If you work in construction, then news about the current labor shortage won’t come as any surprise. Contractors have named hiring as their top concern for a number of years. In 2017, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey findings revealed that 82% of construction professionals listed the cost and availability of laborers as a pressing priority for the year, compared to just 13% in 2011.
That labor shortage rankles, especially since the demand for new housing and remodeling projects hasn’t really slowed. According to Kiplinger Personal Finance, sales for new home and existing homes have remained strong throughout the year. Realtor.com reports that builders would need about 1.2 million workers to keep pace with that demand. But without an influx of skilled laborers, builders are finding it hard to keep up. In fact, the NAHB estimates that there were about 250,000 unfilled construction jobs at the end of last year, which means many opportunities for building are going unheeded or severely delayed.
There’s no denying that employers are going to have to use savvier means to attract employees if they hope to woo skilled talent away from the competition. In fact, there are several key areas you can target to improve your chances of recruiting and retaining quality employees in the wake of the labor shortage.
Incentivize Young Laborers With Training and Development Programs
One of the issues affecting the availability of skilled labor is the lack of young workers entering the field. While the number of construction workers has fallen across all age levels, that decline is most prominent among younger demographics.
Finding “the next generation of skilled laborers” has been a pressing concern for many employers interested in solving the construction labor crisis. However, evidence suggests that it’s not just training that’s lacking, but a clear, stable career path for young workers in the construction field. Sixty-three percent of young Americans say there’s little to no chance that they’d consider a career in skilled trade work, presumably because they don’t see it as a wise choice for long-term career development.
With that in mind, it’s important to prioritize training and development in your construction business if you want to appeal to this generation. One way to do so is to offer certification reciprocity programs that help new contractors pay their way through training, such as a LEED certification program. For large businesses, cross-training workers to fill various roles—project management, sales, and management positions, in addition to on-site trades roles—offers a chance for employees to change job functions and eventually advance in their careers. If resources for larger programs aren’t available, however, even small technical workshops and industry talks can help bring young workers to your door. These types of programs communicate your commitment to young job-seekers eager to snap up jobs with long-term potential.
Enhance Recruiting Programs to Embrace Digitalization
Today’s recruiting technologies are quite sophisticated, allowing you to identify qualified talent quickly and even automate some parts of the recruiting process. This is key, since recruiting programs can become unwieldy quickly, especially when you’re looking to scale up your hiring practices.
Leaning more heavily on technology allows you to ramp up recruiting practices without a heavy investment. Applicant tracking systems offer a path to automate procedures for job posting, filtering out resumes, and routine interaction with candidates, meaning fewer resources diverted to time-consuming manual work in your HR roles.
Digitalization can also improve your reach; smart recruitment tools analyze both internal hiring practices and market trends, to help identify candidates most likely to join your company. These can be a huge boon to construction businesses who are trying to diversify their approach to recruiting.
Improve Diversity in Hiring
If you’re having difficulty finding skilled talent in the usual places, then it makes sense to look somewhere else. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the construction industry is nearly 91% male and 89% white, which means there’s plenty of room for diversity in the field. These practices go hand-in-hand with attracting tomorrow’s top-tier talent. Millennials and Generation Zers are notoriously diverse. According to The Brookings Institute, they hover at about 55.8% white, compared to 75.9% for ages 55 and over. Increasing the diversity of your employee profile can be tricky, but it becomes a lot easier when you take a common-sense approach to your efforts. Construction executives can start by hiring more diverse HR and recruiting teams. This simple step should make a difference, especially among female candidates, since women are much more likely to join a team when their interview panel includes another woman.
Diverse hiring panels may also have ideas for how you can optimize your hiring approach. For instance, posting job notices in untapped locations, such as a daycare or community center. You may also want to implement practices to limit unconscious bias, such as blacking out names on resumes or requiring all members of the interviewing panel to ask the same questions. The efforts you put forth to create a corporate culture where a diversity of approaches is not only accepted, but also viewed as an asset, will go a long way to improving candidate diversity and embracing a larger talent pool.
The world is changing, and savvy construction executives must embrace that reality—and learn to work within a new employee landscape—if they hope to build the next generation of construction professionals.
Jason Polka is the CEO of Modernize, a company that uses business intelligence software to connect homeowners with contractors. Jason has led numerous initiatives to identify and execute new service and differentiated product opportunities.