A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Anirban Basu, chief economist with Associated Builders and Contractors, on what it is that workers want from restoration companies in this time of extreme talent shortage. He brought up a number of expectations individuals have of the companies they work for, one of which stood out to me that I’ll elaborate on at the close of this note. Hint: It was “meaning.” 

Shortly after my interview with Dr. Basu, I stumbled on Edelman’s Trust Barometer Special Report: The Belief-Driven Employee, conducted in August. The findings highlight the critical role of meaning in workforce management with real data points business leaders should take note of, based on a survey of 7,000 employees in seven countries. I encourage you to take a look at the report in full, but wanted to share the stats that stick out most to me. 

Employees reign. 

  • Pre-pandemic, customers and clients were considered the most important stakeholders; employees ranked number two. However, as of May 2021, the order has switched and the top stakeholder in any business is now considered the employee.
  • Sixty percent agree that, compared to before the pandemic, employees have more power and leverage when it comes to creating change within their organizations. Younger employees are even more likely to feel this way than older employees.
  • Most employees (76%) have higher expectations for a prospective employer than they did three years ago. 

Meaning matters. 

  • Of those who have left or plan on leaving their jobs, the top reason is they are looking for a better fit with their values; 59% report this being their reason for looking elsewhere, more than a better lifestyle fit (50%) and much more than compensation or career advancement (31%).
  • A majority of employees (61%) choose, leave, avoid or consider employers based on their values and beliefs. Values and beliefs include things like morals, stance on social issues and social responsibility.
  • Belief-driven employees are of great value for a number of reasons: They are more likely to recommend their company’s products or services to others, more likely to recommend their organization as an employer to others, more likely to stay working for their company for many years and more likely to do more than what is expected. 

How companies can “mind the gap,” as Edelman puts it. 

For ideas on how to build a more meaningful culture, let’s look at what employees consider strong expectations or deal breakers that employers aren’t living up to, according to the Edelman report:

  • The organization acts on its values.
  • Employee values are reflected in the organization.
  • Opportunities exist to address social problems through their job.
  • The organization has a greater purpose they support.
  • If employees objected, the organization would stop certain business practices.
  • The organization includes employees in the planning and strategy development process.
  • Employees at all levels reflect the diversity of the customers and community they serve. 

The bottom line and silver lining.  

To pull from another resource I consider significant, McKinsey considers operating with purpose among the five priorities for CEOs post-pandemic. Their research found that 70% of employees view their sense of purpose as defined by their work. “So, like it or not, as a company leader you play an important part in helping your employees find their purpose and live it,” their article reads

This brings me back to where I started, with my interview with Dr. Basu. It led me to think the restoration industry is starting from a place of strength here. The noble purpose this industry fundamentally serves, of putting lives back together and helping people when they need it most, is not something every industry is based on. What’s more, the means by which this industry helps people is quite tangible and easy to follow. It isn’t hard to connect the dots for frontline employees who want to see they’ve made a difference; the properties they help restore are physical evidence. 

In Dr. Basu’s words, “When I speak to younger people, they’re looking for social meaning in their jobs. So one of the things R&R contractors might want to think about is: How can I create a message around my business saying, ‘We do very valuable work. We help people when they’re in trouble. We help people when they’re sad. We help support the economy. …We do really meaningful work,’ which, of course, they do.” 

He continued, “In remediation and restoration, something bad has occurred – maybe over time, maybe over a sudden period – but something bad has happened and we want to reverse that as a society. Who does that? R&R contractors. That’s very valuable. There’s a public health aspect to this too.” 

We’re living in an increasingly altruistic, intentional, empowered environment in which, more than ever, people want to feel truly connected to the work they do. Sure compensation and advancement remain critical, but less transactional; more meaningful aspects like making a difference can matter as much or more. So how can the restoration industry magnify the role it plays in making a real difference such that belief-driven employees are made aware of the great opportunities available to them here, and so reciprocal value can be exchanged between that talent and the restoration businesses they serve? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Please keep the questions and challenges coming surrounding the talent shortage. We recognize it is the top issue the restoration industry is facing and intend to be an ongoing resource for you. On the contrary, if you are experiencing great success attracting talent, keeping them and helping them flourish, please reach out to me so we can share your story and others can learn from it. 

Thank you for the important work you do and noble purpose you serve.


Valerie King


P.S. Who do you consider your most important stakeholder – employee, policyholder, insurance carrier, other? And why? Shoot me an email; I’m curious: kingv@bnpmedia.com.