Construction work is on the upswing and the number of available jobs now far exceeds the number of qualified personnel available to fill them. This labor shortage is one of the top concerns for builders this year. The recession of 2008-2009 forced many who worked within the trades to turn toward new careers and discouraged younger generations entering the workforce from considering a path in construction. The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of construction workers aged 24 and younger declined 30% between 2005 and 2016.
Now, in the booming economy of 2019, skilled craftsmen and construction-savvy professionals are in high demand. Here are a few strategies that companies can implement to find the employees they need, develop their skills and reduce costly turnover.
Appeal to students
Construction work and the building trades have historically carried the misguided stigma that working with your hands and pounding nails is for those who aren’t intelligent enough, or educated enough, to get a white-collar job. Although this couldn’t be further from the truth, younger generations like millennials have seen construction portrayed this way through Hollywood for most of their lives. The best way to correct this perception is to inform and appeal to students while they are still deciding what career path to take. Consider using social media channels like Instagram to get your message out.
Offer internships and apprenticeships
High schools and colleges are the perfect places to recruit. Often, high school and college students haven’t chosen a trajectory and are waiting for something that interests them to present itself. Companies can reach out to schools for opportunities to participate in career fairs or help connecting with students. Providing internship or apprenticeship opportunities is another great way to attract green employees. Choosing to mentor recent high school graduates or college students into the positions you need most provides a two-fold benefit: You can beef up your staff while also teaching the employee your organization’s preferred construction practices.
In addition to high schools and colleges, there are other organizations working toward bridging the gap between students and construction professionals. Volunteer to participate in programs such as the National Student Chapter Network of Associated Builders and Contractors. Joining these organizations can bring opportunities like participation in job fairs and speaking engagements that can help you connect with young prospective employees and get them interested in your company.
An increasing number of high schools, and even elementary schools, are also developing programs aimed at getting young people interested in construction. Companies can seek out STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or vocational schools in their area to participate.
Educate your staff
The construction industry is constantly evolving, and technological advances in building requirements can be tough to keep up with. Seasoned construction workers used to doing things the old-fashioned way — with pen and paper — may feel intimidated by the thought of learning computer software. Invest in your employees by training them to use the technology your company utilizes. Encourage employees to stay up to date with the latest construction advances or building code changes by paying for continuing education. Many training courses and programs are available online. Finally, take the time to understand employees’ career goals. Offer them opportunities to try different jobs and options to help them get where they want to go.
Offer tuition reimbursement
Offering to pay for industry-related training is another great way to improve the skills of current employees, attract new employees and show that you are invested in their future with the company. And depending on the type of training and if it is administered correctly, extended education can be a tax-free benefit for the employee and a business deduction for your company.
Improve company culture
The increased number of jobs across the board coupled with the lack of qualified personnel create a prime environment for employees to jump ship. A company can discourage workers from seeing if the grass is greener by improving its culture. There are a number of ways to do this.
Although it may be inconvenient for a company, offering flexibility goes a long way with employees. The construction environment isn’t typically conducive to remote work or telecommuting. But you can still help to improve work-life balance. Some employees may need to start and leave work earlier or later than your standard hours for family commitments. Allowing them to do so will put you ahead of the competition. Likewise, encourage employees to utilize time off and be mindful of employees getting burned out. Overworked personnel can create a toxic environment for everyone.
According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, 60% of construction companies increased base pay to retain employees. Thirty-six percent of companies provided monetary incentives and bonuses to attract new employees. Twenty-four percent improved employee benefit programs and investment contributions. But cash incentives aren’t the only solution.
Talk to employees
A company’s greatest asset is the team that makes it work day after day. The best way to find out what your employees want is to ask — not only what they would like, but what they dislike about company operations as well. Happy employees who feel heard and valued are more loyal and eager to help a company succeed. Polls have shown that younger workers care more about fulfillment than money.
The bottom line: Invest in your employees
Making employees happy is the best way to retain them. That includes offering good rewards — including both financial and noncash incentives, helping your employees move into their chosen career path and creating a great working environment that employees won’t want to leave.
Let JELD-WEN help you with future building projects.