Beating a Growing Labor Shortage

Are you planning to grow your construction company’s headcount in 2022? This could be a challenging task if not tackled in a consistent way and built around your hiring and retention plan.  A survey by Associated General Contractors of America found that 88% of construction companies are experiencing project delays and 61% of respondents said they have experienced worker shortages.

Nearly three-quarters of all firms plan to hire new staff in the next twelve months, despite uncertainty about the recovery timeline from the pandemic. 89% of firms are having difficulties hiring skilled labor, while 86% struggle to hire salaried professionals. Pipelayers, bricklayers, and concrete workers are among the most challenging positions to fill.
Although construction employment was back at pre-pandemic levels as of April 2022 (with 7.628 million people employed) the number of construction job openings is still high. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were 396k construction job openings in March 2022, up from 383,000 in February and January.
It doesn’t stop there, in 2021 the median age of construction workers was 42.3 and the median age in 1985 was only 36. Around 43% of people working in construction are over 45. This compares to the comparatively small number of people aged 24 and under. To attract more young people to construction jobs, both the industry and individual companies need to intensify their efforts.
So how can your construction or trade company beat the labor shortage? Lets begin.

Know Where Your Company Is Going

Do you have a clear and documented plan of where your business will be in 1 year, 3 years and 10 years?  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should be written down.  There are only a couple types of potential hires out there.  They either want to punch a clock, do their 8 or 10 hours and go home or they want to be part of something bigger.  If you want to tap into those “part of something bigger” A-Grade potential employees, you have to know where you are going.  
Remember, the difference between a goal and a dream is that a goal is written down.  

Build Your Culture

Your company must be a preferred employer in your specialty and locality to attract top talent. Employees expect competitive wages and benefits such as health insurance. Remember that you are competing for employees as much as you are for work in 2022.  
Your trade company will be able to stand out from the rest by creating a strong culture that values employees, empowers them to speak up, and is supported by a strong leadership team.  It should have a family feel, and truly be a fun, challenging and team-oriented place to work.  A good litmus test is to look at your company like YOU were applying for a job.  Would you be happy with the culture, work environment and overall direction of the company?  

Invest in your Employees

Investments in training and developing the workforce are essential for construction and trade companies. You should make sure that you offer training and continuing education opportunities to your new (and old) employees. Once employees have completed the classes, you can reimburse them for their expenses if the education costs are external. Potential employees need to know there are multiple career paths and advancement opportunities within the company.
Emphasize retaining good employees as much as recruiting them. Once you have hired them, you want to keep them. You must invest in them and their continued success within your company.
People want to feel that they are part of a team, not just an employee who shows up to work. Your employees should feel valued and appreciated. Recognize and reward employees for their dedication and hard work.
Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”
Rarely will you find a job candidate who has all of the required skills, education, and experience that are listed in your job posting. Skills can be taught, but a strong work ethic cannot. Make sure they are trustworthy, honest, reliable, and ready to work as hard as you do.

Refer to References

Before you offer a job:
  1. Conduct background checks and drug screenings on any potential hires.
  2. Ask for references to ensure that the candidate is a good fit.
  3. Get a sense of the type of candidate your reference will be.
Even after doing all the research and accepting a job, not every candidate you hire will be a good match for your company. After a few months, re-evaluate their performance.

Internships & Apprenticeships

Companies in the construction industry need to be open to offering co-ops and internships to students at local high schools, trade schools, and colleges. Reach out to local community colleges and universities that offer courses in the construction industry. More and more companies have established training programs that work with vocational schools and community colleges to meet their training needs.
You can get involved in youth programs that encourage interest in construction careers. For example, both the ACE Mentor Program and MAGIC Camps are great programs to be involved in.
The National Association of Women in Construction Education Foundation (NEF), offers many education programs for young and old. 
Block Kids, introduces children in grade school to construction careers. The high school level has a CAD/Design/Drafting competition and an Accessory Structure Project contest.
Look for apprenticeships in your area. Or, you might consider creating your own registered apprenticeship program to offer specific training programs tailored to your industry. This gives you an additional source of talent when you need it.

Hire Veterans

Consider active-duty military personnel and veterans who will soon transition to civilian life and seek new career opportunities. Many programs, such as Helmets to Hardhats or Veterans In Piping, are designed to attract and train veterans for careers in construction.

 Use Psychometric Profiling

If you don’t know about DISC or other forms of Psychometric Profiling, it’s time to do some research and build these into your hiring process.  These simple assessments give you a much deeper picture into who you are hiring, how they will perform their job duties, and how they will communicate with your team, prospects and clients.

Mentor For Retention

Are there career opportunities and advancement opportunities for all employees in your company? Employees want to feel that they have the chance to move up the ladder with more experience and seniority. 
Discuss your employees’ career goals and how you can help them achieve them. Is there any additional training or experience that they might need outside of your own offerings? If so, outline a timeline and milestones to reach these goals. This could include mentoring programs or internal training, as well as tuition reimbursement for employees who may need additional education. By determining what resources your company can offer to help employees succeed, you are directly increasing retention.

Differentiate Yourself & Never Stop Recruiting

What makes your construction company stand out from the rest? You can use technology such as drones, BIM, and mobile apps to attract tech-savvy workers but overall you need to invest more resources and time in your recruitment efforts.
Focus on what you need not only for the next project, but the next few years. To ensure that your business can thrive in the future, you need to forecast what your labor requirements will be for the next five, 10, and 20 years. 
Already, we’re seeing reports about construction delays caused by worker shortages in the country. These problems will only get worse, and they will spread, particularly for construction companies that aren’t creative and proactive in their recruitment efforts. To stand out from the rest of your competitors in recruiting and retaining workers, focus on excellent pay and benefits, career advancement, and safety.
To attract more people into construction, the entire industry must work together.