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Employers like to talk about perks, but money still speaks the loudest

September 23, 2019
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Since the day she started her Thornton-based business in 2010, Christy Crook's two main challenges have remained the same: cash flow and headcount.

During the nine years that followed, Crook has grown Phoenix Masonry from about $250,000 in annual revenue in its first year to nearly $9 million today, and from a team of two to a workforce of 40.

During that time, she's developed a number of creative strategies for dealing with fluctuations in cash flow and headcount. For example, she offers discounts for early payments, and strives to keep payment terms within 30 days whenever possible. Doing so enables her to not only maintain more consistent cash flow for the company, but also to pay her staff fairly, consistently and always on time.

While she's working with a marketing agency to revamp the company's brand and launch a new website, she knows the best way to keep application rates high and employee turnover rates low is through competitive and reliable compensation.

"The biggest reason that people want to come work for us is our benefits packages; we pay above industry-average wages," she explains. "Maintaining our cash flow ensures employees get the compensation they need when they need it."

Money talks

Despite all the talk about company culture, employer branding, flexible work options and other nonmonetary perks, when it comes to hiring and retaining staff in Colorado's tight labor market, money still speaks the loudest.

A recent Future of Workers survey of over 1,000 Colorado workers conducted by Pinnacol Assurance found that the majority still ranked compensation as their number one priority — above their relationships with colleagues and managers, opportunities to advance, job location and employer's branding.

It's not just direct compensation either. While 75% of respondents said they are concerned about having enough money to retire, only 64% said their employers offer a retirement plan, and just 43% said that they offered a matching program.

That makes Phoenix Masonry an outlier in the construction industry, and a very desirable employer. The company covers 100% of health insurance costs for employees and their families, including dental and vision insurance. They also offer generous paid time off and a 401k with 4% employer matching.

Offering such perks can be expensive up front, but Crook says she owes the company's growth to her employees and their loyalty. The truth is, 65% of small construction contractors are struggling to find skilled workers, with masonry feeling the biggest pinch among all construction fields other than concrete.

You get what you pay for

Despite the skilled worker shortage in the construction industry, Crook says she's never had to turn down a contract because she didn't have enough workers available.

"I would say 70% of my employees have been with me for more than five years," she says. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee tenure in the construction industry is 4.1 years. "I've found that if somebody stays with me for six months, they're likely to be a long-term employee."

The company has been successful because it approaches employee relationships and retention differently than most. Launching as a family business, Crook says she wanted to demonstrate the same sense of care and appreciation for her workers that she felt for her own family — as they would be the company's most valuable assets moving forward.

"It does trickle down to all the decisions I make, because I want my employees to feel the same sense of security that I do," she says. "Having your employees know you care about them, their families and their futures goes a long way."

Learn more about how Colorado employers can attract and retain their workforce of the future.

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