Construction Profit Margin

How to Combat the Construction Worker Shortage

Despite the increasing demand and job openings in the construction industry, 76% of construction firms say they are having trouble finding qualified employees to meet this demand, according to Associated General Contractors of America.  Construction companies are having trouble not only attracting new hires but also retaining them.  This problem can be battled in many different ways.

1. Retain existing workers

It is important that as construction firms search for new employees, they don’t neglect the ones they already have.  Many of the existing employees are highly qualified and have been in the industry for years.  Construction companies cannot afford to lose these kinds of employees.  Employers must take steps to improve their work conditions to retain their workforce.  The list is expansive, but here a few:  increased safety, consideration of workers’ disabilities, granting time-off when it is warranted, and keeping a competitive pay and benefits package.  Another great way to ensure that employees are satisfied is to ask them in a discrete survey.  It seems almost too simple, but that is the only way to make sure that you are putting your resources in the right places.  Different employees are going to have different needs, and it is important to consider all of them.  Employers must also provide employees with accurate and complete job descriptions before they begin, so they know what to expect and what is expected of them.

2. Improve interview tactics

A company must ensure it has fine-tuned interviewing skills and evaluating processes.  Primarily, the interviewer must know what skills and qualities the company is looking for, and must also know how to ask questions that will reveal these things without leading the prospect to the “correct” answer.  If interviews do not properly vet the candidates before making hiring decisions, unqualified employees will be hired, which in turn leads to a dissonance between the company’s values or qualifications and staff.  This kind of noise will cause disagreements, problems, and possible resignation or termination.

3. Create local relationships

It is necessary that construction firms create long-term relationships with surrounding colleges, high schools, and trade schools, which will allow them to recruit graduates.  Getting their early company recognition from students may cause them to be ahead of the game when these students are seeking employment.  Having a relationship with these schools means the ability to advertise job opportunities on the school’s career services websites, or the chance to visit the school’s career fairs or classes to recruit and promote their company. Proactive engagement allows these firms to get the upper hand on the new entrants into the industry before their competition.

4. Offer recommendation bonuses

Providing a bonus to current employees who recommend a prospect for a job that ultimately gets hired presents an incentive for the current employees to engage in active recruiting. Often your existing employees know someone who might be interested in a job but does not feel obligated to recruit them if there is no incentive.

5. Offer competitive wages and benefits

A company must offer competitive wages if it wants to attract and retain talent.  Even if they can hire somebody, they will eventually lose that employee to another company with higher wages and more benefits.

6. Improve company culture

The culture of a company is weighed extremely heavily in a career decision.  The best way for a company to promote its culture is to foster a good reputation and make sure that all members of your firm and your surrounding community are pleased with the way you conduct business.  Your company must genuinely care for its employees, and ensure their safety, success, and social lives.  If your employees are happy, they will be your greatest recruiters by offering positive word-of-mouth, which is the best kind of publicity your company can receive.

7. Participate in internship programs

Internships provide benefit for both the employer and the intern.  They allow the employer the opportunity to see how the intern works within the context of the company before hiring them full-time.  Meanwhile, it allows the intern to gain hands-on experience in their field, which makes them more attractive to future employers while also helping them in their classes by creating a more in-depth understanding of the concepts.

8. Hire in off-season

Many companies make the mistake of only looking for employees when they need them.  Short-term thinking ends up becoming a desperate search for hiring anyone who walks in the door, which brings greater issues, such as high employee turnover and job dissatisfaction.  Instead, companies should always be on the lookout for new employees and should hire in the off-season when they have more time to be selective.  This way, they can swipe the quality employees before their competition begins to look for it.

9. Utilize new technology

Let’s face it; your understaffed and the jobs are either multiplying or you’re turning projects away.  How do you do more work with less labor? The answer is mobile and cloud-based technology that improves productivity.  Subcontractor technology that allows your workers to access real-time data in the field and communicate with project managers and back-office staff more accurately. Software that tracks resources, costs, and worker schedules and timecards to allow you to finish projects under budget and in less time.  Technology built for construction subcontractors designed to reduce common mistakes incurred by manual processes and human error.

Not only can technology cut down on time taken to complete projects, but it also may contribute to attracting young new talent who may be freshly graduated from universities.  These young (tech-savvy) new entrants in the field are attracted to companies who are forward-thinking and use innovative technology.  If your firm is slow to make this shift, younger prospective employees may look at you as outdated and not a good career fit for them.

10. Onboarding and training

Many companies implement the learn-by-doing technique where instead of training their new employees they just throw them in the mix and let them learn on their own.  Sometimes there’s a time and place for this kind of “teaching,” but your employees will be much more productive and useful if they are properly trained.  A company should also connect new hires with more experienced employees with many years of experience to act as a mentor.  Another way to onboard an employee involves introducing him to all other employees.  All of these tactics will make an employee feel invested in, and therefore convince him to stick around longer if he feels he is an essential part of the team.


Associated General Contractors
Sage CRE Blog
For Construction Pros