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Don’t Overlook Quality in your Workforce Development

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Construction's current labor shortage is fueled by multiple factors, and the message for construction firms is not to lose what they already have. There are plenty of good reasons to focus on quality in your workforce and to do some workforce planning.  

A big part of managing your workforce is managing your work. Taking on more than you can handle just because the work is available, increases everybody's load. When a project requires your people to use methods and materials they have minimal experience using, you get more mistakes, therefore, more rework and costs. 

There is a time for growth, and the key is to have the right people doing the right jobs. So, a large part of business planning requires laying down your workforce goals. Here are some strategies that can help:

Not Taking Just Anybody

For laborer positions, you sometimes have to hire someone who needs some training to do the work. You might judge your risk as acceptable when the job is fairly simple, not fraught with hazards, and you have adequate supervision. There could also be a silver lining. The person might exceed your expectations and become a candidate for permanent status.

Without knowing the skills, experience levels, and behaviors you're looking for in a new hire, you'll be shooting in the dark when you start looking for candidates. 

However, for the higher skills and management areas, taking chances on somebody without the right skills or experience becomes a roll of the dice. The good news is you won't be alone when you make a bad hire. Three-quarters of companies say they've done it. The bad news? You'll lose about $15,000 each time it happens, according to a Harris Poll of 2,200 hiring managers and human resources pros.

Without knowing the skills, experience levels, and behaviors you're looking for in a new hire, you'll be shooting in the dark when you start looking for candidates. Workforce planning is a strategic step that many construction companies miss or totally ignore. As you map your business goals and business growth, you can ensure you have the right people to meet the goals if you plan for it in advance. 

Know When to Let Go

As you build your workforce plan, you'll confront the perennial issue that faces companies of all types: What to do about employees who simply don't fit. You know them well. They're the people who have been around a long time but somehow haven't developed the skills the business needs. The problem is partly your fault if you haven't guided their growth, provided sufficient training, or offered ways for them to gain the necessary skills. It's never too late to help them get up to speed. 

On the other hand, if you have people who've known how they need to change or improve, and they still only marginally fit the current company needs, it might be time to help them transition to something they'd rather be doing. This is even more critical when your workforce planning shows they won't meet the business needs in the future. Maybe it's not necessary for everyone to have a passion for building, but it is often not beneficial to keep people on the payroll if they won't make needed changes that keep them relevant to the company goals.  

How to Keep Employees

Of course, the opposite issue in workforce planning is keeping the employees you should keep. In times of acute labor shortages, it becomes harder as other opportunities abound for employees, and poachers try to fill out their shrinking ranks from yours. 

To make matters worse, the wave of employees reaching retirement age represents a cadre of highly experienced people, and many will be difficult to replace. They've had years to build up not only real-world experience but also relationships with your subs and your suppliers. These relationships may often make a world of difference when you need collaboration and cooperation that go above and beyond the ordinary. You might be able to keep key people beyond their normal retirement times by offering flexible work options, moving them to positions that challenge them, and checking in with them regularly to gauge their interests.

As you develop your workforce plan, include career paths that clearly state the skills and experience needed for progression. 

All of your employees need to know what their career options are, how to progress in the work they're doing, and how to prepare for the work they'd like to do in the future. As soon as motivated people feel they're in a dead-end job, they start looking for alternatives that allow them to achieve their goals, whether personal or professional. Most want to feel in control of their lives. 

As you develop your workforce plan, include career paths that clearly state the skills and experience needed for progression. Don't do what many companies do; don’t just map out career paths and then forget to communicate them to employees. Talk to them personally instead of giving them a piece of paper or sending them an electronic document. That helps you gauge two things—what their career interests really are and how their interests align with company needs.

If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks you may enjoy:

Bringing Job Costing to the Field

How Construction Technology is Saving Time, Money, and Jobs

Project Management Guide: Part 1- Planning

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