Breslin Strategies Blog


10 Things You Don’t Know About Your Foremen


I bet you think you know your foremen pretty well. You don’t. Really.

They’ve been working for you forever, right? But you haven’t really been paying attention.

Your foremen are the backbone of your company. And they are holding back on you. You’re missing a lot by making assumptions about who they are and what they think. And those assumptions are costing you hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in lost profits over the course of their, and your, careers.

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If Your People Leave, It’s Your Fault

More than three million people quit their jobs this year. That number is up 35% in the last five years. (Wall Street Journal, 2018)

51% of people polled say they are considering leaving their existing position. (Gallup, 2017) That is one half of your workforce. Today.

Among millennials, 43 percent envision leaving their jobs within two years, and only 28 percent are looking to stay beyond five years. (Millennial Survey, Deloitte, 2018)

Culture, Purpose and Talent Today

If the construction industry has a head, it is only in the last several years that it popped out of a very dark place. In the past, leaders in this business (which my family has worked in for four generations) didn’t care about culture. They cared about production. They didn’t care about “culture” when “authority” is what got the job done. They didn’t worry about retention or next generation leadership training, because the general idea was “If you can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can.” Well, the evolution of culture in construction is underway in a profound manner. And what is driving it is a simple formula. Here it is:

In today’s market, talent will flow to where it is valued most.


Notice I did not say where it is paid the most. Money is certainly a mandatory component of the workplace relationship. But I hate to break the news: if you have an employee leave you, most likely it is YOUR FAULT.

Here’s why. Based on almost every study (and the younger the employee, the more accurate this is) people work at an organization (and stay there) because of two major drivers. Here they are in order:

1. CULTURE: what is the prevailing culture around employment? This constitutes elements such as:

  • How much effort does the company and my boss make to emphasize my value?
  • How much feedback do I get on my performance?
  • How interested is my organization in developing my talent and career?
  • Do my company and supervisor display the commitment, ethics, transparency and work ethic that make me want to emulate them?
  • Do they display trust and loyalty?
  • Can I do my best work and be my best self in the environment?

Creating this kind of culture takes work. It means being open to change – driving change – and accepting that you have to meet people where they are, and not where you are. Or you can try to keep them by paying them more money until they leave anyway.

2. PURPOSE: a sense of purpose is now often cited as the number one priority for young talent, particularly as it relates to retention. Purpose sounds like this:

  • Do I understand the real mission of the company and how I fit in?
  • Does the work I do matter? And how do I know that?
  • Are the plans and direction of our organization communicated to me effectively?
  • Am I given the freedom and autonomy to create the best outcomes?
  • Am I listened to?

Purpose now vs. purpose before? As a Boomer, my purpose was pretty damn simple: WORK HARD, GET AHEAD. Now people want and expect more, and most importantly, they can get it – if not from you, then from someone else. Another question worth asking is if the “union construction field experience” is one that promotes a positive culture and purpose. In my view, a serious upgrade is needed in this regard, with senior leaders driving this change.

Of all the things I do as a CEO, with hundreds of member companies and dozens of staff, two interrelated roles make all the difference. One is my role as Talent Picker and the other is Culture Creator & Protector. With the amount of attention paid to talent selection, the reputation of my employees is one of being “A” Players. Not every role, every year, all the time, but on balance for a small business, I hire talent for culture and fit — not skills. If I want a superstar, then I have to know they will thrive within the culture; one focused on purpose and growth. It is no mistake that a good number of our “alumni” have gone on to CEO, SVP and other top jobs around the nation. We get ‘em. We grow ‘em. And they jump out of the nest with our encouragement. But for them to thrive, the culture is the platform for talent development and retention.

You note that I wrote not only Culture Creator but also Protector. That’s because it’s not enough to just set up the culture and expect it to thrive and support the best behaviors, growth and outcomes. No. Because people will always test it. People will bring habits from previous employment. People will fill in the blanks if you don’t have a firm framework and they will often be outside the lines. Senior management owns culture and must protect it with all they got. That’s it.

So in a hot talent market, or in an industry of unlimited upward mobility, these are the two starting places for your strategy—Culture and Purpose. The next time someone comes to you and says they got “a better offer,” put aside the money issue and ask yourself honestly if you have put enough effort into these leadership priorities. Culture and purpose are the anchors, and money is often just the excuse. What they don’t want to tell you is that you failed. Try not to get pissed at them until you have engaged in leadership self-reflection. It will be worth the time and effort; and not just now, but in your business and market strategy long-term.

Visit this link to learn about next generation leadership training.

The 3rd Cultural Revolution in the Construction Industry

People Development

First, it was Safety. Then, it was Drug Free. Right Now, the cultural revolution in the construction industry is People Development. Is your company prioritizing people above everything else? Our construction leadership training programs show you how to do exactly that. Here’s why you should start…yesterday.

LESS THAN 15% OF THE WORKFORCE IS ENGAGED. (Gallup, Inc. (2018). The Engaged Workplace) Is that a problem? Or is that an opportunity? Imagine the cost to organizations across North America that are simply accepting the status quo performance of the other 85%.

Engagement determines discretionary effort. Discretionary effort is what you give over and above what you have to. If you don’t engage your employees you’re not going to get the buy-in, you’re not going to get the commitment, and you’re not going to get the extra effort from employees that your company needs to stay competitive in this industry.


One of the biggest challenges of being a business leader today is prioritizing people above everything else, because engaged employees are going to be your foundation for continued success.

Your investment in your people is a direct indication of your interest and commitment to their growth. That in turn has a powerful impact on their level of engagement, on their discretionary effort and their retention as valuable people capital for your organization. Engagement is always the result; the result of positive and proactive efforts on your part.

It’s time for us to step up to the plate.


The more people get, the more they are going to give back. People Development is the key to making more money, making your clients happy, and staying competitive in this industry. If you haven’t thought about how you are developing your workforce, now is the time.

Here are some other resources to help you start thinking about what type of people development is right for your company.

Prioritize Your People Above Everything Else. Visit this link for information about people development and our construction leadership training programs show you how to do exactly that..

The War For Talent: Chapter 1

The Battle Plan


Whether you like it or not, you are in the middle of an all-out battle, a race to hire an ever-shrinking number of motivated and qualified workers and develop Next Gen Leaders. A War for Talent. How do you win?

PLANNING AND STRATEGYNext Gen Leaders Construction Speaker

Take the time to perform a simple five-step analysis to make sure your organization is still relevant in the years to come – prepare to win.

Since 2008, I have traveled over a million miles and talked to more than 300,000 people. One of my primary messages during this time period has been about the coming demographic shift and its impact on the U.S. and Canadian workplaces.

Ten years ago, this topic was met with a yawn. Five years ago, leaders said, “Yeah, well, I’m good.” Today? Completely different story. Everyone’s pants are on fire, to put it bluntly. The real question is, “How on fire are they, really?” In other words, how do you figure out the extent to which the demographic shift will impact your organization? I would like to provide you with a method of determining the answer to this question and discovering where YOU stand in the War for Talent.

I give all of my major clients – utilities, contractors, labor organizations and other groups – an upfront homework assignment that I suggest you complete as well. The assignment is deceptively simple, but it is the absolute best place to start if you want your organization to remain even marginally relevant in the coming years.


Here’s What To Do:
1. Perform a demographic analysis of your entire workforce.
2. Determine how many Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) you currently employ.
3. Perform a projection of their overall retirement attrition.
4. Perform a detailed analysis of field leader and manager attrition numbers.
5. Project how many new skilled leaders and lead employees you will need between 2018-2022.

This critical numerical analysis will predict the future story of your organization. After you’ve finished, you will likely find that you are somewhat short of skilled talent. Now think about the news reports you see on an almost daily basis about industries that can’t find enough skilled leaders and employees. One thing should become painfully clear: whether you like it or not, you are in the middle of an all-out battle, a race to hire an ever-shrinking number of motivated and qualified workers…a War for Talent.

It gets worse. You can’t win this war by throwing money at it. No. The only way to win is through planning and strategy – through recruitment, retention and rewards. But it all begins with performing the simple five-step formula above. Do it today. Do it NOW.

Next time, in Chapter 2 of The War for Talent, we will look at two contractors are facing this issue. One is succeeding. The other? Not so much.

Remember: Success is about people. Focus on your human capital first.

For more information on developing Next Gen Leaders, click here.

Microlearning Comes To Construction

Millennials Embrace A New Way Of Learning

Microlearning is the process of learning in short, effective segments. It works by providing learners with digestible, relevant, interactive learning resources they can apply right away.

A study lead by H.F. Spitzer found that modern learners forget 80% of content from a training session or workshop. Experts also say that you lose part of your younger audience at 90 seconds and a majority of the audience at 3-4 minutes.

Here’s why: Gen Xers and Millennials prefer short duration, high value content. They want critical information in a condensed format and they want it delivered electronically to be used on their time schedule.

The benefits of microlearning are clear:microlearning and coaching

  • Efficiency – short training are easier to fit into an already busy workday and can be applied immediately
  • Retention – retention is higher with digestible, relevant learning focused on one topic
  • Cost Savings – microlearning courses can be produced in 300% percent less time and 50% less cost than traditional courses.

Sounds great, right? But how do you implement a whole new training around microlearning? Breslin Strategies is the first company focusing on microlearning lessons specific to the construction industry. The Professional Construction Leader (PCL) leadership coaching videos were created with these specifications in mind; focused content, cutting-edge micro-learning lessons and the flexibility of mobile technology.

Microlearning + Construction

Watch Sample Training Video

Professional Construction Leader (PCL)

An on-demand video library providing leadership strategy, practical advice and an inspiring message to transform your field leaders. The PCL Series provides provoking insight into critical areas that improve job site performance, communication and motivation.


“I think the Professional Construction Leadership training is excellent. Just long enough and focused on a simple and very important concept.”  Paul Grunau, Learning and Development, Api Group

Over 7,000 construction field leaders are already benefiting from our PCL leadership microlearning and coaching!


Click here for more information on Professional Construction Leader (PCL) microlearning and coaching.


Don’t Let Someone Else Tell Your Story


No matter if you are a contractor, labor organization, utility, oil company, manufacturer or service provider, if you want to attract real talent today you have to be good at telling your story. And that story is most often told online – if not by you, it will be told by someone else. You have to tell your story and tell it well, or you might get your ass handed to you.

On one hand I have the client organizations struggling to find qualified help; dealing with employees leaving for more money or lack of interest and completely absent from any form of social media. On the other hand I have clients whose CEO hits up almost every employee on LinkedIn and Facebook on great jobs every week; the contractor who gets over 60% of his hires from employee referral and my good friend whose employees regularly turn down more money to stay where they are communicated with and appreciated. How do we project organizational values? Job growth? Management interest and support? How do we maintain employee engagement? And how do we reach employees and job candidates in this brave new world?

It was not that long ago that I laughed off Facebook. I made fun of it as a stupid time-wasting social enterprise for undisciplined people with too much time on their hands.

Then I got hit in the head with a two-by-four.

A very heads-up young business agent in the Midwest showed me a discussion group on Facebook. It was made up of qualified, skilled craft workers in construction and energy turn-around, connecting peer-to-peer and sharing information on where the jobs are; the quality of certain employers; industry trends; and, in some instances, just screwing around with each other in a good-natured way.



I share this as one small example that the employment world has changed drastically. It is the era of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Glass Door. People are used to evaluating products, services, companies and careers. You have to tell your story and tell it well.

Here are four items that you might want to consider implementing to tell your story more effectively:

  1. Add high-quality video to your home or landing page on the web. Today, the narrative of who you are, what you stand for, how your employees or members feel, and what opportunities exist can be told best in visual form. If I can go on and find ten fixer-uppers in three minutes, shouldn’t I be able to find out all about you without searching a bunch of pages or having to read a ton of narrative? Add video. Don’t cheap out.
  2. Create a high-quality LinkedIn presence. This site is the number one location for talent procurement in the country. Every one of your employees on LinkedIn is available to be recruited 24-7, and every prospect working for someone else that could be working for you is in the same arena. Having a company or organization page, as well as a group, is certainly not a bad way to tell your story, and barely costs anything. Post cool project pictures. Recognize company awards. Tell your workplace safety story there, etc…
  3. In the Careers Section of your website, make sure to include testimonials, especially from Millennials. This group uses third-party validation as their number one reference when making decisions. And if you can combine this with the video idea, you have doubled your impact.
  4. Put up a Facebook page. Yes, it really is important. Think of your organization like a big extended family unit. They want to know what’s going on with the other family members. These can be crews, divisions or simply those working far away. Maximize the engagement and connection of what everyone is doing in this centralized way. This is a place for positive personal engagement to occur, to show camaraderie and tell your story in a more informal way – not only to prospective employees, but to your own people, as well.

Click here for more information on employee engagement and training.

Remember, connection and engagement matter to everyone.

Honoring The Field

This article is dedicated to the men and women who work in the field. Yes, contractors in our industry take 100% of the risk, but they can do nothing alone. It takes the combined effort and integrity of the tens of thousands of dedicated union craft workers who together build our communities, our states and our nation. They deserve respect and should be honored for their efforts every day.

It angers me that sometimes those who work in our industry do not get the recognition for the expertise they bring to their jobs – not to mention their work ethic and the sacrifices they make pulling two or even three-hour commutes each way to support their families. Success is not a cubicle and a keyboard for everyone. Our craftsmen and women create things of lasting value with their heads, hearts and hands — and often make a very good living doing so. Some people simply can’t appreciate the fact it might not fit their ideal of what “success” is in America today.

My dad was a union Carpenter and went on to become a union contractor. My grandfather and great-grandfather were blue-collar Italians who went on to become builders in San Francisco. They all worked their asses off. Their work ethic was legendary. It was their example — not my college GPA — that made me who I have become. The roots of America were forged by working people. And construction, most interestingly, has been the economic ladder used for more than a hundred years by those who wanted a better life. First the Irish, Italians, Chinese, Eastern Europeans and African Americans climbed that ladder. Now Mexican and Central American craftworkers are doing the same.  Some were discriminated against or looked down upon at first, but they kept going, fueled by their total commitment to their own potential, their families and their future. They chipped away enough to create a handhold on the American Dream. They deserve the honor and respect for their hard-won success against so many odds.

In today’s society, young people often admire those who have made fortunes by creating ideas. Yes, we are in the “idea economy” today, and to a lot of young people it looks easy and accessible. But the world doesn’t operate solely on a fast-money digital platform. Working people still form the backbone of what makes America great. I have tried hard in my parenting to pass that message on to my children. The lady at McDonald’s in her paper hat; the maid at our hotel; the truck driver in that rig; the janitor at your school; the waitress at Chili’s – they are not there to serve you. They are there because that is the best job they can get to take care of their families. And they may have another job on top of it. And you, I tell my children, will pay attention; you will stop and appreciate them. And you will not take for granted any advantage life provides for you. Working people work hard, and they will be respected for it.

Construction Unions and Associations have a similar philosophy. They support and serve union contractors who are committed to providing their workers what they need and deserve. Those who work for union companies receive some of the highest pay and best benefits in the nation, and they know that is something to live up to. There are cheaper ways to do contracting – but it is often on the backs of those who do the work. These contractors (many of whom carry frayed union cards in their wallets) understand their people and have a kinship with them that transcends the paycheck. They understand the importance of working people, and no matter their own success, they know that without those willing and loyal craft workers, there can be no industry.

Honor the field – it’s the right thing to do.

Preparing for 2018: What’s Your Story?

As you look ahead in 2018, chances are you’re thinking in terms of budgets, new work opportunities, equipment purchases and a thousand other details involved in running a successful business. Manpower is probably right at the top of your list, too. How are you going to find a new crop of bright, qualified people eager to get after it and work their tails off?

Regardless of whether you are a contractor, labor organization, utility, oil company, manufacturer or service provider, if you want to attract real talent next year – and beyond — you have to focus on one thing above all others: tell your story, and tell it well.

In today’s business environment, having a great story to tell is essential. A 2016 Forbes article called storytelling “the new strategic imperative of business.” People respond to a powerful, authentic story about what your organization does, why you do it, and your goals for the future. It motivates them and makes them want to be a part of what you’re doing.

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The Abuse of Apprentices Stops Now

“I can’t believe I signed up for this s***.”

And so began a tale of stupidity, short-sightedness and tradition that reflects a broken culture and wasted talent.

The words were spoken to me by a young man in March 2017 after I gave a presentation  to 400 young people serving their union apprenticeships. During my talk, I asked a question that I have been asking for over 10 years to well over 100,000 union craftsmen and women: “How many of you during your apprenticeship were hazed, teased, called names, given meaningless work, ignored or not taught because the guy in front of you was afraid for their job?” And in that room, like the other 200 times before, 95% of the hands slowly rose into the air.

Ninety. Five. Percent. In the year 2017. Not 1970 or 1990. Today. Now.

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The Skilled Workforce Illusion, What Good Leaders Look Like & How To Find Them

Skilled Workforce Illusion

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The Construction Leading Edge podcast from is an interview with Mark Breslin of Breslin Strategies, and in this construction podcast, we cover topics including the following:

Topics covered in this construction podcast:

  • Why we need a well-led workforce, not just a skilled workforce.
  • Common mistakes contractors make when it comes to their field level leaders.
  • What is the ROI for investing in field leaders?
  • Characteristics to look for when you’re hiring or promoting leaders.
  • How to move up in the ranks of your company if you’re an up-and-coming leader.
  • Key areas to train your leaders on.
  • What progressive project owners understand about field leadership, and what they’re doing to make sure they get it on their projects.