How Companies Can Address the Labor Shortage Through Recruitment and Technology
In 2017, the $200 million Vue Sarasota Bay was slated to be the city’ largest commercial real estate project. Nonetheless, now in 2018, the project is still under construction, leaving many asking: why the delay? In short, the answer lies in the project’s inability to hire enough workers. When commenting on the time overrun, Bob Vail, president of the project’s developer commented,
“We’ve really only been able to get 60-70% of the manpower we need on the job.”
While the Vue’s delay is unfortunate, it’s far from uncommon. In fact, delays from the industry’s massive labor shortage are more common than not these days, with construction hiring in decline for years.
Although construction needs are booming throughout the world, the problem isn’t the lack of work; it’s the lack of workers. Construction hiring is suffering amongst an industry-wide skilled labor shortage. Overall, 95% of contractors have experienced difficulty finding skilled workers. A smaller hiring pool means that no role is untouched, from field worker to construction project manager, with some reports that six-figure construction jobs are being left unfilled.
Construction companies cannot afford to ignore the labor shortage. While field collaboration technology allows construction companies to manage some of the effects of the shortage, a focus on recruitment and retention is still critical to the future scalability of the industry. To improve construction hiring, an industry-wide commitment to hiring and retention on new markets will be the only way construction companies can fill all their hiring needs. Below, we’ll identify four markets your construction hiring efforts should be focusing on, as well as provide you with actionable tips to attract and retain workers from these segments.
In a traditionally male-dominated industry, women currently comprise approximately 9.1% of the workforce. While this number is (slowly) growing, when compared to the 47% of the total workforce, it’s clear the industry isn’t taking an active role to attract and retain more skilled females. Beyond maintaining the future of the industry, companies that promote a more inclusive culture have been reported to improve productivity by 22% and profitability by 27%. Nonetheless, striving for gender and diversity balance in construction is more important than ever to maintain a competitive edge in addition to filling the growing needs of the industry.
What Companies Can Do
Committing to hiring and recruiting more females requires more than just establishing a goal. To truly improve construction hiring for women, companies need to establish set policies and procedures. For instance, women and men even look for jobs differently. Women are more likely to rely on their networks, care about work culture and consider benefits.
Actions your company can take to hire more women include:
- Use gender-neutral language in job postings and job descriptions
- Implement equal pay policies
- Ensure gender-neutral restroom facilities are available on jobsites
- Develop and enforce a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy
- Provide all crew members with properly fitting PPE
- Network with tradeswoman organizations and post jobs
- Create leadership and mentorship opportunities
- Establish family-friendly work policies (e.g., maternity/paternity leave, fertility treatments)
Interested in learning more about women in construction, take a look at our recent infographic. You can also read first-hand accounts of women in the industry in this interview series from Construction Dive to gain more perspective.
Regardless of your true feelings on avocado toast and the alleged things that millennials have “killed,” the future of construction hiring depends heavily on the generation. The fact is that the construction industry is aging with a significant percentage of workers expected to leave and retire over the next decade. In some predictions, 20% of the workforce is expected to retire within ten years.
Despite the industry’s needs, millennials have yet to come around to all the benefits a career in construction offers. Moreover, millennials, in general, are less likely to fill blue-collar worker jobs. The problem lies in not the actual work, but the perception of the actual work itself. According to a survey of young people from NAHB, only 3% were interested in a career in construction-related trades. The survey cited the desire to have a less physically-demanding role (48%) and the idea that construction work is difficult (32%), as the two primary reasons why there was little interest in the industry. Nonetheless, construction is changing rapidly and millennials
What Companies Can Do
According to a study by Robert Half, for workers 34 and under, a sense of accomplishment is the strongest driver of workplace happiness. Construction companies should focus on career advancement, especially skill development if they want to attract and retain millennials. One way to add skills and also make the prospect of manual labor more attractive is through the use of new construction technology. Adopting innovation and training employees on how to use platforms like construction productivity software or drones, will give millennials the competitive skills they desire.
While trade schools and universities still need to play their part in encouraging a new generation of workers to enter construction, companies can apply the following to their business in the meantime:
- Adopt competitive pay policies
- Embrace and promote innovations and technology
- Create a collaborative and supportive work environment
- Establish career development paths for all employees
Hispanics already compose a large segment of the construction workforce–around 29%. Nonetheless, the construction industry needs to continuously attract and retain members of the Latino community to help fill the massive gap left by the labor shortage. Although communication issues can create a bottleneck to work due to language and cultural barriers, Hispanics are a valuable and growing segment of the construction workforce. Unfortunately, the segment is also most prone to accidents in large part due to language gaps. In fact, young Hispanic workers for small construction firms have the highest fatality rates of any group of workers in the country. Thus, construction companies need to do their part to not only recruit and retain but also to protect their Latino workers.
What Companies Can Do
To truly protect and advance construction’s Latino workforce, companies need to commit to improving communications across the board. In addition to making the workforce more collaborative across the board, construction software can also serve as a dual-language platform. For instance, software like PlanGrid is available in Spanish, helping to ensure important instructions and materials aren’t lost in translation.
Companies serious about supporting and growing their Hispanic employees can initiate the following tactics to aid construction hiring:
- Establish and enforce diversity inclusion policies
- Embrace dual-language work materials and/or construction software
- Invest and re-up on jobsite training, in Spanish and English
- Create an official support community or group for Hispanic workers
On average, 240,000 to 360,000 veterans make the transition to civilian life annually, but only around 6% end up in construction. For construction companies, this means there’s a huge untapped workforce segment that can be found from recruiting our nation’s heroes. Furthermore, veterans have many desirable skills that translate well on a jobsite. For instance, discipline, teamwork and leadership are all a strong focus for military jobs, as well as a flexible mentality that’s adaptable to change. Additionally, some veterans may have even more relevant roles in the past that are ideal for construction, including working as a Navy mechanic, managing logistics for the Army and experience working with heavy machinery.
What Companies Can Do
While construction’s focus on camaraderie and task-based projects make jobsites an ideal atmosphere for some veterans, companies still need to increase their efforts to promote to the job market. One key way to encourage vets to join the workforce is to focus on a continuation of education and training. After completing their service, many vets are looking to advance their careers but face a skills gap in some fields. Therefore, construction companies should focus on skill and career development when recruiting to veterans.
In general, several practices and policies will improve construction hiring for veteran talent:
- Implement flexible leave policies
- Promote camaraderie and teamwork aspects of the job
- Provide a platform for career and skill development
If you’re looking to recruit more vets to your jobsite, Helmets to Hardhats is a great resource to connect with the job market and post positions.
Construction Productivity Software: Do More with Less
While technology won’t entirely replace your workforce, it can certainly help to fill the gap and let your company do more with less. At a recent Lowe’s Ventures & SVB Future of Housing Series in San Francisco, Tracy Young, PlanGrid cofounder and CEO, addressed the need to recruit women and millennials in addition to adopting new field technology for the future of the industry. “We need both. It’s not one or the other.”
In particular, construction productivity software allows your workforce to save time and money through collaboration, streamlined and standardized workflows, automation and more. Furthermore, as mentioned with millennials, construction technology can be a fantastic recruitment tool for talent. Forward-thinking companies tend to adopt technology faster, and in turn, translates well on the long-term viability of the business to desirable candidates.
New Markets Are the Future of Construction Hiring
Filling in for the labor shortage is no easy feat, but something needs to be done to fulfill our growing demands for construction around the world. In addition to a company-wide commitment, the entire construction industry needs to step up and make changes from within to improve construction hiring across the board. Through improved education and support of these new work markets, the entire industry benefits.