Worker shortages are a top concern for contractors this year. Luckily, there’s a handful of proven strategies to help construction recruiters hire the best workers for their teams. Check out the top trends in construction hiring and prep strategy for a great year.
If the latest research is anything to go by, it's getting tougher and tougher to find highly skilled construction workers.
Recent research from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reveals construction employment is at its highest since 2008. And thanks to the Great Recession, many construction workers never found their way back to the industry. In short, the numbers just aren't there.
"If you think it’s bad now, five to ten years from now it will be awful. It might soon be more lucrative to be a plumber than a doctor. Professional craftsmen are going to be few and far between. Demand has outstripped supply and it’s getting worse,” believes Shawn McCadden, remodeling industry speaker and consultant from Boston.
The lack of affordable, highly skilled talent coupled with the growth of the millennial workforce is a perfect storm for the construction industry's hiring managers. If they want to win top talent ahead of the competition, employers will have to take a hard look at their work culture and employment packages.
1. Intense pressure on pay and benefits
“The annual salary of an experienced concrete foreman has increased throughout the years, up to $80,000 in 2017." — Angelica Rosales, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs for J.A.R. Construction
According to the AGC, 79% of construction firms plan to raise salaries in 2019. But ironically, many employers are still worried they won’t be able to find qualified workers.
The 2019 report surveyed 1,300 American contractors to reveal how firms are coping with tight labor economics. Almost 60% of employers raised base pay rates, while around 30% increased incentives, bonuses and benefits.
In an interview for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), Angelica Rosales, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs for J.A.R. Construction, Texas explains, “The annual salary of an experienced concrete foreman has increased throughout the years, up to $80,000 in 2017, and several universities are now offering degrees in construction management.”
That said, in order to bump up labor supply on a practical level, students need to know what the construction industry has to offer. Which leads us to our next point.
2. New educational opportunities
"Having more of these programs will both better prepare our future workforce and serve as a powerful recruiting tool for getting more high school students to see construction as a high-paying career opportunity." — Brian Turmail, Senior Executive Director of Public Affairs, Associated General Contractors of America
In case you hadn't already heard, by 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the entire US workforce.
And this generation loves to learn.
In fact, according to Gallup, 59% of millennials say the opportunity to learn and grow is extremely important to them when applying for a job. If you want to attract millennial candidates, you need to invest in training and apprenticeship opportunities.
The AGC has been doing their part by lobbying Congress to support skilled trades training. Brian Turmail, AGC's Senior Executive Director of Public Affairs says, “High schools need to set up programs that provide valuable pre-construction skills. Having more of these programs will both better prepare our future workforce and serve as a powerful recruiting tool for getting more high school students to see construction as a high-paying career opportunity."
3. A worker-first mindset
"We recognized that providing additional work/life options was something that we should embrace, and our employees have responded tremendously.” — Marianne Monte, Chief People Officer at Shawmut Design and Construction
Did you know that the construction industry is in the top nine occupations at risk for suicide?
While long hours and a notoriously tough environment were once seen as take-it-or-leave-it prerequisites for working in the construction industry, leading contractors are now taking a bold stand for worker mental health.
Managers at Boston-based general contractor Shawmut Design and Construction is one of the forward-thinking employers who say it's time for a change. In 2016, they created a flexible work program that resulted in a tangible boost in employee satisfaction and retention.
By offering compressed workweeks, part-time hours, shift sharing and telecommuting, they're able to reduce turnover and gain a competitive foothold in the talent market. “Our goal was to retain the top employees in our field. We recognized that providing additional work/life options was something that we should embrace, and our employees have responded tremendously,” says Marianne Monte, Chief People Officer at Shawmut.
4. Sharper employer brands
"Photos of employees working outside feeling the sunshine and breathing fresh air could be enticing to many millennial job seekers, particularly when compared to being stuck in an office cubicle." — Marianne Monte, Chief People Officer at Shawmut.
In the pre-2008 days, relying on your staffing firm or employee referrals might've been enough to get you the talent you needed.
In response to the changing labor demographics, the best and brightest construction companies are adjusting their images, investing more and more in the strength of their employer brand.
When it comes to hiring top-notch construction candidates, recruiters shouldn’t neglect the power of their career pages, websites and social media channels as a way to showcase employee success stories and connect with a new generation of candidates.
5. Smarter technology, smarter work
"For so long, it was seen that if you worked with a hard hat, you didn't make a lot of money and you were a dummy.” — Tyson Conrad, CEO of Goliath Construction Consulting
The AGC survey also shows that between 1/4 and 1/3 of construction companies are using smart tech and equipment to reduce onsite work time and deliver a more productive environment for their teams.
With everything from building information modeling and offsite fabrication, to drones, robots and GPS-guided machinery, the majority of firms plan to invest in these tools and in training workers to use them effectively. And nearly half expect to increase their investment in IT.
Talent management in the construction industry is undergoing a major transformation. But for employers who make the leap, you could be looking at a future in which the entire industry is elevated.
"For so long, it was seen that if you worked with a hard hat, you didn't make a lot of money and you were a dummy,” says Tyson Conrad, CEO of Goliath Construction Consulting. Clearly, that's all about to change.