the fact that baby boomers are retiring, leaving holes in the upper ranks, it’s important to identify those individuals who might be able to rise to the occasion!