Beating the Manpower Shortage: Recruit and Hire Like an Employer of Choice

Insights_Playbook.gifA person doesn’t have to search long or hard to find an article that references the lack of skilled labor or the manpower shortage in the construction industry. FMI’s Construction Industry Talent Development Report confirms that approximately 50 percent of general contractors and construction management from firms across the U.S. report experiencing a shortage in skilled labor. Moreover, the impact crosses a number of area specialties including mechanical, plumbing, heavy highway, and civil contractors. These shortages are not limited to large companies, but also affect firms that would be considered small to mid-size. Additional confirmation of the limited labor pool is cited by a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders where members reported an increasing number of shortages in skilled craft labor including carpenters, excavators, and bricklayers. The report further referenced that, due to the lack of skilled workers, there were wage increases and delays in completing projects on time. The labor shortage is confirmed and the impact is being felt.

FMI’s recent forecast proposes that construction will grow 30 percent in the next five years. With confirmed reports that labor is already at a premium in a growing industry, the result will no doubt be an increase in companies competing for the same labor resources. This shifts the advantage from the employer to the potential employee, and what used to be a “labor sea full of fish” is now a stark pond with an endangered species. Potential employees have choices and those with needed skills are actively recruited. Recent survey interviews indicate that strong potential candidates for craft and supervisory/management positions are often recruited weekly, if not sometimes daily, while currently employed.

The Value of Being an Employer of Choice

Conversations with a number of industry employees unearthed an unexpected common theme: Many of them had come to their present employer as a result of a recommendation by a friend or colleague. In lieu of the traditional job postings or even less traditional website and other ‘push’ methods of recruiting, these folks were approached by someone they knew who said “Hey, this is a great place, why not come work here?” Word-of-mouth recruiting has been utilized in competitive industries for years, often incentivized by recruiting bonuses in an effort to fill hard-to-fill positions. Companies that benefit from this practice are those where the incentive to bring a friend on goes well beyond any financial opportunity. It is the personal recommendation saying, “This is a great company to work for,” that closes the deal.

It only makes sense then that being considered an “employer of choice” would make it compelling for any prospective employee. In a Professional Engineers Network (PEN) blogpost, the author references some staggering statistics. The current unemployment rate for engineers is approximately 1.7 percent, with only 4.5 percent of college students graduating with an engineering degree. With 74 percent of employers reporting a lack of qualified candidates, and recent research showing that Millennials will most likely stay five years or less, we are no longer just talking about potentially being in competition for candidates, but also the high cost associated with potentially significant turnover. The PEN blogpost focuses on being an employer of choice to address these issues. The workforce shortage clearly exists at all levels in the construction, engineering, and architecture industries.

There are number of characteristics that can propel a company to being an employer of choice. Preferred employers are often described as having any number of the following: Strong leadership, a positive and inspiring work environment, a collaborative and supportive management team, core values and purposes, clear expectations, inspirationa