How to Find and Retain Skilled Labor

March 29, 2018
Construction boots

Those in the construction know the ups and downs the industry faces, and challenges are ever changing. In a currently healthy market, many employers struggle to keep their staff as robust as possible. As the  owner of a luxury home building company, Treasured Spaces, I’ve gained insight into how to find and motivate excellent construction employees. (Image: StevePB via Pixabay)

Ripe Opportunity

The construction industry offers a ripe opportunity for people getting out of high school and college. Construction isn't going away anytime in the foreseeable future. Homes, businesses, roads, and bridges all need upkeep; the built world is ever-changing and ever-expanding. There are opportunities for almost everyone in the construction industry, depending on training and expertise. Job openings range from physical work to office administration, and can include jobs such as estimator, project manager, delivery driver, machine operator, mechanic, and so many more.

When most people think of construction, they think of hard labor. There's plenty of that, of course. But there are also numerous other opportunities for those that don't want or can't execute manual labor.     

Word of Mouth

The No. 1 way to find motivated construction employees is word of mouth, using personal connections. When people speak highly of someone that they think would be a good fit for a company, the new employees tend to rise to the occasion to prove that the person who referred them made a good choice.

Leading by Example

Keep existing employees motivated with regularly scheduled reviews that emphasize strengths and address weaknesses. Offer pay increases when an employee is deserving. 

-- Leading by example. If I want something done and know it won’t be a fun task, I have no problem jumping in and doing it alongside employees. As the business grows, I may not always be able to do this, but I hope to pass on to my employees the value of getting as involved in the work as possible, and working with others, no matter what their position.

-- Providing company vehicles. After an employee has worked for a certain amount of time and has earned your trust, it may benefit the company for them to have a vehicle. This is an extension of trust, which is one of the ways that good managers lead, provided that the trust has been earned. 

-- Offering vacation pay. This one needs no explanation, but it's worth noting that benefits are a differentiator, especially when skilled labor is scarce. 

Three Ways to Retain Talent

-- Benefits. Currently, I don’t offer 401k or medical/dental benefits right now, but these are benefits that prospective employees look for in a position that they want to think of as a career. Benefits distinguish working in construction as a long-term career, rather than a summertime gig to make a little extra money.  My plan for the future is to start these programs along with a more systemized process of vacation and sick pay.

-- Training. On-the-job training will foster employees' growth and result in a better finished product. I work one-on-one with my employees to keep up with innovations and changes and to introduce new techniques, materials, on the job processes, and technologies such as apps, that can help us more effectively manage the day-to-day business.  

-- Awareness. Be mindful of what your employees want and need. Younger employees sometimes want more feedback from their employer, and they're more likely to leave because of their direct manager than the company itself. Being aware may be the most crucial way to retain your company's best talent. Know that in light of current labor shortages, your employees have a choice about where to work. Let them know that you know that. This way, handling the demand for construction service in the face of a shortage of skilled labor will be easier. 

Challenges Ahead

Whether your company has two people, 20 people, 200 people or 2,000 people, finding and retaining top-tier employees will always be key to running a successful construction company. There is a talent drought at the moment; in a recent survey, 70 percent of contractors said they struggled with finding qualified craft workers amid growing construction demand. The growing demand is welcome, of course. But construction employment expanded in 258 out of 358 metro areas surveyed between July 2016 and July 2017.

We need talented workers, and the opportunity is there for younger folks interested in construction industry, as well as for those returning to the industry after a hiatus, or a period doing other work.

Josh Carlson of Treasured Spaces is a remodeler and luxury builder based in Minnesota. He’s been building homes for more than 15 years.  

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