Experiencing a Talent Drain?
4 Steps You Can Take Now

Not a week goes by that we all read about and experience the effects of the ongoing talent drain. Construction managers like you may feel like you’re in reactive mode as you navigate their way through the challenges of imminent employee retirements and an available labor pool that continues to shrink. The risks to project outcomes are very real, and no doubt keeping you up at night.

But they can be managed. There are no overnight solutions to this conundrum. However, it’s possible to take a proactive, purposeful approach to at least slow down the rate of churn and mitigate the impact on project performance and business operations. It may help to take it one step at a time.


#1 Start with who you have now — your retention policies are crucial

It’s faster, easier and less expensive to retain existing employees than it is to search for, hire and train new staff. That’s what makes this the logical first step in curbing the talent drain. So, what can you do to hang on to your current employees?

Equip them with new skills. Think of the people currently on your payroll, the ones who have been reliable and contribute to your business in their own unique way. Some who are closer to their golden years may not want to retire right away. Others who have done physical labor on-site may want to stay on but in a different capacity. And still others are simply eager to learn new things so that they can be better at their job. Reward that loyalty.

Offer opportunities to upskill in construction technologies that have become essential tools of the trade. It could be anything from how to use software for specific functions such as estimating or commissioning, to how to operate field technologies from augmented reality wearables to drones. Ultimately, it helps them and your company be more efficient with less manual effort. Look at investing in their skill development as more than just helping them learn new skills or new ways to perform familiar tasks — also look at it as an investment in your company.

Revisit how you promote from within. One sure way to watch employees walk out the door is to favor outside hires for open positions. Look inward. Who on your team has ambition? Natural leadership skills? The respect of their peers? They’re candidates for upward or even lateral moves.

What if they don’t have some of the skills you need? It’s said that skills can be taught, but attitude can’t. With that in mind, expand on their valuable innate abilities by cultivating the skills required for the role they want. That could mean providing training in the specific competencies they’ll need or investing in management or leadership coaching to help them be more effective in a promoted role. Encouraging their advancement helps inspire loyalty.


#2 Look at your current recruitment process

After addressing your retention efforts, turn your focus outward.

Consider who you’re targeting. Imagine them in your mind. Are any of them women? Minorities? Tech aficionados? Demographically, they’re far from the traditional construction stereotype. That can be a good thing, though. They each can bring different approaches to problem solving, decision making, communicating and collaborating — all of which can complement what your existing employees bring to the table.

Granted, you’ve probably not seen them clamoring to break into the construction industry. And that shouldn’t be a surprise when they’ve neither seen themselves represented on the jobsite nor been actively recruited. Which leads to the next step.

Where and how are you recruiting future workers? Apprenticeship programs are still a valid approach. However, with many construction workers aging out of the industry through retirement, it behooves construction managers to find soon-to-be adult men and women who are still considering their options and who could be encouraged to make construction their career path. If you aren’t already, get in front of them at high school and vocational tech school career fairs.

Don’t forget that the industry is in the early stages of its digital transformation; ideally your company is already on board. Because those tech aficionados are going to be in high demand. You’ll find them in STEM programs at local high schools and colleges. You may also find them in the online gaming community. They may be surprised to learn that construction is a viable industry to apply their skills — from conducting data analysis in the back office to operating drones at the jobsite.

Tap into your own employee base. Encourage them to get the word out about open positions and needed skill sets at your company. Even better, formalize it into a referral program where employees get rewarded with inexpensive incentives for every person that they recommend who gets hired. With word of mouth being one of the best ways to market and Incentives being a powerful motivator, it can be a cost-effective strategy to add to your recruitment arsenal.


#3 Reexamine and improve your safety protocols.

Safety to stem the talent hemorrhage? Yep. An injured employee is one who can’t work, creating an immediate loss of their skill set unless you can replace it if you’re even able to. With construction being one of the most dangerous industries with high injury and death rates, potential and current employees need to trust that you have their safety and well-being at heart.

It all starts with knowledge. That comes in the form of safety procedures, operation manuals and MSDS sheets that are easy to find and access anytime on-site, ideally via cloud-based construction software. And it also means actual training on how to properly use equipment, wear protective gear, handle hazardous materials and perform certain risky tasks.

Some of that knowledge will also come from processes you implement on-site. That includes punch lists, quality assurance inspections and commissioning checklists — all of which are ideally put in place as construction starts — so hazards that threaten personal and structural safety are detected and addressed at the outset before they become more serious issues. Bonus points if you use drones in place of humans to conduct the more high-risk inspections involving heights, treacherous terrain, or hard-to-access areas.

Those drones are part of a broader group of field technologies that in their own way help to promote worker safety, and therefore retention. While these are longer-term steps, now’s the time to consider putting them into place to prevent slow-developing injuries from happening over time. Think of the physical demands placed on workers whose job entails repetition; these would be the painters, bricklayers, plasterers and material loaders, for example. Robotic technologies are being adopted that not only speeds up these tasks, but also prevents repetitive-motion injury as well as fatigue that can lead to injury. Plus, it can add years to those workers’ employability.


#4 Assess how your company conducts business processes

Why would this be important? Well, consider the tech image your company is presenting from the perspective of a potential new hire.

Are you relying on spreadsheets that require constant manual updating? Are you using disconnected legacy systems that are unable to share data among different business units, with no data-driven insights? Or do you have a culture of innovation? Are you investing in the appropriate technologies that help individual employees do their jobs more efficiently that in turn ensures you’re better able to meet project outcomes?

Many companies are still dependent on manual processes that turn most tasks into mundane, repetitive ones. This doesn’t give anyone a sense of accomplishment, nor does it appeal to new hires. If you haven’t already, begin adopting or upgrading construction-specific software solutions that automate these labor-intensive processes. Such tech resonates with younger generations who aren’t accustomed to doing most things manually.

What is clearly an industry challenge can be thought of as an opportunity for construction managers willing to take the steps necessary to retain and attract the employees they need.

We’d be happy to help you explore the construction technologies that can become part of your retention and recruitment strategy. Just contact us for a consultation.


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