Industry optimism is high going into the 2018 construction season. The President has discussed plans for a big funding push for infrastructure, and warehouse construction is set to boom thanks to e-commerce.
But a big question remains: ts there enough skilled construction labor to go around?
The Construction Labor Shortage Goes On…And On…
According to the Commercial Construction Index, 60% of contractors reported difficulty finding skilled workers in the third quarter of 2017.
But the problem has been around for much longer. Construction firms have reported trouble with finding enough workers since the Great Recession of 2007-2009. That’s because when the housing market bubble burst, many home-builders and other skilled laborers were put out of work. When they couldn’t find steady employment, many of these workers eventually left the industry for good, taking their unique knowledge and skills with them.
According to a Dodge Analytics survey, commercial contractors have the most difficulty finding workers in these fields:
- Interior finishes/millwork
Firms are having problems recruiting qualified superintendents and project managers, too.
It’s especially difficult to recruit workers with sought-after skills in a tight labor market, such as the one the U.S. is currently experiencing. Right now, the unemployment rate is at historic lows (around 4.1%).
And so experienced construction laborers are less likely to find themselves out of work. And when they do happen to find themselves between jobs, they don’t stay that way for long, because many firms are willing to pay a premium to snatch them up.
How To Recruit Skilled Construction Laborers?
The keys to recruiting construction professionals are not only persistence, but also building strong relationships over time.
Continuously reach out to former employees who left to pursue other opportunities. Also reach out to any workers whom you contacted in the past, but who ultimately ended up declining to accept a position with your company.
A worker you spoke to a year ago – or even a decade ago – might have been in a comfortable job position at that time. But things change. The worker’s employer might have downsized, or the company might have changed ownership. Or the worker might have relocated, and is now considering moving back to your area. You’ll never know unless you keep the lines of communication open for as long as it takes to get a “yes” to your job offer.
Retain The Workforce You Have
The best strategy for retaining the workforce you need to complete your projects on time is to retain the workers you already have. This is especially important now, when competition for the best and most experienced tradespeople is especially fierce.
Here are some tips for retaining your current employees:
1) Provide training
Many managers prefer to hire an experienced worker rather than having to train one themselves. But when there aren’t enough skilled workers to go around, this strategy doesn’t work. That’s because the laborers you so desperately need are probably already working for one of your competitors.
Instead, invest in the workforce you currently have. Apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training let you put new workers through a trial period to see if they’re a good fit for your company. On-the-job training programs also let your current labor force pass their valuable skills and knowledge on to the “next generation.”
There’s always the danger that a worker you train will move on to another company, taking their new skill set with them. But hiring managers always face this dilemma, whether the employee in question started the job with previous experience or not.
Continuing to train and develop your workers’ skills will keep them engaged, which will make them more likely to stick with your company for longer.
2) Use Retention “Best Practices” From Across All Industries
The construction industry poses unique challenges not found in other industries. The hours are long, and the work is dangerous.
But best practices for retaining workers don’t change much from one industry to another. Workers want to feel challenged, want to feel that their work is valuable, and want market-value compensation in exchange for their time.
The following are some cross-industry tips for keeping your construction workforce engaged:
• In the recruiting stage, give a full and accurate description of the job, as well as the wages and benefits on offer.
• Demonstrate respect for employees at all times.
• Offer performance feedback and praise good efforts.
• Staff adequately so overtime is minimized for workers who don’t want it. Otherwise, the entire workforce will be worn out and unable to perform at their best.
“Helping our clients get jobs done since 1998.”