Hiring and keeping good workers in the construction industry has always been a challenge. The seasonal nature of the work in many parts of America and the general cyclical nature of the building industry have long worked against maintaining a stable workforce of experienced and capable workers. But, in the years since the housing bust, the task of recruiting and retaining competent workers has just gotten worse. A record 69% of the contractors in the U.S. report having difficulty filling their skilled craft jobs, according to the industry trade journal, Engineering News Record. Similar problems are being reported at all levels, right down to unskilled, entry-level workers. And, it may get even worse, given the predicted 13% increase in demand for construction workers in the next decade even as the number of construction workers approaching retirement is expected to climb.
Given the hazardous nature of much construction work and the liabilities involved, employers need to set their hiring bar higher than merely filling slots. They need workers who are not only reliable and qualified for the job they are filling, but who are skilled enough to work smart, avoid injury and stay on the job long enough for their skill set to make a difference.
Here are several tips gleaned from a range of construction professionals for employers who are looking to hire the best talent they can:
- Maintain a year-round hiring program. If you dip into the pool of available job seekers only when you and all of your competitors are getting busy, then you will have a hard time picking the cream of the crop.
- Cast a wide net. Engage local community colleges, tech schools, training programs and referrals from family and friends, plus existing, and even former, employees to connect with possible applicants. Go to job fairs, use social media and, if necessary, offer referral bonuses to your employees.
- Be clear about what the job you are hiring for entails. The good people you want to hire will want to know that the job they are pursuing is a good fit for them, both in terms of skills and attitude- and so do you. A bad fit in skill sets can be dangerous and in attitude, wildly counterproductive.
- As much as you can, help prospective employees understand where in the operation they will be working so they will be aware of the “pecking order” they’ll be living with. Soft-selling or being vague may get them in the door but won’t serve either of you in the long term.
- Learn how to package and brand your business to employees. Good employees want to be part of an operation that represents something distinctive to the outside world. Let them know what you are all about, what markets and customers you serve, and the quality and background of workers you have with you now.
- Do background checks, ask for references and, where it makes sense, use testing. All of these are well-known and obvious, but a lot of employers let them slide out of a sense of desperation. First of all, being desperate is never a good position from which to bargain, but most importantly omitting these steps will let under-qualified workers through your net and create potentially dangerous work conditions for which you will later pay.
The bottom line: be smart about your hiring practices and you will attract smart, skilled and safety conscious workers. The cost of a bad hire is not only astounding, it can be crippling to your business. Think Smart. Hire Smart.
Dave Sinclair, CEO The WorkPlace Solution