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Addressing the leadership vacuum in construction

Apr 04, 2023
By: Tom Cox

Construction, like all industries, is in a state of flux. But where it used to be that the people side of the equation was reasonably predictable, firms are facing new, unique challenges in finding and retaining staff.

One challenge is that firms are no longer just competing with other organizations in the construction and real estate space. The war for talent is now across industries, and there are shifts occurring in the available career paths for talent.

The pandemic and changes in technology have also caused a shift in approaches to work. Urban office space vacancies are on the rise, and employers are having to find ways to respond to the workforce’s increased expectation for flexible work schedules.

All of this is occurring at a time when the industry is hopeful for an increase in opportunities. The demand for affordable housing is on the rise and, at present, demand outstrips supply for multifamily residential options. There is also an increase in infrastructure projects and the impacts of the recent passages of infrastructure bills coming out of Washington.

It you want to have the workers necessary to meet these upcoming opportunities, turn inward. Evaluate your leadership development and consider whether your firm is doing enough to keep your people engaged.

The leadership vacuum

Leadership sets the tone for employee retention in any organization. Since 2000, Gallup studies have continued to show that the top 25th percentile of organizations whose leaders create engagement outperform their counterparts, significantly, on real financial measures.

The top 25% engaged organizations have:

  • 21% higher profitability
  • 17% higher productivity
  • 24% lower turnover
  • 21% higher customer satisfaction

But finding good leaders can be challenging.

Currently, the industry faces a leadership vacuum. Workers in the boomer generation are retiring at rapid rates, and there is uncertainty about who can replace them. 

As of 2018, Gen-X offers 15% less workforce potential compared to boomers, with only 53 million people estimated in the workforce. And the number of boomers still participating in the workforce has dropped to 41 million, further widening the availability gap.

Millennials make up 76 million people; however, at an average age of 35, they may not be ready to step into leadership roles. Many are also being attracted into the newer career paths offered in the tech industry.

If your firm is focused on retention, you need to look at how you’re developing your current talent’s leadership potential. Having strong leaders will create a better working environment — keeping your current employees engaged and further feeding your talent attraction strategies.

Leadership development

Developing leaders starts with redefining what leadership means to your firm.

In construction, technical skills are often prioritized over interpersonal skills. To change that, your firm needs to invest in building leadership soft skills.

Your leaders need to understand that their role isn’t just about completing projects — it requires them to help develop their team as well. They need to recognize that their team’s performance is their performance and develop their people accordingly.

When you invest in leadership development, your leaders will be better equipped to invest in your people, leading to a more engaged, better performing workforce. It also helps create capacity, as leaders will be developing future leaders to support readiness and sustainability.

Creating clear paths for career development and offering support for employee growth shows that you’re willing to help employees work towards their goals. And when employees at all levels can visualize their future at your firm, they’re more likely to stay engaged, limiting voluntary turnover.

Investing in leadership readiness also helps you lessen the risk associated with key leaders leaving or retiring by creating depth in your firm.  

How Wipfli can help

Your leaders set the tone for your firm. Let Wipfli help you ensure it’s the right one.

Our advisors apply proven methodologies, like Predictive Index, to your leadership and team development so that you can increase engagement and reduce turnover. Contact us today to learn more about our proven methods for helping you create the workplace culture you want. 

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Tom Cox
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