PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog

The Construction Labor Shortage Doesn’t Have to Slow You Down

How Software Can Help You Do More With Less

The Associated General Contractors of America released a survey recently and the results are chilling; about 80% of construction companies can’t find the workers they need. If you’ve experienced a construction labor shortage or are having a hard time finding qualified, skilled workers, you’re not alone. Despite steady industry growth, companies are still struggling to fill key roles on the jobsite, and as a result, are at risk of missing out on jobs or extending project timelines.

But, before you panic, remember that statistics can only tell one part of the story. While the construction labor shortage is a threat to your bottom line, the right tactics and tools can mitigate your risk exposure. Understanding the reasons behind this shortage and employing some creative tactics can help you cope with a reduced workforce without sacrificing quality or turning down new projects.

Where Did Everybody Go?

It wasn’t so long ago that the industry actually had a surplus of workers; at the height of the housing bubble, the U.S. added 900,000 construction jobs. However, during the 2006-2011 recession, construction companies shed about 2.3 million jobs. Yet now that the industry has recovered and those jobs have come back, there seems to be no one around to take them. In fact, in 2016 alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 200,000 unfilled construction positions. So, where did those workers go?

Several factors are contributing to the construction labor shortage:

  • During the recession, skilled workers who were unable to find work joined new industries or dropped out of the workforce entirely.
  • Baby Boomers are beginning to retire in record numbers and are leaving all industries, including construction.
  • Millennials are entering the market, but many have unrelated degrees with no training or connection to construction.
  • While immigrant workers can fill the gap in many cases, there is a language barrier in the hiring and training process.

How Can Companies Cope with the Construction Labor Shortage?

Despite booming growth, the industry is in a panic over the labor shortage—and for good reason. There are several ways to improve the number of skilled workers, but many of them take time. Outreach to high schools and older teens to promote the industry, appealing to young adults, and even aggressively recruiting at local trade schools can help, but these are not immediate solutions. Luckily, you don’t have to rely on ramping up your recruitment because technology may hold the answer instead.

Construction Software Can Help Bridge the Gap

In many cases, choosing the right construction software can make a big difference for foremen and superintendents by allowing them to get more done through increased efficiency and productivity. If your worksites are not operating at peak efficiency, you’ll feel the pinch of the construction labor shortage far more than your competitor who is using the latest technology to streamline their organization.

The right construction software can help you run a more efficient jobsite in several key ways by empowering you to:

Improve Communication and Collaboration

Eliminate or drastically reduce the amount of time workers spend waiting for approval, waiting to clarify an issue, or waiting for the answer to a question. Mobile devices and construction software make it easy to connect the office and the field in real-time. This way, you can always find the most up-to-date plans or reach the person you need to hear from so you can get an answer right away. When you eliminate unnecessary downtime, you can get more done and make the most of the workforce you have.

Eliminate Misallocation

Are the right teams deployed at the right time? Are your team members able to get right to work, or do they end up waiting until a key piece of rental equipment shows up or the team before them gets done? Construction software can ensure that everyone is on the same page and that you are allocating the resources you have effectively and efficiently. When there is only one record or source of information for a project, you can be sure that everyone is reading the same reports every morning and planning accordingly.

Create a Tech Friendly Culture

Those Millennials you’re hoping to hire are digital natives; they’ve grown up with technology and embrace it fully. Your younger team members have an innate understanding of software and digital tech and will embrace and make the most of construction software.

If you want a youthful workforce that can make the most of the available technology as they learn the construction business, now is the time to reach out to them. While the departure of Baby Boomers and skilled craftsmen leaves a big gap, many of these older, established construction pros were averse to technology and unable to make the most of the powerful and innovative tools they had at hand. Incorporating technology can make your company more appealing to younger workers and in turn, allow your Millennial workers to perform as efficiently as possible on your site.

Bridge the Language Barrier

The January 2017 Labor Force Statistics report indicates that 28.9% of the construction industry is Hispanic or Latino, and that number is only increasing with time. While that is great news for anyone worried about the construction labor shortage, the English-Spanish language divide brings some unique challenges. These workers are skilled and able to perform key jobs on your site but are at an increased risk of injury because training materials and even supervisors often relay important details solely in English. The right software can help bridge the gap by supporting localized languages and allowing your business to safely and effectively employ the rich population of Spanish-speaking craftsmen.

Plan Ahead

New construction technology seems to arrive every day; from 3D printing entire homes right on the jobsite to wall climbing robots and AI that can predict needs and deploy assets with precision, technology can change the way we do business. An automated home build and robotic workers are still far in the future, at least for mainstream construction, but software that can boost your ability to collaborate, your communication abilities, and your overall efficiency is already here.

At PlanGrid, our experts talk to companies dealing with the reality of the construction labor shortage every day. Consequently, we have insight into what can boost productivity and help companies overcome the unique problems you risk from being shorthanded on the jobsite. Don’t waste your time re-inventing the wheel and experimenting with solutions that may not work. Instead, take advantage of the lessons we’ve learned by downloading our newest ebook, Construction Productivity 101: A Practical Guide to Increase Productivity in 7 Easy Steps.

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Further Reading:  Why Australia and New Zealand Are Losing $36.5 Billion Annually in Construction Labour Costs


How to Increase Construction Productivity in a Tight Labor Market

Fortunately, there are strategies that construction companies can use to not only survive the current market but also thrive in it. When new workers are few and far between, it’s time to start making the most of the workforce you have. This begins with giving your team the technology necessary for them to be 100% efficient in their jobs. With so many options available, though, choosing the right ones becomes an increasingly critical part of boosting productivity.

In our webinar — Increasing Productivity in a Tight Labor Marketwe explore a number of practical strategies that construction professionals can start using right away to visibly increase workforce productivity, including how to make the right technological choices, how to supplement lean construction philosophy with the right technology, and how to avoid the technological investment pitfalls that so many companies fall prey to. By implementing these strategies, you’ll be able to complete projects faster and more efficiently, allowing you to build more and take full advantage of the opportunity that exists while it’s still there.

Watch our webinar, here. 

Amy Wolfenberger

PlanGrid Content Marketing Specialist