Make People a Priority During Labor Shortage

Developing great workers requires new management and leadership styles and committing to creating great places to work

Construction business owners should make finding, training and keeping great employees one of their top one priorities
Construction business owners should make finding, training and keeping great employees one of their top one priorities
Contractors continually complain they can't find enough trained help to get all their work done. This leads me to believe construction business owners should make finding, training and keeping great employees one of their top one priorities. But, do they?

Take the People Priority Test:

  1. How many hours/week do I spend with my people?
  2. How many hours/year do we train our people?
  3. What’s our annual employee training budget?
  4. What’s our ongoing recruiting program?
  5. Who’s in charge of attracting and recruiting good help?
  6. What’s our standard protocol for interviewing and hiring?
  7. Do we have a recruitment incentive program for employees?

There is a labor shortage in the United States today. But, people do flock to great jobs at high tech companies, quality manufacturers and even the service industry. People want to work. Yet the construction industry suffers from a shortage of trained and qualified workers entering the workforce every year. The problem? No one wants to work in construction. No one wants to work in dead end jobs. No on wants to be treated like “hired hands.” People want to see a future.

Hedley Small AdI speak to the construction industry over 40 times a year at major conventions and company meetings on business, leadership and customer relationships. I ask my audiences: "Do any of your kids want to work in construction?" Only one in a 100 answers: "Yes!" With such a low response from the children of people in the industry, it should come as no surprise to you that construction ranks number 248 out of 250 career opportunities among high school seniors. 

Why work in construction?

Why would any young person ever want to work in the construction field? It’s cold, hot, dirty and dangerous. Field workers are treated like hired hands and expected to follow orders from above, do only as told and not make waves. They aren't invited to company events, allowed to participate in profit sharing or treated as equals with management or office staff personnel. They are seldom given authority to make decisions, commit the company or spend money without approval. When it rains, they are sent home without pay. They receive little or no recognition and are not involved in project or company planning and scheduling. Great opportunity?

Pay for field construction workers has declined steadily for 10 years (adjusted for inflation and buying power) while most other career choices have experienced a net increase. Construction field workers see a pay potential that plateaus quickly and declines as they get older and less valuable than their younger peers. Great upside potential?

Fortune Magazine's “Most Admired Companies in America” train their people between 40 and 60 hours per year. The average construction company trains their people between one and three hours per year per employee. Great training?

Why would anyone be surprised that nobody wants a job in an industry that offers hard work, low pay, inadequate training, few personal development opportunities and little career growth. 

What do people want?

People have choices to work for your company or many others. To attract good people to your company, it takes a competitive pay and benefit package with health insurance, paid vacation time, paid holidays, and steady pay rain or shine. Young people today don’t want to work more than 40 to 45 hours per week. Employees want responsibility, accountability, growth opportunities, high tech, involvement in decisions, and pay based on performance. They want to understand the big picture at the project and company level. They need frequent recognition, rewards, and someone to care about them and their future. They want a job that pays a lot more than average with an upside potential. Young people want to make a difference and want to be an involved part of an exciting company that leads the competition. They need a vision of the future and want to contribute to the success of their company.

What’s the people solution?

To attract great people, every construction business, large and small, must commit to creating great places to work. Each manager and supervisor must make recruiting an important part of their job. You need to convince people that your company really is a great opportunity for them and promise that their job will lead to a fantastic career. It takes more than placing a want ad or calling the hall to find and attract great people. It takes dedication, commitment, time and money to make it happen. 

To retain great people, companies must have a proactive aggressive employee development program. This includes ongoing training and education, team building exercises, regular crew meetings, supervisor leadership programs, as well as technical skill classes. Also required are employee recognition systems, personal development programs and pay for performance. Future growth career ladders must be clear, tracked and updated regularly.

To develop great people requires new management and leadership styles that coach, inspire and encourage people to become the best they can be. This requires letting go and trusting people to take it to the next level. This only happens when managers realize that people are their only competitive advantage. Their output equals your input! My challenge to you is to change your people priority program now. Radical innovation, risk taking and real leadership are desperately needed to build a better business.

George Hedley CSP CPBC is a certified professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker. He helps contractors grow, make more profit, build management teams, improve field production, and get their businesses to work for them.  He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available on Amazon.com.  E-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, start a personalized BIZCOACH program, attend a 2 day BIZ-BUILDER Boot Camp, or get a discount at www.HardhatBIZSCHOOL.com online university for contractors. 

 

 

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