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The Great Construction Labor Shortage: How to Find and Hire Workers

As it did in so many industries worldwide, 2020 hit the US construction market like a wrecking ball. While the building and remodeling industry bounced back with a vengeance in 2021, the labor market still lags behind—and for contractors whose phones are ringing off the hook, that makes hiring quality workers a major hangup.

According to the Construction Association, 75% of construction firms planned to hire more workers in 2020 in order to meet stronger demand in 2021—yet 81% reported having trouble hiring salaried and hourly employees, and many expect it to get even harder. If you’re one of them, then you’re going to need a few more hiring tools in your belt than you’ve had in the past. Let’s take a closer look at the factors creating the shortage as well as some key hiring strategies for construction businesses that are feeling the pinch.

Why There’s a Smaller Pool of Workers

In 2019, the construction industry employed an astounding 7.49 million people; in 2017, it accounted for about 7% of the US GDP. That all changed with the coronavirus pandemic. According to Statista, the US construction industry lost about 975,000 jobs—or 13% of its total workforce—in April 2020 as the economy came to a screeching halt.

The industry recovered about 61% of those lost jobs six months later, and all signs point to that upward trend continuing. But because so many qualified workers left the field with no plans of coming back, companies are still finding it difficult to hire the right people.

On top of all that, many high schools have stopped offering electives like shop classes, which means young people aren’t getting the same exposure to construction-related trades that they used to. So, fewer high school graduates enter the workforce with an interest in construction.

Where to Find Construction Job Candidates

If your construction business is hard pressed for workers, you’re not alone. A lot of companies begin their labor hunt on the internet, which isn’t a bad strategy. Online job sites can be a great resource for companies looking to hire ASAP, but many are overflowing with listings. To cut through the noise faster, look beyond well-known job boards like Indeed and ZipRecruiter and instead focus on construction-specific sites.

Here are three worth trying:

1. ConstructionJobs.com

This website allows construction companies to post jobs in specific industry categories like:

  • Commercial
  • Engineering
  • Heavy Civil
  • Power/Energy
  • Residential
  • Specialty

This site also makes it easy to review the resumes and qualifications of potential hires. You can even search for skilled workers based on your own criteria.

2. iHireConstruction.com

iHireConstruction describes itself as a “unique, industry-focused job search experience” with 2,850 new construction jobs added on a daily basis. So, it should come as no surprise that it’s the go-to job board for more than 520,000 construction workers who are ready for hire. Among those, 88% have more than one year of experience.

3. ConstructionJobForce.com

Last but not least, ConstructionJobForce is a job board focused on bringing quality candidates to businesses in need of construction workers, operators, technicians, and supervisors. This site not only allows you to post job openings and advertise your company, but also provides a blog with expert advice on how to find the right people for your open positions.

How to List and Advertise Job Openings to Attract the Best Candidates

So, you’ve bookmarked a few job sites that seem like a good fit for your hiring needs. Now, it’s time to actually post your jobs. How can you make your listings stand out from the rest? And how can you make sure the applicants you get are the ones you actually want?

Here are five must-use tips for finding and hiring the right construction employees:

1. Offer Eye-Catching Benefits

To win the hiring game in a competitive market, you’ve got to have a competitive hiring package. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

According to a study by Glassdoor, a whopping 79% of employees would prefer new or added benefits over a raise. That’s not to say competitive salaries aren’t important, but beating your competitors on benefits takes the cake when it comes to grabbing a potential hire’s attention.

For the construction industry in particular, these benefits top the charts, according to JP Griffin Group:

  • 401(k)
  • Paid holidays and vacation
  • Paid cell phone
  • Company vehicle
  • Paid sick leave
  • Life insurance
  • Disability coverage
  • Casual dress and atmosphere
  • Dental and vision coverage
  • Health coverage

2. Emphasize Your Company’s Safety Standards

In an industry like construction, safety is serious business. High-quality candidates want to work for companies that will not only pay them well, but also keep their best interests at heart. Thus, when advertising your job openings, emphasize your company’s culture of safety. Ask yourself:

  • What safety standards do you have in place?
  • Do you have an outstanding long-term safety record?
  • What do other experts in the construction industry say about you?

Answering potential employees’ safety questions will make them feel better about working for your company—and more motivated to apply for the job.

3. Highlight Growth and Training Opportunities

Many construction workers don’t have a college degree, which means they’ve likely built the skills they have through hands-on experience.

As a result, many construction professionals value opportunities to grow their skills and further their career. This makes things like mentorship programs, job-related training courses, and skill workshops a huge draw. If your company offers any of those, be sure to call it out in your job listing. (And if you don’t, consider implementing them—even on a small scale.)

4. Harness the Power of Word-of-Mouth

There’s a reason why word-of-mouth advertising has stood the test of time and continues to be one of the most effective ways to recruit top talent—even in the digital era.

It’s simple: there’s no better way to get a shortlist of quality candidates than asking someone whose input you value and trust.

Anyone can make themselves look great on paper, but nothing beats a personal recommendation from someone who knows and aligns with your company’s standards and character. So, if you need to fill a vacancy fast, ask around for recommendations. Even in a competitive hiring market, you may be surprised by what—or more accurately, who—you find.

5. Offer a Signing Bonus

If it’s within your budget, consider offering a signing bonus to new employees. This is incredibly useful, especially during a time when the demand for labor is surging.

Signing bonuses work for obvious reasons. When a potential hire has to choose which offer they’re going to accept (and which company they’re going to work for), a bonus makes the decision that much easier. Even a small bonus can pay dividends on the competitive front. Think of it as an investment that will allow your construction business to take on more jobs—and thus, pull in more revenue.

6. Incorporate Mental Health Programs

Compared to other demographics, young males with a high school level education are at a higher risk of suicide—and a lot of construction workers fit into that demographic. In fact, the construction industry as a whole ranks among the top nine professions at the greatest risk. According to experts, the seasonal nature of construction work contributes to that ranking.

As such, more and more construction companies are making mental health programs part of their employee benefits. JP Griffin Group explains that such programs often include 24/7 access to professional counselors, which can be done through an Employee Assistance Program.

7. Use Technology to Support Safety and Efficiency

With younger generations being more and more tech savvy, technology designed to make work easier, safer, and more efficient is an attractive benefit for many potential hires. For example, smart contracts allow everyone involved in a project to access a shared system they can use to track and collect payment for services.

Similarly, GPS tracking technology allows construction businesses to easily monitor job sites and crew activity, thus eliminating time-consuming calls and back-and-forth messaging—and freeing up workers to get more done, faster. Plus, workers and managers have greater peace of mind knowing that they’ll have a way to find and recover any equipment that goes missing—which means avoiding delays and downtime. Better efficiency and productivity means more jobs and a better company reputation—and that kind of security is appealing to potential employees.

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While there’s no denying the current shortage of skilled construction workers, the labor pool is far from dry. Employers just have to look a little deeper—and try a little harder—to find the workers they want. With these tips, you’ll be handing out hard hats in no time.