Hiring good talent is tough for nearly every area and every job level in the construction and design industries. The most significant problem is a simple one: scarcity. There aren’t enough people compared to the number of open jobs.
At the end of September 2022, there were 5 million more construction jobs than people available to work them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS expects more than 8 million more jobs will be added by 2031, while the Pew Research Center says the annual workforce growth rate will be just .03% annually for the next 20 years.
This is due in part to lower birth rates: According to statistics from the United Nations, in the United States there were 11.003 births per 1,000 people in 2022 compared to 23.706 per 1,000 people in 1953. The data show similar birth rate trends in upper-middle-income countries as well.
At the same time that birthrates are declining, retirements are coming fast. In the U.S. in 2021, about 23% of workers were 55 years old or older. Fifty-five-year-olds are 10 years away from the typical retirement age when they qualify for Medicare, or 12 years away from the threshold set by the federal government for Social Security benefits.
This all adds up to pain for businesses needing to hire—and what’s to come will likely exceed the pain businesses experienced during the Great Recession.
Not only does this problem mean fewer job candidates to choose from, it means that a lot of a company’s institutional knowledge and expertise could be about to walk out the door—and that experience is even harder to replace.
What’s more, even if you manage to hire, competition for employees is so great that retention is a prevalent problem.
Combatting the effects of scarcity takes many tactics. Here are five strategies to help you in the coming months and years:
1. Sell, don’t tell.
The hiring process is a two-way street. It’s not only about determining if a candidate is a good fit for the job, but ensuring the candidate finds value in joining your company. This means you have to sell your contracting business as much as they’re marketing themselves to you. As mentioned in my previous column, the “tell” answers what you do, how you do it and who you do it for. The “sell” is the way you demonstrate how you live those core values. Show them what attributes make your company special—and live up to the hype.
2. Diversify your advertising.
The more people who know about your job opening, the better your chances of attracting candidates. One post on Craigslist isn’t enough. Place your job ads on Indeed and LinkedIn and post to local job boards and association websites. Alert your vendors and partners and ask them to share. And embrace the power of networking—the people you meet at industry events and trade shows could be the perfect candidate down the road.
3. Evaluate your online presence.
What do candidates see when they find you on Indeed or LinkedIn or other sites? Are you marketing your company in these spaces and communicating what’s in it for them to work for you?
4. Evaluate your candidate's experience.
Interviewing for the job shouldn’t be a hassle, and it can no longer be lengthy. If you’re having the candidate interview with 10 people and wait weeks for an answer, they’re likely going to move on.
5. Ensure your compensation compares.
No matter how wonderful your company, no one will accept a job that doesn’t pay fairly. Compare your salaries against similar positions at other local companies, and not just those in your industry. If you can’t make the numbers work, you’ll need to be prepared to offer something to make up the difference, such as flex time or remote work.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to combating the worker scarcity challenge. Plan to examine all aspects of your hiring process for ways to improve, market and streamline. In the meantime, we’ll delve deeper into most of these strategies in future columns.
Rikka Brandon is a nationally recognized building industry recruiting and hiring expert, and best-selling author. She helps building industry business owners and leaders solve their recruiting and retention challenges with strategy, best practices, and access to experts. Whether or not you’re looking for in-house training and coaching for your team or an expert to provide consulting, you can learn more at www.BuildingGurus.com/Informa.