How Top Construction Companies Are Attracting and Retaining Talent

If you work in construction, then news about the current labor shortage won’t come as any surprise. Construction professionals have named hiring as their top concern for a number of years; in 2017, National Association of Home Builders 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 starts 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 National Association of Home Builders 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.

Whether you blame the recession, the opioid crisis, or recent immigration policy, there’s no denying that hirers 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.

Group of people waiting for job interview

Incentivizing 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 amount of construction workers has fallen across all age levels, that decline is evidenced most sharply among younger demographics.

Finding “the next generation of skilled laborers” has been a pressing concern for many 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. According to data from Builder Online, 63% of young Americans say there’s little to no chance that they’d consider a career in the 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, helping new contractors pay their way through requirements, such as an 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 just aren’t available, however, even small technical workshops and industry talks can help bring young workers to your doors. These types of programs communicate your commitment to employees to young job seekers eager to snap up jobs with long-term potential.

Enhancing 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 often, market trends as well, to help you identify those candidates most likely to join your company. These abilities can be a huge boon to construction businesses who are trying to diversify their approach to recruiting.

Improving Diversity in Hiring

If you’re having difficulty finding skilled talent in the usual places, then it only makes sense to start looking 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 Z, the youngest age group, are notoriously diverse—according to The Brookings Institute, they hover at about 55.8% and 51.5% white, compared to 75.9% for ages 55 and over. Essentially, recruiting programs designed to appeal to younger demographics must also make strides to embrace inclusivity.

Improving the diversity of your company 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 huge 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 diversify 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 asking all members of the interviewing panel to ask the same questions. Additionally, the work you do on your end to create a corporate culture where a diversity of approaches is not only accepted—but 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 will need to embrace that reality—and learn to work within a new employee landscape—if they hope to build the next generation of construction professionals.

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