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Workforce woes

December 4, 2015 Article 2 min read
Laura Claeys

The war for talent is raging across a number of industries as unemployment continues to drop and the economy rebounds. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employment has climbed to the highest levels since February 2009, but the number of unemployed workers with construction experience has shrunk to a 14-year low.

Where did all the talent go?

During the economic downturn, many skilled professionals sought out opportunities in new industries with no desire to return to construction, given its volatility. Additionally, a large percentage of the workforce, the “boomer generation,” is retiring, and younger generations are lured to seemingly more exciting industries, such as media and technology. Attracting qualified talent is a hurdle many organizations face, but it’s exceptionally difficult for construction companies due to misconceptions about the industry. While Generation X may have concerns about the stability of the industry in light of the most recent recession, Millennials don’t know the jobs and roles available, or the potential earning power the industry presents.

How do you solve this issue?

How do you attract — and retain — talent? The answer lies with three investments.

  1. Invest in the future workforce. 
    Younger generations don’t have the same exposure to the construction industry as previous generations. School budget cuts lead to less elective courses, and college-prep classes often outweigh trade programs. By investing time and money in trade organizations, visiting schools, and holding seminars on the opportunities in construction, you can demystify some of the common misconceptions. Not only will this investment train and nurture future talent, but your name will be recognizable when future generations enter the workforce. Being recognized as a supporter of education will also aide in public relations. The public opinion of your company can be important for winning future job bids and, ultimately, can impact your valuation.
  2. Invest in your culture. 
    Talented employees who are happy with their organization, and who feel they are valued, are excellent recruiting resources for other great talent. While you may not have the exciting perks of a technology firm, you can cultivate a culture for success, entrepreneurship, and the pride that comes from building something that everyone can see. Company picnics, team building activities, and financial incentives such as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan will keep your employees motivated and happy. Social media promotion of successful or high-profile projects can also boost employee pride and company morale.
  3. Invest in staff development. 
    If someone can’t envision a future at your company, they won’t be likely to stay. Clearly articulate the career paths and growth potential for each of your staff members, and support continued education and training. Your staff will feel supported and have a sense of belonging. Defined career paths and training opportunities serve a dual purpose as they are also key elements in succession planning, ensuring the future success of your company.

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