Written By: Rachel Dempsey
How many times have you driven past a construction site and thought nothing of it? There is so much more than what meets the eye in any business and, for the construction industry, this is no exception. Tanna White, MCL Construction’s Director of Training and Development, is one of the people behind the scenes in the industry and, while her job may be unknown to most, it is a significant one to create success in the workplace.
“Every organization, no matter the industry, should have some level of development for their employees. You will be so much more efficient, more productive, and more profitable if you have happy employees. Plus, if you have a higher level of employee engagement and morale is there, the rest will come quickly,” stated Tanna.
Tanna originally wanted to go back to school to get her Master’s in Communication Consulting for Businesses but, after receiving her graduate degree from Northern Iowa University, she went into teaching. Tanna was a victim of the recession back in 2009 and teaching was the only job she could find at the time. She taught for 10 years before finally getting a position that worked within a business.
“I always wanted to go the business route; my family has owned their own businesses, and my mind, I think, is more wired that way,” explained Tanna.
MCL brought Tanna on board in January of this year and the first thing she began doing was just getting to know the workers, learning the business, and hearing what people had to say. Tanna quickly learned about MCL’s training program, PILOT, and what employees thought about it.
“I got a lot of feedback around the fact that it was all very formalized and classroom training based. So, they would come in, sit down through a PowerPoint, meaning we are lecturing and talking at them. Then they were sent off and we were just checking the box,” Tanna revealed.
Since discovering how the training program was being run, Tanna started segmenting groups to create more relevant information for each level and formulated a way for workers to get more involved with training. Tanna didn’t want to get rid of the classroom training, she just wanted to structure it better to create a more defined approach.
“The endgame will be a blended learning approach where we are utilizing thoughtful classroom training, begin incorporating on-the-job training that is informal while also involving more certifications and eventually adding more online learning where it makes sense and creating more opportunities for people to learn and grow,” announced Tanna.
One of the main challenges Tanna is trying to overcome is the distance that has been formed between the employees and management. Tanna was drawn to MCL because of the culture and vision of where the company was heading, and she wanted to help drive MCL in the right direction.
“I wanted to help them feel that feeling again…that family feeling, that belonging and sense of community that we definitely used to have and I think we still have a little bit, but getting more back to that and build some comradery,” said Tanna.
As MCL continues to grow, Tanna wants to make sure she can maintain a strong relationship with the workers. Making sure that they are heard and their issues are being resolved, no matter what it entails.
Written by: Tanna White
Like many of you, I subscribe to several weekly, industry-specific electronic newsletters and it was within one of these newsletters a few weeks back that I came across a statistic so shocking that I had to reread it out of pure disbelief. This particular article was referencing statistics from the latest Morbidity and Mortality Report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which highlighted that males working in the construction and extraction industries took their lives at a higher rate than any other industry. In fact, the CDC’s report compared the suicides of more than 22,000 people across 17 states in 2012 and 2015 finding that male construction workers took their lives at a rate of roughly 44 per 100,000 working persons and, unfortunately, the numbers have continued to increase; in fact, the rate for construction and extraction workers from 2012 to 2015 rose by 22 percent.
As someone new to the construction field, I was stunned by this information but assumed I was simply unaware of the rates due to my limited exposure. However, as I shared the information with others around me their surprise was palpable. It was in this moment that I knew we needed to be more cognizant of the mental health of our own employees and, with May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, right now seemed like an excellent opportunity to get started shining a light on this dark topic.
While mental health history is a key indicator for an increased risk of suicide, it is critical to look beyond to other factors which led to a question that kept repeating in my mind – why. Why are the rates for these industries so high? What are the unique factors in these industries that could be contributing to such high rates? Through further “Googling” I uncovered multiple articles that referred to the construction industry as a “perfect storm” due to the conglomeration of risk factors at play, including:
The risk factors encountered in these industries themselves were not surprising and seemed quite logical. The surprise came when I reviewed this list in its entirety and began evaluating the risk factors that directly impact our employees. MCL is lucky enough to be able to work on a majority of local projects, so our teams don’t experience all the risk factors listed above, but they are impacted by at least 7 out of 10 factors. This clearly indicates that our employees are at a higher risk than other industries, but what warning signs should we be searching for? Are there different warning signs depending on the level of risk? There are documented signs and symptoms that have shown to be indicators of suicidal thoughts and, depending on the sign or symptom, the individual may be considered at an immediate or serious risk.
Some behaviors may indicate that the individual is at immediate risk for suicide. If someone is exhibiting any of the following, you should immediately contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a mental health professional.
Any of the following items could be an indicator for someone who may be at serious risk for suicide or depression.
And always make sure to assist them in locating and contacting additional qualified resources as research indicates that those who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully 80% - 90% of the time. If you notice warning signs yourself or a coworker exhibiting any warning signs, reach out to a trusted coworker, your direct supervisor, or Human Resources and be aware of all of the additional resources available.
Tanna White is the Director of Training and Development for MCL Construction. She has a Masters in Organizational Communication from the Univesity of Northern Iowa.
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