Tips for Hiring and Retaining Workers in the Construction Demolition Industry

It’s time to get creative in both hiring and retaining talent in the demolition industry

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Information from this article was first published in Demolition Magazine and is being reused with permission from the National Demolition Association.

By Claudia St. John, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

I know it will be of no surprise that hiring and keeping good talent is challenging these days. The national unemployment rate is currently at 3.6%, a rate not seen since the 1960s. There are presently 1 million more job openings in the United States than there are unemployed workers. Basically, we’re at full employment. Essentially, this means that everyone who wants a job has a job.

Solutions for Finding Skilled Labor

While this is a great thing for the economy and for workers, who are seeing starting salaries rise for the first time since the Great Recession, it’s a tremendous challenge for employers who are struggling to fill vacant positions and to hold on to their existing talent who are being wooed away by competitors. What does this mean for the construction demolition industry? It’s time to get creative in both hiring and retaining talent.

Strategies for hiring

In this age of technology, it’s essential that if you’re hiring you post the position either on your website or on a national or regional job board such as Indeed, LinkedIn, Craigslist, CareerBuilder or any of the other widely available job sites. And if you’ve done that, you’ve probably noticed that you’re getting few to no qualified responses to your ads. That’s because, again, everyone has a job. There are just not enough job seekers in the economy today. You will likely need to cast your net a bit wider these days. Consider exploring the following labor pools:

  • Returning military veterans — many of our returning veterans struggle to find employment, even in this economy, despite the fact that their training and experience would make them great candidates for work in the demolition industry. Consider posting on one of the national job sites, such as and And, if you work near a military base, they often have local employment resources for returning veterans who you can contact to post your position.

Need Skilled Labor? Look to Military Veterans

  • Ex-convicts — rehabilitated ex-cons face some of the greatest barriers to employment because many companies are not willing to consider workers with a criminal past. Many of our clients have found that this group of workers represent some of their most loyal and motivated employees because they are well aware of the fact that a good job for an ex-con is hard to come by. Many federal and local prisons have employment resource officers who can help identify qualified and appropriate workers who may be suitable for your job. It’s worth giving them a try.

Hiring Ex-convicts on the Table to Fill Open Construction Jobs

  • Youth — statistically speaking, young workers, age 16 to 22, have the highest rates of unemployment, with a national unemployment rate of 12%. Given the safety issues of this industry, the youngest of this group may not be suitable, but creating apprentice programs or internships for young workers means they may become knowledgeable and motivated employees when they come of age.

Why America Needs to Follow Europe's Lead on Apprenticeship Programs

  • Non-active job seekers — these are essentially workers who currently have a job. If you’re interested in non-active job seekers, there’s only one way to get them: active headhunting. Many individuals may be interested in your position, but if they’re not looking, they’ll never know about your opportunity. If you’ve been trying for some time and not getting any traction on your job posts, it may be time to hire someone to help do some active outreach to those in the same or similar industry who may be open to your opportunity.

Keeping top talent

The demolition industry is unique from most other industries because workers are mobile and spend weeks, months, even years away from home. While many may thrive in this environment, for others it can cause stress and burnout. And given that jobs are so easy to find, employers have to work extra hard to keep their workers happy. As a company, this means you have to differentiate yourself from others in the industry by creating incentives and strategies for retaining and engaging workers. Some ideas to consider include:

  • Creating career opportunities — for both your hourly and your project management staff so that they see possibilities for growth and development, either professionally or for advancement in the company.
  • Management training for your project managers — we’ve all heard the adage that workers don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers. Make sure your project managers have they communication and feedback skills necessary to keep their employees engaged and productive. Many companies hire project managers for their technical skills but forget that their interpersonal and supervisory skills are just as if not more important.
  • Asking your employees — because each workplace will vary depending on the project job, and employees’ needs will vary, consider asking them what programs or workplace adjustments would make their experience better, such as altering employees’ work/travel schedules, professional development plan or employee incentive program. Your employees are the best resources for identifying how to improve their work-life balance.

Additional resources for retaining employees:

7 Things Construction Managers Can Do to Retain Good Employees

Creative Employee Recruitment & Retention

Measuring and Tracking Recruiting and Retention Success

15 Employee Retention Strategies to Start Using Today

How Skill Training Plays Into Worker Retention

11 Ways to Keep Your Construction Employees Happy

The Psychology of Motivation and Employee Retention

Be creative

Unless there is a significant economic downturn, we can expect this tight labor market to persist for the foreseeable future. This means that those who have not started focusing on creative strategies for hiring and engaging employees will continue to struggle to maintain full staffing levels of engaged workers.

Claudia St. John, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is the president of Affinity HR Group Inc., NDA’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as NDA and their member companies. To learn more, visit