Editor's Note: The following is a guest contribution from Jon Dumbauld, president of Communications Integrators, Inc.
Unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly a decade, which means good hires are hard to come by. I come across this topic often in conversations with construction business leaders who come to us for a way to work smarter, not harder. From their view, the skilled workers are already fully employed and possibly overworked. And it’s no wonder: according to the Associated General Contractors of America, three-quarters of construction firms expect to have trouble finding skilled hourly workers this year. Additionally, the Non-Manufacturing ISM Report for April 2017 cited construction labor as a commodity in short supply for the 13th-consecutive month.
Unfortunately, the job market is only going to get tighter. President Donald Trump’s recent executive actions to continue pipeline construction and revitalize existing infrastructure signal that there is likely to be much more work than there are workers.
In such an incredibly tight labor market, how do you find qualified people for the job site and stay on schedule? It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.
First, let’s discuss whether there are people to be found. Although unemployment is low, labor force participation is also down — at 62.9% in April 2017, it continues to hover near a three-decade low. While some of the remaining 37.1% consists of students and baby boomers nearing retirement, there is still evidence that suggests there are able-bodied people who are fit to work but not looking. And, there’s the problem: these people aren’t looking. So, you need to root them out.
Here’s how to find them.
Employees’ friends and friends-of-friends
The chances are good that your employees know someone who was hit-hard in the 2008 downturn and subsequently left the construction industry. Tell your employees you’re actively hiring and want their valued opinions on potential team members. I was told about a Silicon Valley start-up that needed to drive exponential employee growth. The company asked its staff for a list of people they worked with previously. Any person suggested by at least two employees was automatically sent an offer letter, no interview necessary. Maybe you don’t need to go so hard, so fast, but the idea is right. In today’s market, if someone on your team is recommending a promising team member, listen.
Social media ads
Once you’ve considered your employees networks, it’s time to mine for gold on Facebook. People who’ve stopped looking for work aren’t likely to be reading LinkedIn, Monster or other job-search tools. However, they will probably check Facebook from time to time. Social media can be (frighteningly) effective at targeting the right person, so consider a paid Facebook ad to pinpoint people in your area. You can programmatically reach people based on factors such as the organizations and interests they “like” as well as their browsing activity, and then create custom audiences based on your contact list. Social media is an avenue to find people who can do the job but weren’t actively looking.
Recruiters are a last resort, but they are probably the most effective. Recruiters are paid well to find the exact person for your role. They can be pricey but when a market is tight, it’s the way to go. In fact, our company finds most of our construction industry reps through recruiters. Simply put: recruiters know people who know people, and they know where to look.
Next, assuming you’ve done all of the above but still have more work than workers. Here’s how to get the job done with fewer people so you can stay on schedule.
We all have a list of people to call when there’s one quick job to do — people who are competent and can work unsupervised. Why not turn this person into a near-full-time employee? By leaning on this workhorse and building a force behind them, you’ll create a tiger team that keeps jobs rolling.
Job shops are common for pre-fab work. Electrical and voice data are probably the easiest things to accelerate with a job shop. Pre-terminated data and prewired electrical can reduce on-site labor drastically. It gets the trade crew off the job site quickly and allows your sheet rock, ceiling and carpet installation teams to finish the job.
Look at your building materials and rethink how you build. There are a multitude of components that can be done modularly in modern construction, from plumbing to walls to entire rooms. Unfortunately, none of that works unless the architects and engineers specified the job that way (except for electrical). Modular electrical can almost always be substituted for traditional electrical, going in traditional construction above the drop ceiling or under raised floor. Our company helped a large hotel casino in Las Vegas realize significant time savings: what previously took a week to do with pipe and wire took one day with a modular system. Modular is the fastest way to install electrical.
When thinking about saving time, it is important to consider saving qualified time. Once a modular electrical system is tied to the electrical panel by your electrician, the rest of the system can be installed by general labor. So, the labor you’re using is much easier to come by.