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How Custom Concrete Reduced Turnover by 25% on the Road to Becoming a Destination Employer


You’ve heard of destination hotels and destination retailers. But do you know what it means to be a destination employer?

The leadership team at Custom Concrete does, and it’s making a world of difference in how employees engage with the company.

“The idea is that when people show up at Custom Concrete, they’ve arrived at their destination — at the career they’ve been looking for,” explains Senior Vice President Jason Ells.

If that sounds like an overly ambitious goal for a foundation installation company, you’re going to want to read this success story all the way to the end. Ells and his team have overcome some significant obstacles, and there’s a lot of inspiration behind the company’s quest to develop the kind of culture workers crave.

Back when things were “hit or miss”

First things first: The path this Indiana-based company has chosen to take is not an easy one. An estimated 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as top challenges, and Custom Concrete is no different. With the average construction employee switching jobs every four years, and with 85% of the company’s distributed workforce reporting to different job sites, it can be difficult to keep tabs on what employees need to be successful.

For a while, leadership tried conducting annual employee surveys. They typically asked what the company could do better or posed questions about safety and benefits.

“They were hit or miss,” Ells says.

Then he heard about the concept of becoming a destination employer, and it became clear that a much more robust solution would be needed. If Custom Concrete was going to be a company that past, current, and potential employees all see as a desirable place to grow a career, leadership would need to know what people really think of the current culture.

“Employee engagement is not an easy thing to understand, much less measure,” Ells says.

He decided it was time to say “goodbye” to the annual employee survey and find a better way to get authentic and honest feedback.

Discovering a better way to measure engagement

When Custom Concrete first came to Emplify, the team had no idea employee engagement measurement technology existed. After learning how it works, it didn’t take long for the business to decide this was precisely the solution it needed.

Fast forward two years, and the company’s employee engagement initiative is in full swing. Surveys are regularly conducted to measure 17 engagement drivers and psychological conditions. Leadership reviews results every quarter to identify problem areas and take action immediately. There’s no more waiting for the results of once-a-year questionnaires or wondering what could be causing employees to leave.

If engagement scores start to dip, for example, leadership might choose to conduct “stay interviews” to learn what issues are impacting employees and find out what they want to see changed. Reviewing quarterly engagement scores also helps put data behind important decisions when new programs or initiatives are needed.

“It allows us to look in the mirror and understand how we’re doing based on employee perceptions,” Ells says. “It’s not just about pouring concrete. It’s about improving and impacting the lives of the people we work with.”

The organization now works with a specialized engagement strategist and provides personalized coaching to help managers support employees. There have been many other changes, too. The hiring process has become deliberate and selective, onboarding is now a high-priority role and each employee is prepared for the next career phase — whether it’s retirement or a new job — through an official offboarding program. There are also numerous “extras” designed to improve the day-to-day employee experience: a comprehensive wellness program, a mobile app to foster communication, an “above and beyond” program to recognize people on a quarterly basis, and more.

Big initiatives for big results

By now, you may be asking: This all sounds idyllic, but does it actually work?

If the length of time employees stay at the company is an indicator, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Retention has increased across the board and new hire turnover is well below the industry average. Terminations for any reason (including voluntary departure) have declined in 10 of the last 12 months and overall turnover is down 24.7% in just one year.

“We’re sending a message that we legitimately care about our people and it’s starting to take hold,” Ells says. “[Employees] truly want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Looking ahead, the company plans to “invest more in the whole person” by enhancing professional development opportunities.

“We’re all on this journey,” comments Ells. “It’s pretty cool because we get to walk alongside these folks, help each other out and build relationships. Ultimately, everyone gets a little better.”

The road to becoming a destination employer certainly isn’t a short one, but Ells remains unphased. Now that he understands just how much can be achieved by regularly measuring employee engagement, his vision is grander than ever.

“The real problem is that people don’t necessarily know employee engagement is a KPI you can actually measure. They think it’s just some warm and fuzzy thing. But you already measure things that are important to your business, like profitability and productivity. So if you can measure employee engagement, why wouldn’t you?”

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