Can Construction Employers Close the Talent Gap?

Historically, construction companies have done little workforce planning because of the cyclical, project-oriented nature of construction and the significant share of work performed by subcontractors. It has left companies struggling to meet massive demands for new talent at the start of projects and to retain talent with experience accumulated on the job once work on a project has phased out.

Considering the ongoing talent shortage in the industry, construction companies must address their talent needs and available supply more strategically, especially for highly-skilled positions.  Herewith a list of measures construction companies can implement to close the talent gap:

Plan talent supply and demand strategically

To determine workforce allocation and recruitment needs, talent planning should take into consideration four factors:

  • A company’s portfolio of projects;
  • Current key roles, employee headcount and skills;
  • Skills that will be needed in the future;
  • Anticipated availability of employees with the required skills;

By analysing all the data, companies can pinpoint potential gaps. The human resources (HR) department can then act based on identified gaps, including hiring, training, transfers and layoffs.

Foster employee development and continuous learning

Aside from interesting work, the top factor that makes a company a desirable place to work is the opportunity for learning and development. However, only 48% of young professionals feel that employers in the construction industry meet their expectations for job-related development and training.

Given the intense competition for highly-skilled employees, and reflecting the issue of a rapidly ageing workforce, construction companies must improve development opportunities to attract younger workers. To do that, they can use technology-based training, institutionalise knowledge sharing, and establish career programmes that recognise learning and development achievements.

Construction companies can use technology innovations, such as simulations for employee training. Companies can develop digital platforms to help employees learn and share what they know across projects as well as the organisation.

Also, companies can institutionalise knowledge sharing through on-the-job training and mentorships. On-the-job training can create a company culture that emphasises professional development and encourages employees to help each other.

Reverse mentorships are another way employees can gain needed digital skills. In reverse mentorships, junior employees share what they know with more senior co-workers. Older employees benefit from learning how new technologies work while younger colleagues gain insights from their more-experienced counterparts on project and business strategy.

To underscore the importance of learning and development, as well as to motivate employees to take advantage of learning opportunities, construction companies should tie promotions or other forms of advancement into reaching specific career-development milestones.

Use new technology to increase productivity and job satisfaction

Reflecting the fact that the construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, the way work gets done has not changed in several decades, and thus, productivity has stalled. Furthermore, many blue-collar workers view industry jobs as dirty and dangerous, while white-collar workers think construction jobs lack innovation and challenge.

Construction companies can improve productivity and job satisfaction by adopting technologies, such as automated equipment, prefabrication, sensor-equipped work gear, and mobile collaboration tools.

By adopting automated equipment, construction companies can replace dangerous, dirty, strenuous tasks and speed up processes. For example, remote-controlled demolition robots are safer and more efficient than conventional tools for demolishing concrete, particularly in confined spaces.

Shifting tasks to prefabrication factories can improve working conditions by allowing remaining on-site work to consist mainly of a project’s final stages, reducing workers’ exposure to job-related risks.

Aside from improving on-site worker productivity and safety, new digital technologies can also make construction industry office jobs more productive. Mobile-based platforms for collaboration could free up white-collar workers from repetitive administration tasks and provide more time for creative and strategic endeavours.

Modernise workplace culture and promote diversity

Workplace culture is an important factor in job seekers’ decisions about where they want to work. To appeal to prospective candidates of all ages, younger job seekers, and to compete with other industries, construction companies must transform what has historically been a more conservative workplace culture to a more contemporary one.

Companies can improve their employer branding and transform workplace culture by establishing purpose-driven thinking, increasing flexibility and agile ways of working and recognising performance. Companies can modernise workplace culture by offering flexible work patterns, including leaves of absence and job rotations, among other things.

The construction industry must address a longstanding lack of diversity and inclusion to create a more modern work culture. Recruiting efforts should target broader talent pools, define clear goals and guidelines for improving diversity and equality, and provide support for under-represented groups.

Construction companies need clear guidelines for establishing equality and prohibiting workplace discrimination or harassment based on gender, ethnicity or other classification, and must cultivate work environments that follow those policies.