Construction is changing quickly. In recent years, there’s been a dramatic increase in digital solutions, a higher demand for design-build contractors, and unfortunately, a growing labor shortage. According to the Home Builder Institute, the industry is going to need over 2 million more workers over the next three years to keep pace with the demand for new houses.
You read that right. Two million workers in three years, and that’s just to keep up with the demand for houses. That doesn’t include commercial builds, retail, healthcare, and the list goes on and on.
The strain the labor shortage is having on the industry often leaves contractors scrambling to hire last-minute workers to support their upcoming projects. There just aren’t enough people, and simply put, posting jobs on LinkedIn or construction job forums won’t attract the qualified, skilled workers contractors need anymore.
So how can contractors cut down on last-minute hiring? When it comes to hiring and recruitment, time is a contractor’s best friend. It’s not enough to plan two months out anymore. Contractors will need to start thinking long-term so their HR, business development, and marketing teams have the time they need to find the right people and the information they need to go after the right projects.
3 ways to stay ahead of project labor demands
1. Forecast project demand at least six months out
One of the biggest challenges when forecasting recruitment needs comes from a lack of visibility on project demand in the coming months, which often results in last-minute hiring and late crew build-up.
Contractors need to have systems in place that can help to easily identify where their people are, when and how long they’ll be there, and what roles still need to be filled for upcoming projects and bids. The further out the better.
There are specialized software solutions that contractors can use to better understand their hiring needs based on hard data. Bridgit Bench, as just one example, displays the workforce demand for all upcoming projects and bids and compares that against the company’s current staffing. Contractors can also use this information to run scenarios to see the impact specific pursuit projects will have on their staffing needs and then collaborate with their HR team to ensure upcoming projects aren’t at risk of being understaffed.
2. Be strategic with pursuit projects
Bidding on projects takes time and costs money, but the money lost on a losing bid is nothing compared to the risk a company undertakes by winning the wrong project. It’s natural to see a project opportunity and want to jump on it, but if your team doesn’t have a majority of the skills and experience needed for the specific build type, it might be best to focus efforts elsewhere.
When contractors consider their teams' skills, experience and certifications when bidding on projects, they’re less likely to have large skills gaps that need to be filled. Having a clear understanding of where they win and which projects are the most profitable for them can help to double down on projects that leverage their team’s experience.
Contractors can take it one step further and include project bids in their recruitment forecasting. If it’s looking like a new build type is likely to be awarded, HR will then have enough foresight to identify skill gaps to help inform their recruitment strategies, and give them time to recruit and onboard qualified candidates.
3. Give every department the opportunity to think long-term
With labor being an ongoing issue, contractors should ask themselves:
- Do our business development and marketing teams have the right information about our people to bid on the right projects?
- Does HR know who they need to hire and when?
Construction is a service-based industry and with all service-based industries, the workforce should be at the forefront of most decisions, if not all of them. Historically, contractors have taken a project-first approach to project management, but the real risk to project success has, and always will be, the people responsible for the delivery.
When workforce information is siloed off from the rest of the company, it leaves business development, marketing and HR departments with little information to inform their goals. Contractors should work to break down these corporate silos and provide the workforce data and forecasting needed to create long-term strategies.
Think of it this way, how helpful would it be for an operations manager to be able to tell their marketing or business development team that they have people with strong commercial experience coming off a project in a few months and they need something lined up?
Michel Richer is the content marketing manager at Bridgit. He got his start in the construction industry at an early age with a local restoration company.