Why employees check out

CMC Network Employee Engagement

When working with a construction company, one of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) is employee retention.

High levels of employee engagement can have an extremely positive impact on a work environment. Productivity rises, communication flows more openly and projects move from ideation to actuation faster.

However, whether from dissatisfaction with work or disruptive events in their personal lives, employees occasionally become disengaged. This can not only have negative effects on their work, but can also spread to other team members.

It’s important to recognize the signs of employee disengagement as early as possible so that effective action can reverse the trend.

This is especially challenging, but also needed — especially at this moment in time — as remote-working is looking more and more the norm, even post-COVID.

Look out for these signs:

  • – Withdrawal 

Employees tend to only do the minimum to get by, will decrease their productivity and no longer give discretionary effort.

  • – Lack of communication

Observable signs include lack of participation in team or one-on-one meetings.

  • – Changes in Behavior

A once-reliable communicator is suddenly silent or an employee who was once a cheerleader becomes sullen and distant.

  • – Silence 

One prominent sign of disengagement is silence — on team calls, over email or in missed meetings altogether.

  • – A decline in work quality

Decline in work quality/output or regularly showing up late and/or missing deadlines.

  • – Disrespectful

Curt behavior with co-workers or clients may be boredom or a sense of not feeling seen or heard.

If you notice any of these behaviors, take immediate steps to connect with your employees one-on-one.

Make yourself available to chat, or hold a meeting, and let your employees speak frankly. Be open to what they tell you.

Mentorship opportunities, ongoing training or a special project work they are interested in may not be what they need.

It could be they simply need to be heard.

It’s easy to believe that your firm creates a shared working relationship with your employees, information flows back and forth and your working relationship is mutually beneficial.

You may not be aware of how autocratic the dynamic may be.

If you are open to candid feedback during meetings with staff, you may find that your employees may believe they are utilized as tools to be used and discarded. Information does not flow; it bottlenecks and tends to be hoarded.

Employees may feel disposable and shuffled through a predetermined route with no direction, choice or involvement.

Often, it takes slowing down long enough to become aware of how you are perceived by staff and taking methodical steps to change your standard operating procedures (SOP) to support a more inclusive working environment.

A research-based, retention management plan can mitigate a lot of issues while moving from one style (autocratic) to the other (democratic). 

I’ve found the SHRM Foundation’s Retaining Talent guide by David Allen to be helpful. I strongly suggest reading the entire document.

Within the construction industry in New York City, we are dealing with a tremendous skills gap, along with a general lack of interest and awareness from younger generations in becoming construction workers.

If you know you may not be able to replace a strong, willing, engaged worker, why would you let them leave your company? 

Staff who are engaged, and dedicated to working hard and learning should be seen as what they are: highly valuable. 

It may take some time, but disengaged employees eventually leave. Employee turnover costs a company time, money and other resources. 

The Retaining Talent guide, mentioned above, reports that direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90-200% of annual salaries.

In addition to the obvious direct costs associated with turnover (such as accrued paid time off and replacement expenses), there are numerous other costs. 

Exiting employee secondary and tertiary costs


  • – HR staff time (exit interview, payroll administration, benefits) 
  • – Manager’s time (retention attempts, exit interview) 
  • – Accrued paid time off (vacation, sick pay) 
  • – Temporary coverage (contingent employee, overtime for remaining employees) 
  • – Delays in production and customer service; decreases in product or service quality 
  • – Potential clients who would have been acquired if employee had stayed 
  • – Stiffer competition as employee moves to a rival company or forms their own business 
  • – Contagion (other employees decide to leave, for example, to join defector at their new organization) 
  • – Disruptions to team-based work 
  • – Loss of workforce diversity 

Employee replacement costs 


  • – New hire compensation 
  • – Hiring inducements (signing bonus, reimbursement of relocation expenses, perks) 
  • – Hiring manager and unit/department employee time 
  • – Orientation program time and materials 
  • – HR staff induction costs (payroll, benefits enrollment) 
  • – Training costs (trainee and instruction time, materials, equipment) 
  • – On-the-job training (supervisor and employee time) 
  • – Mentoring (mentor’s time) 
  • – Socialization (other employees’ time, travel) 
  • – Productivity loss until replacement has mastered job

Reducing turnover rates has been shown to improve sales growth and workforce morale. Incorporating high-performance HR practices (including reduction of dysfunctional turnover rates) will increase your firm’s profitability and market value.


  • Vivian Mandala is the founder of CMC Network and has worked in NY Construction for over 20 years, most of which was as a Contractor. She is now a Construction Business Coach. In 2017 Vivian, along with a group of dedicated Contractors, CM’s, GCs and Developers, started CMC Workforce, a long term in depth construction training program. Vivian enjoys the personal connections she makes through her coaching and seeing the lasting changes that she sees her clients benefit from year after year.

Share This

Thank you!

Thank you for signing up for CMC Network’s weekly newsletter! You will receive a welcome email shortly. Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Want more help
scaling & growing?