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Top 3 ways to attract talent in the construction industry

Jan 15, 2020

For the construction industry, finding workers has been a challenge for a while now, and it’s only getting worse.

With baby boomers retiring, the working age population continues to shrink — and will until 2026 (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). It’s affecting all industries across the country. There just aren’t enough people entering the workforce.

So when you need engineers, electricians, front-line construction workers and project managers, how do you attract this talent?

We’ve put together our top three tips:

1. Hire an HR manager/recruiter

Hiring a person dedicated to recruiting and managing your crucial HR function is our number one tip for the construction industry. Why? Because if you want to attract talent and compete against other firms in the labor market, you need to put the time and energy into recruiting. The construction industry has such a great story to tell about building our communities — your HR person can use this concept to brand your company and “sell” it to potential candidates.  

Too many construction firms “post and pray.” They simply put up their job posting and hope someone sees it and applies. But you don’t get top talent this way. Instead, you have to be proactive and strategic. And that’s what HR managers are trained to do. Your construction management leaders are not likely to know how to do this, nor do many want to. In the absence of a dedicated person, the recruiting process gets short shrift, and you pay for it dearly. 

One of the best things an HR manager/recruiter can do for you is to visit middle schools, high schools and technical colleges and talk to students about the construction industry. They can attend high school job fairs. They can ask guidance counselors which students might be interested in the industry and whether the high school has a youth apprenticeship program. If they don’t have one, the HR person can connect them to the resources to get it started.

For those construction companies that are unionized, they can talk to students about unions — what they are and how they work — so that students who may have preconceived notions or misconceptions about unions are educated about the pros and cons. 

An HR manager/recruiter can also demonstrate the different career paths in the industry so that potential employees have an idea of where they’d start out and how they could grow into different positions over time. Also, defining a realistic time frame for advancement is critical to managing expectations.

Find construction workers with these top 3 tips
Source: Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin  

The time and effort an HR manage/recruiter puts into attracting young people to the industry can pay off in dividends for your firm.

2. Make your application process and overall website mobile-friendly

Speaking of attracting young people, your website is a huge factor in recruiting. A well-designed website with a dedicated career site helps tremendously with attracting talent. It should be easy to navigate, informative and eye-catching. It should indicate career paths such as those outlined above. It is helpful to include photos of project managers, superintendents and employees using tablet computers in the field to demonstrate that your firm is tech-forward.  

And above all, it should be mobile-friendly. Today’s job seekers often apply to jobs on their cell phones. If they can’t apply to one of your posted jobs on their phone, they may not apply at all.

3. Foster a good reputation

Word of mouth is powerful, especially with everyone being so connected by the internet and social media.

If your leaders in management or the field have a bad reputation of being difficult to work with or disrespectful to subordinates, that spreads from your employees to their friends and family and beyond. It goes in Glassdoor reviews. You cannot afford to get that reputation.

Likewise, a good reputation spreads. If your firm is known for treating employees with respect and demonstrating that they’re a valuable part of your organization, that word-of-mouth can go viral, and you’ll find people want to work for you.

Fostering a good reputation is another thing that a strong HR manager/recruiter can help with. Creating a culture that not only attracts employees through strong recruitment efforts but also fosters a culture to retain employees, in turn, creates that good reputation in the community where you can promote yourself as an employer of choice.

For those whose leaders may have poor reputations, luckily, treating people with respect is a trainable skill. But it’s up to your firm to provide that training to supervisors and other leaders, along with general management training. Teach them how to be effective communicators and how to be managers who retain good employees, not drive them away.

When you invest in your employees, you reap the rewards.

Wipfli can help you invest in the talent side of your business

A top 20 national accounting and business consulting firm, Wipfli specializes in the construction industry. We can help you with your HR and training needs. Click here to learn about our talent and change services, and click here to learn about our human capital management services and implementing solutions that help you further invest in the talent side of your business.

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Deborah S. Marshall
Senior Manager
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