Nowadays, holding onto good workers seems impossible, and the situation is especially dire in the construction industry.
Recent reports show that the average employee turnover in construction is about 21% which is more than any other industry.
Some might argue that the seasonality of the job, difficult working conditions, and low profit margins resulted in the increased fluidity of the construction workforce.
But, contractors often don’t want to admit that they make mistakes when hiring.
So, the result is often having an unskilled and unmotivated workforce who only do the job because they have no other alternative.
Let’s explore the top mistakes construction companies make when hiring new employees and find some solutions to the labor shortage in your company.
In this article...
Hiring at the Last Minute
Construction companies will often make last-minute hiring decisions without even considering if they have the right people.
What’s worse, they’ll hire anyone willing to do the job, regardless of their experience or skill set. This can ultimately be a disaster for the company and the current project.
Think about the possible delays, numerous reworks, and extra expenses that a worker who isn’t the right fit can cost you.
Therefore, hiring should be a long-term strategic process if you want a successful business.
Finding good and skilled workers is a challenge, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find them when you urgently need them.
Therefore, you should be hiring not only with your current project in mind, but by planning what the next two, five, or ten projects need.
One of the best ways to have a steady stream of workers is to implement a hiring program year-round.
Low seasons are especially fruitful for finding new employees since more people are looking for work, and you get to be more selective.
Even your probation period can be longer to ensure you made the right choice.
Even if you don’t need the workers immediately, it’s recommended that you always look out for potential candidates.
You never know when your current employees will leave or retire, so it’s best to collect resumes as often as possible.
Staying competitive in an ever-changing industry such as construction depends on having the right people for the job.
So you need to avoid hiring last-minute and develop a system to ensure you find people who will help your business in the long term.
Writing Vague Job Descriptions
In most cases, a prospective employee’s first contact with your company is through a job ad. That is also where most recruiting problems start.
Even the most ideal candidate might overlook your job listing if they’re confused about the position you’re advertising.
Are your descriptions too vague? Have you left out important information that might interest job seekers?
Nowadays, job ads must be clear and thorough enough to attract quality candidates. So, what should your job ad look like?
Ideally, you want it to be short but include all the necessary information. For example, construction job ads on Indeed have a great format that you can copy.
First, most job seekers want to know the type of position you’re offering, as well as how much they would be paid. In this job ad, the company put this information right under its name.
So, two important things you need to include in your job ad are the job description (i.e., what the workers will actually be required to do) and the benefits.
You should also keep in mind that what you promise in the job ad, you need to deliver. If the expectations are not met, you might lose the worker sooner than you think.
Also, you should specify the level of experience required for the role, so you don’t get an influx of entry-level applicants for a senior position.
Otherwise, you’ll just waste your time going through the applications.
In the end, writing good job ads is the first step in finding the right workforce, so you shouldn’t neglect them in your hiring process.
Relying on Wrong Criteria
Now, we’ve mentioned that hiring the most qualified and skilled workers is important, so you avoid the most common problems during construction.
But here’s a secret: sometimes choosing an employee based on character might serve you better than purely hiring for skills.
The simple truth is that skills can be taught, but you can’t control a person’s character. Even this contractor agrees:
Their apprentice probably didn’t start out as the most knowledgeable or the most talented, but their willingness to learn about the job sets them apart.
After a good amount of training and time, the gap in the skills department will become smaller, and the apprentice will become a better construction worker with the right mindset.
Remember that no amount of skills will replace a poor work ethic, lack of communication, and clashing with other workers.
An individual who fits with the company’s culture, has the appropriate motivation, and is willing to learn will be a better choice long-term than someone who is slightly better at their job but is a poor culture-fit.
Nevertheless, once you need to pick your new employee from a pool of candidates, pay close attention to what influences your decision.
Humans are prone to unconscious biases, and some of our decisions might be based on the wrong criteria.
For example, you might choose a worker for the job because you’re similar in age or their last name is the same as your favorite teacher in middle school.
The trouble is that you might not be aware of doing it. So, to avoid overlooking better-qualified candidates through your own biases, ask other people for their opinion on potential hires.
In construction, as in any other job, you’ll succeed if you’re willing to show up on time, learn what needs to be done and have a positive attitude.
So it’s in your best interest to find candidates with a good character, even if they might not be the most skilled at first.
Skipping Background Checks
Another frequent mistake construction companies make is not having comprehensive background checks.
Only a thorough background check will verify if the candidate’s certifications are legitimate or if they have a consistent problem with following safety protocols.
People can always lie on their resumes, and interviews will only give you a small outlook on who the candidate is, but a third party perspective will be invaluable even if people only use positive references from former employees.
References also represent another way you can overcome your own biases.
Another thing construction companies are implementing in their background checks is drug testing—as demonstrated in this job ad.
Not only does the company have a commendable policy regarding safety for their construction sites, but putting this requirement on their job ad weeds out potential bad hires from the start.
Why is this important?
Unfortunately, the latest research shows that the construction industry has a large problem with drug and alcohol abuse.
In fact, the Center for Drug Use conducted a study looking at data spanning ten years to determine the highest-risk industry.
It was revealed that construction workers are more likely to use cocaine and prescription opioids (for non-medical purposes). They were also the second most likely users of marijuana.
According to Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at the NYU College of Global Public Health, the combination of a dangerous worksite and drug use makes construction workers more likely to suffer from work-related injuries.
Basically, frequent drug abuse has the following side effects:
- Reduced awareness
- Poor coordination and balance
- Lower focus and vision impairment
- Reduced judgment and decision-making
So, to keep your construction sites safe for all your employees, having a thorough background check and drug testing is necessary.
Not Embracing Technology
In the last several years, it’s been well-documented that construction companies implementing technology in their business operations are more productive, profitable, and safer workplaces.
So, it’s not surprising that many companies are now looking to transform their businesses using construction software, augmented reality, robots, and 3D printing.
In a nutshell, construction technology is a serious advantage to finishing projects on time and within budget since it effectively assists workers in their jobs or even reduces the number of repetitive tasks.
But most importantly, companies that use construction technology are more appealing to the younger workforce.
They’re familiar with using new technology and want to be able to do jobs in a better way than their predecessors.
You don’t even have to have drones or expensive augmented reality gear to improve your working conditions.
Construction apps to track schedules and equipment can also help simplify your daily workload and simultaneously attract new hires.
On the other hand, you can utilize technology in the hiring process.
Find a suitable applicant tracking system that will help you screen potential employees and manage more tedious tasks of the hiring process.
Namely, the software will post custom job descriptions, sort through applicant resumes, and schedule interviews, among other things.
It is integrated with job boards and search websites, so you can easily send a job ad to the right candidate.
In the end, technology in construction has many advantages, so use it to attract and filter potential candidates in your hiring process.
Not Offering Enough Hours
Construction projects consist of many different tasks, but many workers are only needed for a limited amount of hours until they finish their part of the job.
Like in the case of this window installer in New York. Depending on the type of job, he can have a fixed 40-hour work week with a regular schedule, or he can finish a job in a shorter time.
Luckily, his employer will pay him for a full eight-hour workday even when he only clocks in 6 hours of actual labor. But that’s not the case for many construction workers.
To get a full salary or better pay, they need to hit a 40-hour work week, so they’ll try to find work wherever they can.
Essentially, people want to be sure they’ll get to work enough hours to have some sense of long-term security and stability.
If their current employer can’t provide enough work, they’ll find someone who can.
Deep down, people want to contribute meaningfully to every job they undertake, so too much downtime can lead them to leave their job.
That is why giving your workers enough hours to hit their weekly working quota is important.
Not Communicating Reasons for Joining Your Company
These days, prospective employees can take their pick of numerous companies to work for. So, how does your company stand out from others?
First, even though a potential candidate is interested in your company based on the ad you posted, they’ll necessarily do further research.
This means, your job ad will inevitably lead them to your company’s website. This is where you must communicate more reasons why working for your company is a good decision.
Take Balfour Beatty’s website as an example.
They have a Careers link on their main website, which leads to a dedicated page where potential employees can learn more about working opportunities and the company culture.
On the top of the page, they highlight the most popular departments such as engineering, project management, and commercial.
This is where they use current employees’ testimonials about their jobs at the company and main related projects.
All of this gives a better overview of what the company offers regarding career development, types of projects, and other attractive benefits.
Finally, at the bottom of their Careers page, they include different programs and events in which the company’s employees participate.
This shows that the company involves its employees in worthy causes and communicates that they offer more than just a job.
So, another thing you have to consider in addition to the benefits you offer is how your company overall contributes to positive change in society.
Younger generations are more concerned about sustainability, social causes, and impact on the environment, so you should also have an excellent copy explaining your company’s responsibility programs.
All in all, having a dedicated ‘’Join Our Team’’ page on your website where you’ll showcase the benefits, interesting projects, and company culture will be enough to convince potential candidates that they should apply.
Hiring new employees is already a difficult process. So, to make your job easier, try to avoid these common mistakes to ensure you find suitable candidates.
Then you’ll create a skilled, motivated, and productive workforce that will bring every project to successful completion and bring more profits to your company.