Navigating the Construction Labor Shortage

The construction labor shortage wasn't created by a single issue, and it's likely that a variety of solutions will be needed to address problems across the industry. These suggestions can help construction companies hoping to recruit and retain new employees.
Lauren Pesola
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News reports and articles consistently highlight the labor shortage across industries in the US. Signs in retail shops and restaurants make it obvious that businesses are short-staffed across a variety of professions. Still, few industries are feeling the pinch as intensely as the construction industry. Surprisingly, the housing market heated up during the pandemic. Even as construction companies struggled to rebound and find ways to work during the pandemic, demand for new construction was growing. As an industry that never fully recovered from the labor shortage produced by the 2008 recession, filling positions vacated during the pandemic feels impossible.

Nearly three-quarters of contractors found it challenging to meet project deadlines in the third quarter of this year, a number that's up 17% from last quarter. Even worse 71% of contractors are asking skilled laborers to take on more work, and more than 40% have turned down work because they couldn't hire enough tradespeople. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law on November 15 suggests more work on the horizon with no end to the construction labor shortage in sight.

The construction labor shortage wasn't created by a single issue, and it's likely that a variety of solutions will be needed to address problems across the industry. These suggestions can help construction companies hoping to recruit and retain new employees.

Battling Labor Shortages and Hiring New Talent

To bring new talent to the construction industry, it's crucial to find new ways to gain attention. With baby boomers retiring in record numbers, around 41% of the current construction workforce is expected to retire by the year 2031. This means it's more important to attract new employees to the field. Consider these stats about current workers in the construction industry.

  • 87.8% are men
  • The average age of a construction worker is 38 years old
  • 63% are white, 19.2% are Hispanic or Latino, and 11.5% are Black or African American
  • Average annual salary is $36,860

Creating a well-rounded workforce in the construction industry requires changing the image of the construction industry. Filling long-empty job postings may mean reaching out to groups who haven't previously considered construction as an option. Young people often see construction as an outdated industry using basic hand tools instead of modern technology. Meanwhile, women and minorities expect hiring barriers to keep them out. 

These tips can help you educate unlikely candidates about working in modern construction.

  • Create and advertise training/mentorship programs.
  • Work with local schools and colleges to provide internships.
  • Highlight diversity on your website's career page.
  • Create inclusive job descriptions based on skills, potential, and willingness to learn.
  • Develop incentives and rewards programs targeted at a variety of workers.
  • Highlight the use of construction technology in the field.

Female Contractor Standing in a Factory with Safety Helmet

Recruiting and Retaining Millennials and Gen Z

Up to 36% of millennials and 53% of Gen Z employees are interested in leaving their current position within the next two years. This should be good news for construction companies that desperately need new workers. However, these groups simply don't see the construction industry as appealing. As young adults entered the workforce, millennials and Gen Z employees were generally labeled as lazy and tech-obsessed. Conversely, upon taking pivotal positions, these groups are radically changing the workforce.

Millenial and Gen Z adults prioritize career benefits that are important to them. To attract and retain these younger workers, construction companies will have to meet them where they are and offer benefits that fit their lifestyle choices. How can you do that? 

  • Advertise job openings through social media.
  • Create videos that showcase company culture and good working conditions.
  • Offer on-the-job training and advancement opportunities. (More than half of millennials and gen Z employees believe success depends on updating skills and knowledge)
  • Find ways to create flexible schedules. (75% of millennials think a successful organization should have flexible working hours.)
  • Showcase ways your company makes a positive impact on the world.
  • Utilize their existing technology skills.
  • Provide a supportive and coaching company culture since these generations are eager to learn.
  • Invest in, and encourage, the use of construction technology to eliminate repetitive tasks and allow workers to concentrate on human-centric actions.

Giving Existing & New employees What they Need

A record 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September 2021. Yet, the unemployment rate stands at 4.6%. A far lower number than most unemployment rates for any year from the 1970s through the 1990s. How can this be possible? The most obvious contribution to the change is baby boomers retiring in record numbers. However, the most important fact these numbers reveal is that workers aren't quitting the workforce entirely. They're seeking occupations that better meet their needs. For construction companies to take advantage of these labor shifts, it's essential to understand what employees are seeking.

Tools That Make their Jobs Easier

To start, consider updating or adding new tech that can help your employees. Modern tools are consistently making jobs easier in the construction industry. If you fail to utilize these tools, your employees are paying the price. Construction technology helps create complex designs, makes large projects easy to manage, automates repetitive tasks, eliminates payroll errors, and improves communication in the field. By utilizing different types of technology that work together across an integrated system, contractors make job sites safer and more productive. 

Training & Continued Education

Next, it is important to ensure your employees can use existing and new tools. Construction technology improves the way companies operate in a variety of ways. However, new tech represents trouble for employees who aren't accustomed to using it. Before implementing new tools in the workplace or on the field, provide on-the-job training. This way employees will be able to comfortably and safely use the equipment. Providing training for new skills also helps alleviate bottlenecks when depending on just a few employees for critical tasks.

Good Benefits & Pay

Lastly, be sure to compare your employees' wages to other industries' averages. Simply put, if an employee could work a job that's safer and less physically demanding for equal pay, why wouldn't they?

Improved benefits and better wages are a big answer for many companies seeking more employees. Construction companies have always been forced to work on tight margins. The loss of skilled workers can be devastating to projects and efficiency. As a result, it's time to investigate whether workers are getting paid what they're worth. Otherwise, they may leave the field or your business. 

To Sum it Up...

Employee shortages are at an all-time high in many industries. But nowhere has that become more critical than in the construction industry. With the recent passage of the infrastructure bill, less new talent in the wake of COVID, and the industry's tendency to lag behind in tech, it's never been more important for companies to do all they can to attract and retain new talent. 

To learn more about construction technology and how it can help your company navigate the labor shortage, get in touch with the construction billing software experts at Flashtract.

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