By George Hedley
Builders, contractors and subcontractors complain they can’t find enough good trained help. It seems like they continually hope for a miracle, but don’t want to put in the time, energy and resources to build a great place to work that attracts, retains and trains great managers, supervisors and employees. There are great people looking for great jobs. And if you can’t find them, perhaps they just don’t want to work for your company and what it has to offer.
People want to work, accept responsibility and do a good job building their future. Yet, the construction industry suffers from a large shortage of new workers entering the workforce every year. The problem? No one wants to work in construction. No one wants to work in dead-end jobs. No one wants to be treated like a ditch digger and only get paid on the days they work. People want to be treated as valuable team members, trained and have an opportunity to move up.
I speak to the construction industry at major conventions and company meetings on management and how to make a profit. I ask audiences, “Do any of your kids want to work in construction?” Only one in 100 answers, “Yes.” With such a low response from the children of people in the industry, it should come as no surprise to you that construction ranks number 248 out of 250 career opportunities among high school seniors.
Why work in construction?
Why would any young person ever want to work in the construction field? It’s cold, hot, dirty and dangerous. Field workers are treated like hired hands and expected to follow orders from above, do only as told, and not make waves. They aren’t provided a training ladder to move up, allowed to participate in profit sharing, or treated as equals with management or office staff personnel. When it rains, they are sent home without pay or benefits. They receive little or no recognition, and are not involved in project or company planning and scheduling. Great opportunity? Not.
Pay for field construction workers has declined steadily for 10 years (adjusted for inflation and buying power), while most other career choices have experienced a net increase. Construction field workers see a pay potential that plateaus as they get older and less valuable than their younger peers. Great upside potential? Not.
Fortune Magazine’s “Most Admired Companies in America” train their people between 40 and 60 hours per year. The average construction company trains their people between one and three hours per year per employee. Great training? Not. Why would anyone be surprised that nobody wants a job in an industry that offers hard work, low pay, inadequate training, few personal development opportunities, and little career growth.
What do young people want?
Young people today want responsibility, accountability, growth opportunities, high tech, involvement in decisions, and pay based on performance. They want to understand the big picture at the project and company level. They need frequent recognition, rewards and someone to care about their future. They want a job that pays a lot more than average with an upside potential. Young people want to make a difference and want to be an involved part of an exciting company that leads the competition.
What’s the solution?
To attract great people, every construction company, large and small, must commit to creating great places to work. Each manager and supervisor must make recruiting an important part of their job. You need to convince people your company really is a great opportunity for them and promise their job will lead to a fantastic career.
To retain great people, companies must have a proactive and aggressive employee development program. This includes ongoing training and education, programs in team building, computers, supervision, leadership, as well as technical skills. Future growth career ladders must be clear, tracked and updated regularly.
When will you start?
My challenge is to change your company culture now. Radical innovation, risk taking, and real leadership are desperately needed. Only you can return your company to favor with potential workers. The only question left is: “When will you start?”
George Hedley works with contractors to build profitable growing companies. He is a professional construction business coach, popular speaker and best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Grow & Profit!” available at his online bookstore at www.HardhatPresentations.com. Sign up for his free e-newsletter, be part of a BIZCOACH program, or get a discount coupon for online classes at www.HardhatBizSchool.com, email GH@HardhatPresentations.com.
George Hedley, HARDHAT Presentations, 800-851-8553