To Keep Your Top Employees You Have to Invest in Them

Pleasants Construction is an example of the rewards that come with providing employees quality training and career advancement opportunities

To Keep Your Top Employees You Have to Invest in Them

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Creating a workplace culture that attracts the brightest and best talent is no small task. To accomplish and sustain this, Maryland-based Pleasants Construction draws heavily upon one of its core values: investing in its employees. 

Recognizing that engaging and empowering a team to learn, grow and prosper creates a workplace that naturally retains star employees, the company established the Pleasants Learning Academy. 

The Pleasants Learning Academy is an extensive, dynamic training program that provides skills training and courses from onboarding all the way through executive leadership. Topics include decision-making, negotiating skills, managing a company, developing a handbook, performing reviews, interviewing, recruitment and an increasing number of best practices courses that cover the broad range of needs for all of the company’s various business units and divisions.

At present, there are almost 200 training modules available. Some are offered in person, but many are online or video-based, as staff is spread across the region. During downtime or rain days, the staff takes full advantage of the training available and appreciates the value and investment that Pleasants continues to make in its employees’ career.

“We realized that if we want a quality workforce, we have to invest in them by training them,” says Eric Newquist, executive vice president of Pleasants. “We as business owners can’t complain that we can’t find or attract quality people or that they are not able to do something for lack of know-how. This investment has reaped great rewards and has been an incredibly positive addition to our organization, and I believe it will continue to bear a strong return on investment generationally.”

The Pleasants Learning Academy is headed by Rick Centra, a seasoned training veteran. His experience includes being a military training officer and a private sector trainer and program developer for a large grocery store chain and homebuilding development firm. He has developed course material for Pleasants from this experience, which also incorporates related publications along with input from senior members of the company leadership.

The company encourages staff members interested in developing new skills to ask their direct supervisor to approve participation in certain course levels. The diversity of courses allows team members to explore a potential new career path, which will help them decide if a certain position or direction is what they want to pursue. Managers also encourage individual members who they feel can be future stars in the organization and might need to be channeled in a certain direction to give them the best growth opportunity.

These opportunities for all company staff make training a powerful retention tool and create a happy, productive workplace culture that leads to better customer service. The Pleasants Learning Academy has contributed to a safer and better-organized team that is more efficient and productive.

In addition to the Pleasants Learning Academy, another method for recruiting and retaining local talent is through an internal referral program.

“We found that a lot of our best employees are coming as referrals from our current staff. We started this because we believe that the people who work here want other quality people to work here as well and will invite people they feel would fit our culture and who they feel good about referring,” Newquist says.

The program offers a financial incentive for all new hires referred who stay with the company for at least 90 days. Because it is referral-based, it creates ownership and connection, as well as an instant feeling of community because the new hire already knows someone within the company.

Pleasants also likes to promote from within to cultivate a culture of opportunity.  

“People can be hired as the front desk receptionist and five years later could be working in the project management office,” Newquist says. “If employees are good-quality folks, we’re going to find a spot for them in the organization as opportunities arise.”

This has created a legacy of retention, with numerous families in the area having multiple generations of members that have come to work for the company — fathers, mothers, sons, grandsons and other extended family. In fact, one of its heavy-equipment mechanics, now approaching retirement in his early 70s, is training his grandson to be a mechanic and gets to work with him each day.

“It’s a great thing to see not just one or two of these families here in our company, but many, which is a testament to the fact that we truly are a family business on so many levels,” Newquist says.


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