Advice in Hiring Skilled Labor Workers in 2024

Q&A with Ellis Mass, chief marketing officer at Labor Finders International Inc.

Advice in Hiring Skilled Labor Construction Workers in 2024 - @Don

From business owners, contractors, and even rental companieseveryone has felt the pinch of the U.S. economy and the ever-constricting labor force. The construction industry has been one of the hardest segments that has found it difficult to find, recruit, and attract qualified workers. While construction companies, contractors, and rental businesses are already struggling, many may not have the labor force on hand to start and run a hiring campaign to reinforce their team. Labor staffing companies like Labor Finders, have identified several key insights for construction industry employers to keep in mind. 

Ellis Mass Labor Finders International Inc.Ellis Mass, Chief Marketing Officer, Labor Finders International Inc.Labor Finders International Inc.I was able to sit down with Ellis Mass, chief marketing officer at Labor Finders International Inc. during World of Concrete 2024 about these tips and pushed for a bit more advice. If you're unfamiliar, Labor Finders uses recruiters that have relationships with area partners utilizing a wide variety of recruiting techniques to find workers that can be matched to a diverse range of skill sets. The company will be celebrating 50 years of business in 2025. 

Q. What is the current state of skilled labor in construction?

Great question. It's a big issue for many of the people here at World of Concrete. What we've seen over the past several years is that there are far more job openings than there are qualified job seekers. What we try to do is to bridge the gap. The staffing industry and Labor Finders in particular, we're here to serve as a matchmaker or concierge to help do that.

Most of the companies that are here at World of Concrete are in the concrete business. Or they're in the construction business. Or they're in the manufacturing business. And they're really, really good at that. Recruiting is not necessarily something that's always in their wheelhouse. It helps to have your finger on the pulse of a local labor market and to have dedicated teams of people that are recruiting all day, every day. 

Q. You recently came out with a list of tips on hiring skilled labor. Where would we start?

We wanted to provide a public service to the business community. These are things regardless of whether you work with us or any staffing service—these are things you should keep in mind.

The first one is, that when you are writing job descriptions, try to make them as tight and as specific as possible. What we see out there is a lot of very vague job descriptions, so they end up wasting a lot of their recruiter's, their HR people's, or their procurement people's time. And the applicant's time as well. Because [they're] looking for something, [they] don't want 20 people showing up who aren't qualifiedor are not interested in the type of work [they] have to offer, the better job [they] do upfront of really creating some specificity in the job description. The more tightly written, the more efficient that process is going to be for both for the employer and the employee.

5 Critical Tips to Hire Qualified Construction Workers in 2024: 
Tight Job Descriptions: Be extremely specific when defining job roles and responsibilities. This is particularly relevant in the tight 2024 market, as job seekers quickly focus on the listings most relevant to them. 
Explicit Requirements: Be extremely specific up-front about the work skills, qualifications, and certifications you need for each position. Don’t waste candidates’ time (or that of your recruiting staff) with roles they can’t fulfill. 
Respond Quickly: Be responsive to candidates, demonstrating a strong sense of urgency. Streamline your cumbersome screening & interview processes to avoid losing candidates. 
Commit To Safety: Emphasizing that your job site is safe and secure will differentiate you from other employers.
Consider A Staffing Service: Construction companies are great at building things. Staffing firms, particularly those focused on the industrial sector, are built to identify the right talent, recruit them, train them, and take care of details like tax paperwork, worker’s comp insurance, etc. Bringing in a partner, especially in a tight labor market, allows construction businesses to focus on their core competencies.

Number two: in many cases, what we find our employers have some explicit requirements. They might say, "Hey, I need an experienced concrete finisher, with at least five years of experience." If you have a specific requirement, make that explicit in the job description or in the initial outreach. 

We're trying to save time. Make it easier for you and save the applicant time and trouble. You'd rather have 5 great applicants than 20 terrible applicants coming to you. You can help yourself out by being explicit with what your needs are upfront. 

Number three, and this is where a lot of businesses really fall down, especially nowadays: respond quickly. In this labor market, where you have many employers seeking fewer qualified employees. It's almost two to one at timesjob openings vs. qualified job seekers. If you want to attract one of those jobs, respond quickly.

If you've got a qualified applicant in your pool, don't wait until you hit a certain number of resumes before you start reacting, react as quickly as you can. That's going to give you a leg up because that same qualified employee is going to be in demand by a number of your competitors. People in other fields that might not be a direct competitor of yours are also competing with you in terms of the talent market.

If you want to be more competitiverespond quickly. Don't wait. Have a sense of urgency to go after those qualified candidates.

Number four is something that's a huge emphasis for us at Labor Finders: commit to safety. We have a quarterly safety program where we're educating our associatesour employees—about the importance of being safe on a worksite. We like to work with clients who also make that a point of emphasis for them. And what we found is that clients who are very clear about their commitment to safety are more attractive for employees to work at.

It seems obvious, and yet we have a lot of great clients who are doing a lot of great safety programming and they don't talk about it enough. Make that commitment to safety clear. A potential employee is going to be much happier working for an employer that they know is committed to their personal safety. Certainly, that's a win-win for everybody. The industry does better when we all have a commitment to safetywe just want them to emphasize that from the very beginning.

They're letting their potential employees know "We care about your safety at work. We're committed to it." 

Q. How can someone state that commitment when they're being as succinct as possible in the job description?

That's hard to put into a job description when they're trying to be succinct. When we're working with clients, that's the kind of dialogue that we'll get into with them so that we can understand. We do a pretty good job on behalf of our potential employees of vetting employers and the types of opportunities.

We want to make sure that we're sending our workers into a very safe environment. We can help become a party to help that, make that communication with the employees, and help them understand.

That fifth step, at the risk of sounding a little self-serving: consider a staffing service to help you out, particularly when you have an acute need. Sometimes some of our clients find that their labor needs fluctuate depending on jobs, or seasonality, etc. It helps to engage someone who's in that market 24/7. It is our core competency.

If you don't work with Labor Finders, consider a staffing service that's going to potentially have their finger on the pulse of the local market in which you're trying to serve, you may find that it will save you a considerable amount of time. A staffing service can also take care of a lot of additional things, including taking care of taxes, general liability, worker's compensation insurance, and those sorts of things. Ask those sorts of questions when you're vetting a staffing service that you might or might not want to work with.

Q. Any advice on the interview process? 

It depends on the role. In some cases, if I'm looking for someone in a general labor role that doesn't necessarily require a specific skill or specific certification, what I'm really looking for is someone who's going to be reliable. Someone who is going to show up. Someone who is going to show up on time. Someone who's going to work hard for me. Someone who's going to take direction very well, have a work ethic, and care about what they're doing.

In order to do that, I'd recommend two things. The first is asking about character and values questions as much as about skill set. The second would be if I as an employer can demonstrate that I share [their] values, I make myself more attractive to [the interviewee].

I'd give the same advice to a potential employee to make sure that you understand the company's values. What the company finds important. If that's a match for you, make sure that they know that. A lot of times we're giving that kind of advice to job seekers but I would give this same or similar advice to employers. Make sure that you become as attractive as you can to employees because the best employees are in heavy demand.

A lot of times what we're asking for, it's not even about specific skills, it's about more like "tell us about yourself, tell us what is important to you, tell us what you care about" and really understanding why they are seeking work.

We're all about driving success and changing lives. We can do both of those things for the employee and our clients, in some cases, by bridging the gap and helping our customers fill roles that they would otherwise have difficulty filling. We're allowing them to say "yes" to that big construction project, that government contractthat could be a game changer for the contractor. If that's something that you get excited about, you're going to be a great fit for us.

Our employment often starts with a small 4-8-hour commitment on behalf of the client. Oftentimes, employees are with us for years…and it's a wonderful thing when we see that happen. It all starts with making sure that we have shared values, things like that commitment to safety, that work ethic, being reliable, integrity, etc.

If we share values, chances are we're going to be starting a great long-term relationship.

Q. What information would contractors need to know? What have they been asking you here at the show?

I'd say the biggest piece of advice I would give: dig your well before you're thirsty.

If you're an employer, and you know that you have a fluctuating demand for labor that, "if I get a big order in," or "if I get a big construction project and I know I'll need more people, I don't need them today." I'd say go ahead and create that relationship with a staffing service today. It doesn't generally cost you anything to set up. It may cost you a few minutes of your time to develop a relationship.

If you decide to work with Labor Finders, let us understand your needs. Let us understand your business so that we can start looking for people in our labor pool that may match your needs. That way, when you come to us saying, "I got this huge new project, I need people next week," we've got a much better shot of being able to meet your needs quickly. 

Q. Are you optimistic that we're going to get more people into the construction employment world?

I'm not an economist but from what I've seen in terms of the macro-economic trends, certainly what we've seen over the last several years is that trend of the workforce has been shrinking. We'd love to see people come back and re-enter the workforce or continue to re-enter the workforce as our economy starts to expand again. But it's always going to be cyclical. The business cycle always has its ebbs and flows.

No matter where we are in the business cycle, the staffing industry plays a very important role in facilitating and helping create efficiency. If we can get you someone a little bit faster, it's going to let you get your project on all that much faster. Working with a staffing service generally has a very, very strong return on investment.

Q. Have you had a chance to walk around? Seen anything interesting here at World of Concrete?

I walked around a little bit. We've been talking to a lot of employers who are here. Helping them understand how staffing can help them up their game in terms of their individual business. But I did get a chance to walk aroundI'm a sucker for a lot of the big equipment. To be honest, the coolest thing I've seen here has been the industrial-scale 3D printing. That's really impressive. That's really the coolest thing I've seen other than our booth, of course.

I think it's another example of how they're using technology in a game-changing way. We do that at Labor Finders as well. We've brought a lot of innovations to market and we're working on several more. But we've employed technology to help make things easier for our clients and for our associates. We have a proprietary system that we use to help us run our business and help make things easier for our clients.

When we started so many years ago, everything was on paper like work orders. In some cases, that still happens 50 years later, but we also now have our electronic work order. Things can be done completely by computer, sign-offs going to different departments, etc.

Really, we're trying to make things easy for both the employer and our associated employees.