PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
construction turnover using technology

The Surprising Thing You Need to Keep Construction Talent: Tech

Improve Your Construction Recruitment and Retention in One Easy Step

Building a workforce has taken you time, patience and persistence, and now you’ve finally got a team that you trust. Everyone is working in sync, they communicate well and above all, they perform exceptional work. And then just when your team starts to get into a groove and your company starts seeing results on your bottom line, workers leave.

Yes, worker turnover is a reality in any field, let alone construction, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy reality to swallow. Not only can employee morale take a hit, so can your company’s resources as you spend significant time and money searching for talent and filling open positions.

Currently, there is an estimated 21.4% industry-wide construction employee turnover rate in this field, making it one of the highest rates among any industry. What’s more is the average cost of a turnover is up to 20% of the individual’s base pay. The true cost of construction employee turnover consists of:

  • Exit costs: This includes paperwork, such as closeout documents, as well as customer-facing communications and filling in temporary employment gaps with short-term fixes if needed.
  • Rehiring: Posting job openings, recruiting to find a pool of quality candidates, and then committing to a thorough interview process to narrow down and find the right fit costs money and time that can sap productivity. Throw in the fact that there’s currently a skilled labor shortage, creating ever more challenges to hire one, let alone, the right candidate.
  • Training: Any new hire has to be trained–there’s no getting around it. Even beyond training, it takes time for a new staff member to truly grow comfortable and productive in their role as well as mesh with their new team.
  • Decreased productivity: Whether it’s bringing new hires up to speed or other employees dedicating time to the hiring process and stepping away from their core duties in the near-term, decreased productivity for the larger team is a reality when there’s worker turnover.
  • Loss of other employees: We mentioned previously how morale could suffer among remaining workers whenever there’s turnover. Lingering low morale can lead even more workers to seek other opportunities, which just means more of the same exit costs, having to rehire and train, and decreased productivity. Rinse and repeat.

Worker turnover is never ideal, but unfortunately, it’s a reality for all construction companies. While a certain amount of employee change is healthy for a business, the average rate of turnover is far too high. Nonetheless, with the right tools and strategies, it is possible to minimize the amount of construction employee turnover.

One possible way to decrease turnover (or at least some of the negatives that come with it) is to go digital and get tech savvy. It’s estimated that more than half employees at organizations deemed to be technologically behind are frustrated with their employers. Conversely, only about 6% of employees are frustrated who work for a technology leader. That’s a staggering difference of 750%.

So, is a lack of technological advancement hindering your ability to hire and retain construction talent?

Tech to Improve Construction Training

Adopting and integrating the latest technology into your operations doesn’t just potentially make employees more satisfied, but it can also streamline productivity. Yet, the level to which trade organizations and construction firms have embraced such technology is varied. As one example, organizations such as the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) have overhauled its apprenticeship program to include new 3D modeling technology platforms. This type of education has helped the company provide a competitive advantage for trainees and move the entire electrical industry forward.

Rod Belisle, Executive Director, comments, “Our new education program is ahead of the curve as far as electrical training and will give our graduates the ability to be competitive in a high-spec environment where there is a lot of modeling.” He continues, “And it helps bring the electrical industry into the electronic age. I think it will convey to the public that construction is fairly high tech—it’s not just hammer and nails anymore. It takes a lot of technology to build a high-rise building, and I think it might bring about a different type of applicant in the future who is interested in modeling and that kind of 3D environment.”

Tech to Aid Construction Recruitment

Today, many construction companies are being increasingly strategic about including technology into recruitment efforts–and we’re not just talking about the ability to apply for a job online. This is especially true when it comes to recruiting Millennial workers, who grew up with the technological boom and are more likely to adapt and embrace a more technological work environment. Robert Kipp, Superintendent at Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, says, “With the millennials and even the newest generation coming into the workforce, they’ve grown up with technology, they expect it,” He adds, “It’s become so integral to our everyday lives and the way that we execute our own processes that it’s expected we use technology.”

Some successful construction firms have even gone as far as to treat technology with the same importance as they do any standard job equipment. But any commitment to technology–whether it’s for recruiting or for use on the job–must be done at the company level. To achieve all the benefits of incorporating technology into a construction firm’s operations, it must become the norm. According to Jay Snyder, Technology Practice Leader for FMI Corp., “Don’t underestimate technology as a way to recruit and retain top talent.” 

Tech to Improve Productivity

What are some of the technologies that can help workers streamline productivity on the job? Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are three key topics that allow workers to do more with less, which helps to boost their baseline productivity. Drones can be flown over jobsites for inspection purposes and to analyze progress. 3D printers can quickly create anything from miniature designs to whole buildings. Robotic automation helps more efficiently and effectively perform certain building tasks, especially those that might pose a danger to human workers. Designs and blueprints are mapped out in advanced modeling software and stored in the cloud to enable easy sharing among all parties involved in the project. Even routes to and from jobsites are better planned relative to traffic patterns and conditions to reduce downtime and save on fuel costs.

For those who worry that these advanced technologies will replace field workers, there’s no need to fret. These types of technologies should be viewed as complementary pieces–not replacements–to any construction organization. No technology will be able to completely replace the human element that is necessary for this skilled trade. If you’re interested in learning how technology can help the core productivity of workers in construction, read our blog post, “Human Meets Machine: Why Investing in Both Labor and Automation in Construction Is Essential.”

Tech to Predict and Prevent Turnover

While technology can help streamline productivity on the job, it can also help predict and prevent employee turnover. Advanced machine learning algorithms are able to segment employees based on attrition and also help develop plans to retain workers. Clustering can identify candidate pools and help organizations come up with better recruiting strategies to attract the type of talent that they’re looking for to fill vacancies. What’s more is AI can even help employers determine some of the shortcomings of their organizations, thereby allowing them to be more proactive than reactive in addressing issues and potential construction employee turnover.

How to Retain Construction Talent

Ultimately, you will need more than tech to develop a solid retention strategy.

While an aggressive hiring campaign may seem like the obvious solution to your labor shortage, it turns out that acquiring new employees can be pretty cost prohibitive as we mentioned above. For a better return on your investment, spend that construction recruitment money on the talent you already have.

Improve Team Experience

Construction projects typically involve a lot of specialized roles and you could easily waste a lot of time and money figuring out how to make everyone’s day more enjoyable. So, before you bend over backward chasing high retention numbers, figure out a way to improve your team’s day-to-day in a scalable way.

Although everyone on the jobsite has their own personal pain point, there is one that seems to be particularly common. Indeed, 26% of construction workers in a TINYpulse industry survey said they are frustrated by the lack of tools they need to do their jobs better. With such a diverse and specialized work environment, discovering a way to make over a quarter of your workforce happier makes your choice clear. It’s time to upgrade your team’s toolbox.

If you’re not sure where to start improving your toolset remember that you’re competing against other companies and industries. So, you’ll have to do better than a new set up power drills. Instead, new technology like mobile construction productivity software and the hardware that goes with it is what will make you stand out.

Happy employees work harder and faster, and the competition can’t easily steal them. Additionally, employees that feel treated well will pass on positive reviews about their jobs to their networks—making your construction recruitment efforts a bit easier.

Invest in People

Despite promising survey results, new tools alone can’t guarantee employee happiness. As a matter of fact, that same TINYpulse survey found that more than half of construction employees don’t feel they have strong opportunities for professional growth. New tools can’t make your employee’s lives easier if they don’t know how to use them.

Preparing trained and skilled labors and professionals requires time but you can expedite the process while incorporating the only thing that TINYpulse found construction workers like more than new tools: each other. For instance, 34% of the happiest employees say their peers and colleagues drive their workplace satisfaction. You can tap into these two big insights by setting up a training and mentoring program.

This way, your veteran builders can teach any new employees the building skills they haven’t cultivated yet, and that the newly hired employees can provide technology training to those who are less experienced. Plus, by providing training, you’ll be able to better identify the people who are interested in staying with your company to become the next generation of leadership and management.

How to Attract New Construction Talent

Just like any good construction project, you need to be careful to measure twice and cut once. So, sketch out a plan first and delineate specifically what you need in a new employee.

These days, jobsites increasingly utilize cutting-edge technologies like mobile productivity software, drones, 3D printing. Workers need to be interested in or already able to successfully operate more modern technology. By emphasizing the value of technology in your construction projects, you can attract a type of applicant better suited to your needs, saving valuable time interviewing incompatible candidates.

Engage More Prospects

The recruiting experts at Monster have a novel suggestion for finding qualified prospective employees during this labor shortage: look for people with similar skill sets in different fields. While it’s true that the Great Recession forced a lot of people out of the construction industry, it didn’t make them disappear into thin air. Instead, they sought work elsewhere in fields with overlapping areas of expertise.

Consider people like the engineers and project managers found in the IT sector in your construction recruitment strategy. They have a lot of the exact skills you need for your company but will want to see good tech in place before contemplating a move. Similarly, a lot of oil and gas workers will have the same underlying skill sets but may expect access to high-quality technology. If you take this path, be sure your company has the best tools available to make sure your company is setup to successfully keep any workers you lure from these other industries.

Filter Unqualified Candidates

A report from U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows that contractors aren’t just worried about finding applicants but are also concerned about their skill levels. Since technology is at the core of the construction industry, it is important to have a technology filter for candidates. This filter will ensure you hire people that not only accept, but champion, your beliefs.

You should view interviewing as an honest effort to find a good employment match—don’t hesitate to be picky. You could easily end up with an employee unsuited to the job or not ready for where you want to take your company as it grows. But, if you stress how important technology is to your company’s day-to-day operations, you can filter out anyone who isn’t able or willing to help move your company forward.

At the end of the day, you have a finite pool of workers from which to choose. Anything you can do to make your company more attractive to both prospective and current employees will move your company ahead of the competition. Implementing the right technology will address these construction recruitment needs by attracting quality candidates and ensuring your current employees feel supported enough to give you their best work for years to come

To Reduce Construction Employee Turnover, Focus on Tech

The future of the construction workforce is embracing and implementing technology. Those who do it are likely to be leaders in the industry, while those who don’t will be unlikely to attract the talent or operate with the efficiency and effectiveness to stay competitive. Where does your firm stand on technology? Taking advantage of all it has to offer can ultimately help take your organization to new heights by reducing construction employee turnover and streamlining productivity. That’s some high reward potential worth seriously considering.

Grace Ellis

As a Content Marketing Manager at PlanGrid, Grace is the managing editor for the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With over eight years of experience in marketing, communications and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in high-quality content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.

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