Construction's Worker Shortage

The worker shortage is a global challenge that is impacting nearly every business—large and small—and nearly every industry, certainly construction. We all know this problem existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, much has changed in the last 18 months, as a result of the pandemic, in businesses worldwide. Let’s take a look at where we are at today.
A Gartner survey reveals 91% of HR leaders are concerned about employee turnover in the immediate future. This is certainly the case in the construction industry.
Nearly one-third of U.S. metro areas lost construction jobs between August 2020 and August 2021, according to an analysis by the AGC (Associated General Contractors of America) of government employment data released at the end of September. Association officials noted that the job losses are occurring as the fate of a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would boost demand for construction remains uncertain in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Construction employment declined from a year earlier in 65 metros and held steady in 37. Association officials urged members of both parties in the House to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, noting its new funding was needed to modernize the nation’s aging highways and transit systems.
Rather than wait on Washington, construction companies can start taking matters into their own hands. Here is what needs to happen next. Gartner suggests in order to remain competitive employers should consider the different forms of flexibility—daily work hours, work location, or the length of the workweek—they can offer to retain and attract top talent. This is tricky for construction, which is mostly done onsite. Perhaps this is one reason we should move to offsite manufacturing sooner rather than later.
Another option is to help managers conceptualize the potential career paths of their direct reports and encourage career conversations with neutral mentors and coaches who can help them think creatively about development opportunities.
Finally, organizations must stop thinking about replacing specific employees and instead consider what skills the larger organization needs to succeed in the future. Perhaps it means identifying long-term talent gaps at the organizational level and partner with business leaders to acquire the needed critical skills. This includes finding skills outside traditional career paths, both inside and outside the organization. Perhaps it would also mean leveraging technology.
We need to get creative here. In the next few weeks, let’s look closer at potential solutions—technology and others—that can help the construction industry specifically solve this worker shortage. Our jobs depend on it.