Post-Pandemic Tips for Recruiting the Construction Workforce

As our nation and industry begin to rebuild, now is the time to put action plans into place on how your organization can recruit and retain top talent. 

Since mid-March, when the Coronavirus pandemic took hold, over 40 million Americans have filed jobless claims. As the economy rebounds and construction continues to be essential, these workers present an opportunity for construction companies looking to hire. millions of idled workers will start to return to the workforce and the need for workforce development programs will be greater than ever before.

While we’re getting better at workforce development programs, the construction industry has never been known for being innovative when it comes to recruitment strategies. Construction business owners need to adapt and look outside their typical recruitment tools to hire this new pool of workers.

With more than 15 years working in the construction industry, serving in several HR leadership roles, Brittany Bainum, founder of Tradeworthy Jobs talks with about the rapidly-growing need for recruiting and equally important, retaining, top talent.

What challenges is the construction industry facing in terms of hiring workers? 

In terms of the industry, one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen over the last few years is the lack of skilled labor. The ability to locate and hire the right workers — and train them as necessary — has been a major business concern for a long time. Last year, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported over 80 percent of construction firms were having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce.

In a post-pandemic reality however, many people will be forced to transition from one job or career to another. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the construction industry.

Why is recruiting important and how has it changed over the last few years?

It’s a tough balance to manage an organization and the standard operations and then still find time to really “get out and recruit.” And honestly, what does ‘get out and recruit’ even mean? More than likely it’s posting on Craigslist with a catchy subject line, or incentivizing your current staff with referrals. Honestly, the methods available to the industry just aren’t enough any more. And with the evolution of technology and knowing we are connected digitally more than ever before, it’s critical employers are adapting to the behaviors of those we are targeting.

What are some tried and true ways to recruit employees?

One of the best ways to recruit tactics is by empowering your entire company to act as recruiters for you. As mentioned previously, I can run my operations and then sprinkle in recruiting when I find the time. Or I can create such a strong culture at my company that the entire company becomes recruiters. I can cultivate trust by telling my team when I make a mistake, I can show empathy when a person shares something hard with me, and I can show gratitude as much as possible with simple, but specific thank yous. Trust, transparency, communication and empowerment truly go a long way with a workforce. And by creating an environment where employees feel a sense of empowerment, you’ll begin to notice that both productivity and loyalty begin to rise.

What are some new ways to recruit workers?

Current recruitment methods including ineffective job boards, walk-ins, and tapped out referral bonuses aren’t enough anymore. Tradeworthy Jobs is facing this problem head-on by reinventing the way we recruit and connect in the construction industry.

Keep Current Employees Happy Too

While recruitment of new employees is important to grow the construction industry, organizations often fall short by not having a solid retainment strategy in place. With a weak retention program in place, employers see their top talent leave for new opportunities. Employees can be an organization’s best brand ambassadors if they feel a sense of trust, transparency and appreciation from leadership.

Why is retaining employees so important? What are some tips to keep workers happy at a company?

This all goes back to company culture. First, all humans want connection. Drive the connection and it will pay large dividends, even in an industry where ‘toughness’ reigns.

Secondly, it’s no longer just keeping people  ‘happy.’ It’s keeping people ‘connected’ and ‘loved’. If you can say you have a ‘work best friend,’ studies show you are 80% more likely to stay. So when facing a labor shortage, I think the question is, ‘are you doing everything you can to build ‘best friends’ at work? Are they working in crews they enjoy being with? Are you giving them the tools to know each other?’ For example, when onboarding a new employee, start with a simple questionnaire they can complete about themselves. Hang up the answers and include a picture. All of a sudden there is dialogue around similarities.. “Oh wow, you like soccer? I like soccer too.” or ” you have a son who plays the drums? Me too.” Connection. Connection. Connection.

This article was originally published in For Construction Pros by Jessica Lombardo.