How to Always Have the Highly-Skilled Construction Workers You Need

9 min read

The construction labor market is getting tighter by the minute and without a steady stream of qualified workers, you could be putting your projects at risk. Check out this step-by-step guide to future-proof your construction recruitment strategy.

The thing about hiring is we all think we have a process.

But how is that "process" actually performing for you?

According to a 2018 report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction is predicted to be one of the fastest growing job sectors through 2026, adding about 747,600 new jobs. But there simply aren't enough skilled workers around to do the work.

It's time for a different approach. Consider this your step-by-step playbook for building a pipeline of awesome construction candidates so that you always have the talent you need to keep your projects moving.

First, know thyself

Before we launch into the nitty gritty, please take a minute (and maybe even a nice, deep breath) and think about who you really are and what you really want for your business and team.

Yep, it's time to step back and get the lay of the land.

Because anyone can follow a formula, but if your inputs are off, you better believe your outputs will be, too. And no one wants to end up with a band of new hires who just don't "get it."

Start by answering the following cultural check-in questions.

  • What's the ultimate big picture strategy for your business?
  • Beyond "making money", why did your founders build this business?
  • What principles guide your business? Are you all about safety? Is diversity at the core of your mission?
  • How does your hiring plan align with those goals?

Before you can create your set of stellar hiring practices, you need to be 110% confident you're hiring for the right roles and reasons. Got it?

Great. Let's move to the next step.

Tell job seekers what's in it for them

Today's construction workers have plenty of options.

As Tyson Conrad, CEO of Tampa-based Goliath Construction Consulting, puts it, "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. I can tell you that is contrary to everything that is reality."

Show job seekers you get it by helping them visualize the impact they can make by working with you, not to mention the great perks that take your offer above and beyond the competition's.

Once you're clear on what’s in it for both parties, it's time to lay it all out in some awesomely irresistible job ads. 💖

Optimize your job descriptions and ads

OK. So you've defined your hiring value prop and you're ready to fill your headcount with some seriously capable workers.

Time to tackle the specifics.

A great job description will double as an avatar for your ideal team member. So don't rush it.

Talk to your team leads and field supervisors to pinpoint who they need, why they need them and the exact results they expect to see from filling this role.

Paint a clear picture of your ideal candidate

Replace 'responsibilities' with impact

Instead of a bland list of “responsibilities”, start your job description with an ‘Impact’ section that outlines the value of the candidate's skills and how they actually drive real-world success for your company.

The goal is to offer applicants a crystal clear understanding of the purpose of this position and explain what will be expected of them in five lines or less.

Skills and qualifications are great, but they’re not everything

At this point, we all know there’s a war for talent out there in the construction industry.

Now is not the time to get unnecessarily picky about qualifications. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to turn applicants away because of one minor box they couldn’t tick.

Instead, think of ways your company could grow its own talent by investing in training opportunities, apprenticeships and partnering with local schools (more on this in a minute).

Clarify compensation

It can be tempting to leave pay out of your job descriptions and ads. But if you've done your homework, there's no reason to hide what you're offering. Applicants admire transparency — especially millennials. So be straight up about it and save yourself the hassle of awkward conversations down the road.

Check-in questions

  • What specific tasks and activities would the ideal hire be responsible for?
  • Why are those important to the company’s big picture?
  • Is the position to be filled on a temporary or permanent basis?
  • Would you turn a candidate away for not having a specific skill or qualification?
  • What are the deal-breakers?

Use inclusive language to widen your talent pool

The construction industry is still a lot like it was when it first started: male-dominated.

And career stereotyping is holding women back from joining the field. As the labor market shrinks, you need to do everything you can to expand your talent pool to include every qualified candidate, male or female.

Not only that, companies with inclusive talent practices have 30% higher revenue per employee than companies that don't. Turn a blind eye and you can expect to be passed up by the competition that gets it.

Luckily, there are some simple ways to overcome some of the unconscious stuff that can get in the way of a great hire.

  • Delete jargon and replace it with clear, accessible terms. Why not have tradespeople on your team?
  • Aim for a balance of masculine and feminine-themed words.
  • Unless characteristics like gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial group or ability are directly relevant to the role, leave them out.

While you're at it, why not make sure your Fair Hiring Statement doesn't put applicants to sleep?

The equal employment opportunity statement is the most undervalued real estate in a job ad, with 67% of job seekers saying they care about your diversity statistics.

Make sure your EEO statement shows them you care, too.

"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. I can tell you that is contrary to everything that is reality."—Tyson Conrad, CEO, Goliath Construction Consulting

Position your employer brand to win top talent

Now that you've got an awesomely compelling job description, you're probably itching to publish your open positions. But hold on a minute.

This next step will help make sure your employer brand actually jives with what you're saying to potential candidates. Because it's a tight talent market out there, and candidates have very little time for BS.

Offer the right perks and benefits

Given the harsh work conditions and long hours, work-life balance is making its way to the top of the list for the next generation of construction workers.

Make sure you're offering both the classic benefits workers have come to expect and the more modern perks that tend draw more appeal with younger job seekers.

Here are some proven perks and benefits to try out.

  • Safety and health are still at the top of the list in this industry. Make sure you stick with a great health plan and a fully-certified safe working environment.
  • As employees enter parenthood, family benefits are crucial to attracting and retaining top talent. Offer parental leave and consider allowing employees to work reduced or flexible hours.
  • 59% of millennials say the opportunity to learn and grow is extremely important to them when applying for a job. Offer learning and development opportunities by way of on-the-job mentorship and apprenticeship, and ongoing skills training programs.
  • When it comes to financial benefits, remember construction is a cyclical business, with ups and downs along the way. Take care of the people who contribute to your company’s success by having an employer-matched 401(k) plan for employees.

For bonus points, run a competitive analysis on your perks and benefits to find out what gaps you can fill better than anyone else.

Check-in questions

  • Are your compensation packages competitive?
  • What do you offer above and beyond compensation?
  • Will training and development programs be available for this role?
  • What other perks, benefits or value do you offer that your competitors don't?

Create a killer career page

A great career page will inspire visitors to become applicants, while helping them self-select whether or not they're the right fit.

Here's what you need to make that happen.

Compelling mission statement

Strike out the jargon and state straight up why working for your company is both fun and worth it. (And please don’t call it a “mission statement!”)

Showcase your culture

If you want to win in this business long-term, you need job seekers to know you see them. Show off your inclusive working culture by sharing pictures or videos of your team. If you can highlight your participation in internal or community events that support women and other marginalized groups, even better.

Social proof

92% of consumers trust peers over brands. Add employee testimonials to your career page to help build trust with passive candidates. You can even integrate your latest Glassdoor rating.

Don't have a Glassdoor rating? No bigs. Launch a simple internal campaign asking employees that, if they've been happy with their experience so far, you'd love it if they could give you a quick rating and review.

Clear values

Most of our talent-related troubles stem from a blurry line between expected outcomes and actual behavior. But what if you could clarify your expectations before an employment contract is signed? State your values loud and clear where every potential candidate can see them.

Live chat

Strike while the iron is hot by answering a potential candidate’s questions immediately using chatbot messenger tool. You can opt to have your convos human or AI-led, then add that info to your applicant tracking system (ATS) to keep all future conversations as relevant as possible.

Need more inspiration? Here are five awesome career page examples to get you started.

Check-in questions

  • What’s the impact of the projects your company executes?
  • What problems do you solve for the world?
  • What’s it really like to work for your company?
  • What are the specific paid or cultural perks worth mentioning? Do you have a history of internal promotions?
  • How well are you doing as a company? Any business or HR awards you can brag about?
  • What cutting-edge technologies does your company use?

“While it’s certainly important to build a knowledgeable and experienced staff, some of my company’s top performers have been people who’ve made career changes. We make it a point to hire a diverse cross-section of people—from architects, engineers and designers to military veterans, former police officers and a professional boxer—who we believe have skills that translate to our business and, just as important, are a good fit for our culture.” — Jim Caulfield, Partner, Fields Development Group

Source like a pro-recruiter

Once you have a killer job ad, the only question is where to put it?

Today, recruiters do the same legwork to place a temporary worker as they do for a permanent position. But filling any type of role takes time and money.

You need to know which avenues will get you the biggest bang for your buck.

Optimize your referral network

Word of mouth is big.

Reach out to your network, including your current employees, with a quick email letting them know what types of workers you're constantly on the lookout for and get ready to do some serious hand-shaking.

And remember, it's always a good idea to meet a potential candidate, even if that person isn't in the job market right now.

If your ATS has a browser extension, use it to automatically pull candidate info straight from LinkedIn into your pipeline. You might also want to set up automated reminders to follow up with the contacts in your network by email or phone.

The job boards: where and how to post

Here's where it pays to really know your talent market.

There's a job board out there for virtually every type of candidate, but each one comes with a cost. Before you invest in paid job boards (which can range anywhere from $25-$5,000 and up), it's always a good idea to post your ad on the free, high-traffic sites.

If possible, save yourself a ton of time and use your ATS to automatically broadcast your ad across all the free job sites.

Here are a few of the top job boards you might want to try.

Free job boards

Premium job boards

Construction job boards

Source from a broad range of applicants

A 2017 AGC survey reports that 79% of construction firms are actively recruiting veterans, 70% are actively recruiting women and 64% are actively recruiting African Americans.

Now that you've got a beautifully balanced job ad and awesomely inclusive careers page to back it up, why not expand your reach to include more workers from underrepresented groups?

If you're not sure where to start, check out this list of the top job boards for diversity hiring.

Always follow up

Have you ever been marketed to just once?

Didn’t think so. Salespeople and talent sourcers alike know that it takes four to eight touches to see progress, with conversion rates steadily increasing as the amount of touches go up. Calling it quits after the first email is a waste of the time and effort you put into finding great candidates in the first place!

Space your emails a few days apart (or up to a week, depending on seniority), and keep ’em short.

  • Bringing this back to the top of your inbox
  • Did you get a chance to check out [company/role] yet?
  • Hey — have to give you another ping on this, it’s too perfect to miss…

With the proverbial 'War for Talent' back on like never before, you need to treat every candidate lead like a valuable sales lead.

With the right tool, it can be a lot less work than you think.

Set up your pipeline to keep the hottest candidates highest on your radar and set an automated nurture sequence for applicants or candidates that weren't a fit this time, but could be awesome in the future.

Check-in questions

  • Do you need full-time or project-based?
  • Specialist or generalist?
  • What companies already have the best of the best in this role?
  • Can sourcing from different industries give you appropriate candidates with the same, transferable skills?
  • What blogs are they reading?
  • Who do they follow on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn?
  • What schools do they attend, or certifications do they pursue, to develop themselves?
  • What conferences and events do they attend?

Candidates wish the average interviewer did a better job with follow-up communication. After the interview, candidates are often on edge left wondering, "what's going on?" If they didn't get the job, the earlier you let them know the quicker they can mentally move on. And if you've yet to decide, that's fine, but be sure to reach out regularly and let candidates know that you're still in the process of making a decision. — Christopher Taylor, Job Search Strategist

Remove the bottlenecks

If you're already working within an ad hoc hiring process, take a minute to identify the bottlenecks.

For example, interview scheduling is a major bottleneck for most.

Companies like GE have reduced hiring time by 70% with an agile approach to crushing recruitment bottlenecks. In GE's case, interview scheduling was the time suck. (Don't we all know the pain of group email chains. 🙄)

By implementing an an automated interview-scheduling tool they scaled back the time to hire from 15 weeks to less than 3-6 weeks.

Check-in questions

  • Are your hiring checkpoints clear to all members of the hiring team?
  • Can they happen easily within your day-to-day workflows?
  • Does your hiring process add to or detract from the candidate experience?
  • Are any parts of the process repetitive or unnecessary?
  • What parts are the most time-consuming?
  • What parts of the process can be optimized?
  • Which parts of the process require a more personal or human approach?

A better process today, a better pipeline tomorrow

If you're ready to speed past the competition and start making a proactive play for the best of the best construction talent, start by embracing the role of construction companies as developers of people—not just projects.

Sure, it's a challenge to shift gears, but making the right changes to your hiring process today means you'll be far ahead of the rest of the pack tomorrow. Commit to evolving your system along with your business and you'll always have the people you need to make great things happen.

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