Finding and Retaining Construction Employees in the Age of COVID

Blair Chenault
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Employee recruitment and retention is a major topic of discussion and planning in every industry. Recruiting employees is generally more expensive than retaining them. So many companies use extensive campaigns to entice potential employees to a particular industry. In the construction industry, recruitment can be even more difficult than in other professions. Retaining construction employees is also essential to the success of any construction company. Potential workers often know little about the trade and even less about the potential perks of a career in construction. As an industry that was already facing significant challenges recruiting and retaining construction employees, construction companies will need to change recruitment tactics and improve techniques to retain talented employees already in the field.

Over 22 million jobs were lost during the pandemic, and only a little over half have been recovered. As the availability of vaccines begins to broaden across many states, return to work is finally within our grasp. For some people who lost their job due to COVID, a change in career will be the most practical choice. Companies in a variety of industries will want to gain the attention of these potential employees. Companies within the construction industry must be prepared to compete.

Common Recruitment Challenges in the Construction Industry

Employee recruitment presents challenges in every industry, but construction has encountered additional trials in this area during recent decades. With an already waning workforce, the industry needs a strong rebound in the months following the pandemic. However, navigating construction recruitment challenges will require examining the existing issues and finding new ways to interest current employees. These are the most common recruitment challenges that already exist in the construction industry.

A Retiring Community of Workers

While current recruitment challenges have existed for decades in construction, long-term workers have been the backbone of the industry. As these workers reach retirement age in droves, younger workers aren't stepping in to fill the available positions. Opinions are varied about the reasons for this resistance. But it's most often attributed to the idea that younger workers believe the construction industry is unstable or that the encouragement to seek higher education equals discouragement from manual jobs like construction.

The Skills Gap and the Cost of Training

While many occupations require considerable training, construction comes with a variety of safety hazards that make proper training a vital part of the industry. Training long-term employees is well worth the cost and time, but new employees can be unpredictable. Losing trained employees is expensive and leaves fellow workers carrying an extra burden on the job site. Finding ways to recruit young employees in ways that will advertise the long-term benefits of a growing career in the industry will be essential in the future.

A Stigma Surrounding Blue Collar Jobs

As schools, professionals, and parents push high-schoolers toward higher education, a disheartening trend is occurring in occupations with manual labor. A "blue-collar drought" has created a shortage of potential employees prepared to fill the positions of retiring construction workers. While construction jobs pay well and provide employees with admirable benefits, many young employees know little about the industry and aren't eager to learn.

Limited Recruitment Tactics

While many industries turn to a variety of high-tech recruitment tactics to attract potential employees, the construction sector has failed to branch out with new recruiting techniques. This means competing industries have a lot more visibility in the areas job seekers are actually looking for new employment opportunities.

5 Tips for Recruiting and Retaining Construction Employees After COVID

Supervisor focused on retaining construction employees

While COVID has definitively become a part of the fabric of everyone's lives, there is hope on the horizon. As vaccines become widely available, governments and businesses are lifting restrictions. Those who have been unemployed for months are looking for entrances to rejoin the job market. This unprecedented time provides interesting opportunities for construction companies to attract workers seeking a different industry. However, all industries will be eager to gain the attention of transitioning job seekers. This means companies in the construction industry will likely need new techniques for recruiting and retaining construction employees. These tips can help your construction company recruit and retain employees following the pandemic.

1. Expand Recruitment Tactics

It's essential to meet potential employees where their job search exists. As people return to the job market, they'll likely be eager to cover as much ground as possible. While transitioning employees will have an interest in a variety of industries, they may not even consider construction without prompting. Job seekers comparing industries will be eager to learn about income opportunities, as well as benefits and advancement opportunities.

The use of technology will be expected by job seekers, especially younger employees who have the potential to become career employees. Maximizing the use of tools on platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed can help you gain visibility and attract prospective employees. Additionally, it's a good idea to ensure employees are confident in your ability to use technology for communication and convenience in the field. While vaccines are becoming more readily available, complete recovery from the pandemic will be a slow process that employees and experts will still be required to work around.

2. Improve Conditions for Current Employees

Retaining construction employees that are already well-trained is one of the most important ways to keep your construction company on its feet. Your skilled employees who have remained with you during difficult times are the backbone of your company. They're also the window into what the work experience is like within a construction company. Now is the time to reduce cumbersome job tasks and eliminate slow payment issues that have been known to plague the industry. Create open streams of communication with employees at all levels within the company to ensure you're doing everything you can to make your employees feel connected and appreciated at work. Happy employees serve as brand ambassadors to job seekers around them.

3. Recognize Difficulties for Employees Returning to the Job Market

The pandemic has left a host of individuals without a job for many months. Unemployment agencies in most states were overwhelmed with requests. People waiting for compensation often had to wait weeks for any payment at all. Individuals re-entering the job market are people who weren't prepared to go back to entry-level positions. They're working through a tough time financially as they try to stay on their feet and support a family. 

This means employers will face a different situation when it comes to reaching payment agreements for new employees. Take time to reexamine your company budget to allocate funds to attracting and retaining long-term employees to the company. You'll also need to consider how the payment of new employees affects your loyal employees who have been sharing the load for years. Consider using cash bonuses for certain achievements and long-term incentives to make all employees feel welcome and appreciated.

4. Express Advancement Opportunities

Both current and new employees should be aware of advancement opportunities within the industry and your company. Without advancement opportunities, your employees could soon be seeking greener pastures. Investing in training programs and clearly communicating opportunities to advance within the company shows employees they'll be rewarded for their education efforts and hard work.

Providing these opportunities for all employees will help you avoid the risks of your competitors poaching your employees after they've received the proper training. Take the time to occasionally meet one-on-one with your employees. Learn of their goals for the future and interests in advancing within the company. A personalized approach is a great strategy for retaining construction employees.

5. Expand the Use of Technology

There's no doubt that technology provides convenience in practically all industries of business and even everyday life. Younger employees seeking long-term placement and advancing careers will be more interested in companies that take advantage of the conveniences provided by technology. The use of technology to increase visibility among job seekers is only one way for construction companies to take advantage of today's more convenient devices. 

Now, more than ever, employees and those in leadership roles need ways to communicate more efficiently without meeting face-to-face. It's also important for employees in the construction industry to communicate and complete tasks with customers and vendors remotely. Today's construction software provides employees with ways to:

  • Document work
  • Produce immediate signatures
  • Communicate with customers, office personnel, and general contractors without the health risks of a face-to-face meeting

Even as COVID fears subside, these technological advances will improve efficiency and production in all areas of the construction industry.

As new employees consider entering the construction industry, the last thing they'll want to hear is that payments could include a complicated process or potential delays. Flashtract provides construction companies with customizable software to streamline the payment process and help eliminate delays. Taking the time to invest in these advancements can help you with retaining construction employees. It can also provide you with an edge over the competition as transitioning job seekers re-enter the job market. Get in touch with our team to learn more about construction billing automation and improving the pay app process for your construction company.

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