Combatting labour shortages in construction
By NEMANJA SIMICConstruction Labour Software
Modern tools are available to strategically allocate resources to maximize workforce planning and productivity.
The labour shortage in construction isn’t a surprise for contractors anymore. Although the pandemic certainly intensified the impact of shortages, the construction sector has been coping with fewer and fewer recruits for more than a decade, but with an aging labour pool and a huge demand for workers, the shortage has reached new levels. Being strategic with planning your workforce is more important than ever before.
Unfortunately, inefficient manual processes that silo data and make it hard to collaborate can amplify the difficulties experienced while trying to combat labour shortages. A recent survey of contractors indicated that workforce allocations tend to focus on the coming two-month period, or less, and almost half said that they don’t have adequate time to hire when a project needs it.
These statistics tell us that workforce planning is a reactive part of the construction process, leaving ops teams and HR scrambling to fill gaps, causing project delays due to workforce limitations, and hires that may not be the best fit for a company.
Being proactive and using technology to plan workforce needs months, or even years, in advance can prevent these problems.
PLANNING FOR PROJECT PURSUITS
A common mistake contractors make with labour is only planning for awarded projects. Including pursuits and projects that are likely to be awarded in planning can provide insight into potential staffing complications, however. In that survey of contractors, 86 per cent reported they have bid on projects only to find they did not have the necessary labour to complete the job. The difficulty of predicting and planning labour is a strain throughout the industry. Adding pursuits in your planning can help avoid surprise complications.
Another benefit to planning pursuits is an improved bid-to-win ratio. Since a lot of resources go into each project bid, having a lower ratio is ideal. Planning labour for pursuits can help improve a bid-to-win ratio, since pre-bid discussions will be informed of the company’s labour capacity and its ability to take on new jobs.
As the planning process around capacity insights improves, winning bids happens more often and the cost of losing bids declines, helping the company grow sustainably and stay proactive with hiring and upskilling internally.
RECRUITMENT STARTS WITH A STRATEGY
Having a recruitment strategy informed by your workforce planning can also help combat labour shortages. The more that human resources and recruitment teams can anticipate hiring needs, the more likely they are to find a quality candidate that’s a good fit for your company.
Investing in systems that can provide insight on when people are coming off jobs, when jobs are starting, and what the workforce demands for pursuit projects will likely be is the best way to provide the necessary foresight for your recruitment teams.
This foresight can help you avoid rushed hires and help you develop a solid recruitment strategy. This plan includes the job description, publishing the job, working with recruiters and job boards, conducting interviews and screening applicants.
Recruiting quality candidates proactively mitigates against the steep cost of turnover in construction. Keep in mind that the cost to replace an employee for specialized jobs like superintendents and project managers can be 200 per cent, or more.
It’s imperative that a good recruitment strategy is in place not only to help combat the labour shortage, but also the costs of employee turnover.
NOT JUST ANY BODY WILL DO
Labour shortages aren’t always about the sheer volume of people needed to complete a job, either. It could mean that there’s a shortage of skilled labour, which is the trend right now. Solving this skills gap problem should include the development of your current workforce.
Contractors need the ability to track experience, certifications, career trajectory and education for current employees. With the current systems in place, data is siloed with limited transparency into it. The result is that employees aren’t developing as they should because they’re being used to fill gaps reactively.
With more insight into the development of the workforce your managers are able to allocate people into jobs where they’re gaining skills, ultimately futureproofing your workforce.
For example, a contractor may have a mason who’s expressed interest in becoming a superintendent. By tracking their skills and helping them get the necessary certifications, the mason could fill a superintendent gap that opens up as a new project begins.
Doing this effectively requires contractors to begin looking at their workforce long-term and step back from the reactive daily management of projects. To accomplish this, a common-data strategy is needed, in which the whole company can access insights on projects and people.
With the current tools in their arsenal, it’s difficult to do this because they weren’t designed to provide dynamic insight on constantly shifting variables.
Digital workforce management tools for construction, or even non-vertical specific tools, can help general contractors develop this common data strategy for their workforce by collecting people and project data in one place.
Nemanja Simic is a content writer at Bridgit, a provider of workforce planning software for general contractors.