It is the bane of the construction industry: we can’t find people who will do the work we have. The skilled labor shortage is spreading throughout the industry and everyone is affected. It’s tempting to toss up your hands and say, “Nothin’ I can do about that,” then curse the heavens for
- A changing culture that doesn’t value skilled labor
- Reductions in shop class investment in high school
- Parents who coddle their children
- Computer games
- Any other of a host of reasons that explain why young people don’t want to go into construction
All of that is true, but all of that has been true for at least a couple of decades. It’s frustrating, but there are things you can—and should—be doing. Here are seven of them:
- Always be selling. Sell your company and the value it brings to careers and the community. Young people want to be part of something important, and there is deep satisfaction in helping to build the environment around you.
- Grow for the long-term: Companies that grow provide opportunities for ambitious young people, and those are the ones you want. You don’t want people in your company who accept their lot in life and just shuffle from one task to another. You want thinkers and doers.
- Build sustainable growth: I’m cheating a bit here by repeating a bit of the previous point, but you also have to make sure your company is sustainable over the years. People want careers, not jobs, and if you have to lay off a big portion of your crew every seven years or so, you’re not going to attract and keep the right people.
- Find a farm and farm it: Once you identify a great employee, go back to where you found that person and starting looking for others like him or her. Sometimes it’s a pretty unusual place. You’ll be surprised how much success you may find at a quality liberal arts college, or a predominantly Hispanic church, or a community group, or a sports league. Those people selected to hang out with each other, and there may be more like your great hire there as well.
- Market your company like you’re trying to sell a job: Solving the labor shortage is a marketing issue. You need to brand your company to attract the kind of workers you want, and then put together a strategy for getting that brand out there.
- Social Media: Of course! If you’re not talking up your company and the value of its careers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz, etc., you’re not talking to the audience.
- Tell your employees: Do your current crew and office staff know that you’re looking for skilled workers? I’m astonished how often that’s not communicated within the company. I’m not a big fan of offering incentives to bring people in, because it encourages your employees to find warm bodies, not good fits. Still, if you’ve got a great company and people like working there, they want to get their friends in on the deal.
- BONUS: Stop looking for people who look like your workers. In psychology terms, this is called the representativeness heuristic and it is the root error described in “Moneyball.” The baseball scout says, “This guy is another Willie Mays,” and doesn’t look at the statistics that show he’s nothing of the sort. The player just looks and carries himself like Mays, and that’s what the scout sees. Your next Willie Mays may speak a foreign language or be a woman or have an advanced degree. You’ve got to figure out what it is that makes a great team player in your organization, then look at those criteria and only those criteria.