For many contractors, it feels like the labor shortage has been around since their first day on the project site. As the years go by, more and more innovative strategies have been employed to recruit new talent into the construction industry, and many of these strategies have been moderately successful. Unfortunately, the lack of skilled labor persists, which has left countless contractors scratching their heads with little idea of where to go from here.
In a world governed by logic, the construction industry’s labor shortage is somewhat baffling. Careers in construction are lucrative, with significantly fewer barriers to entry than other industries. Plus, there are ample opportunities for advancement, and construction professionals aren’t sequestered to a small cubicle in a nameless office building. It seems like the perfect opportunity for those who are either looking to transition into a new field or lacking the financial resources to attend college; but the success of recruitment has largely been stifled by a lack of interest in the industry as a whole. It’s time for a change.
In this editorial, the Miami construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law will detail seven tips for contractors who want to attract and retain good workers. When recruitment efforts prove futile, you must act quickly to ensure that their current workers are satisfied, but you can’t just give up on new hires. Retention starts during the first interview and lasts for the length of a worker’s employment.
Employing positive recruitment and retention tactics is the only surefire way to stop the bleeding of an industry that seems to be unable to escape the shadow of the labor shortage. Keep in mind that worker retention requires constant diligence. If you aren’t cognizant of your workers’ legal rights, you could find your employees moving on to greener pastures. To prevent this from happening, consult a Miami construction lawyer with years of experience fighting for the industry. Our attorneys can provide a comprehensive suite of legal services and help you avoid unsavory actions that could compromise the trust between you and your employees.
1. On-Board Employees into a Positive Workplace
When you consider the fact that approximately 30 percent of the total construction workforce will be 55 years or older within the next year, it becomes clear that any future retention efforts will have to include new hires, too. You can only retain your older workers for so long before they’re forced to hang up their hard hats for good. This makes attracting and retaining new hires a mandatory practice. Our Miami construction attorneys can say with absolute certainty that this is a significant challenge for all contractors, especially small business owners.
The key is to commit yourself to employing a positive on-boarding experience that prepares workers for a long, successful career in construction. This process should also help your company prepare to take on new employees. When both sides of the on-boarding process are working together, it can lead to happier workers who don’t throw in the towel after their first challenge on the project site. Some effective on-boarding practices include:
- Prepping your workplace culture for new employees
- Investing in interpersonal skills training for existing workers
- Providing “reading literature” between the time you offer a candidate a job and they accept it
- Making a phenomenal first impression
- Debriefing workers after their first day to learn about their experience
By following these tips, you can help your new workers feel important from the beginning. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve been “left out to dry” on their first day, and reinforcing the idea that you, as an employer, care for your workers helps you secure your position in the “cool boss” category.
2. Utilize a 90-Day Review Period to Gauge Workers
When it comes to the implementation of a 90-day review period, the benefits are twofold. First and foremost, this system allows you to gauge a worker’s strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to assess the best role for them on your team and ensure that they are an effective worker while simultaneously giving you time to determine whether or not they will be detrimental to the success of your projects. Second, a 90-day review period gives you time to build out your workforce in compliance with federal laws. For example, contractors with more than fifty full-time employees must follow certain regulations related to time tracking, recordkeeping, and more.
If you’re going to utilize a 90-day review period, be sure to commit yourself to building out a real program that can help new workers succeed. All too often, our Miami construction litigation attorneys hear stories about 90-day review periods that didn’t benefit the employee at all. They may have been introduced to coworkers and leaders on their first day and tasked with completing a general orientation that covers company policies only to be ushered out to the project site with little guidance shortly after. Failure to provide the necessary training not only leads to ineffective workers, it can lead to incapacitated workers, too. As you know, when your workers get hurt, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will come knocking. When you need experienced defense against OSHA violations, a Miami construction litigation attorney can provide you with the representation you need to keep your projects running smoothly.
3. Invest in Training to Boost the Value of Your Workforce
At Cotney Construction Law, our Miami contractor attorneys are intimately familiar with the plights facing contractors, especially in relation to their need for more skilled workers. That said, skilled workers aren’t going to suddenly materialize out of thin air to save your projects from contractual disputes. Skilled workers must be developed, which takes time, money, and dedication. If you are willing to sacrifice a small portion of your bottom line to offer more training, it could pay significant dividends in the future.
Training helps mitigate risks for contractors by increasing worker safety, reducing risk, and protecting assets. At a bare minimum, your workforce should be trained to:
- Recognize risk factors
- Avoid hazards
- Operate machinery
- Utilize the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Call for help
- Spot potential defects
- Report malfeasance
- Prevent cyber threats
Not only will you be protecting yourself against potential disputes, OSHA violations, litigation, and more, but you’ll also be bolstering the value of your workforce. You can feel good about giving raises and promotions when you know that your team is second to none. Our Miami construction attorneys recommend providing various types of training, including on-the-job training, personal coaching, class training, video training, webinar training, and self-paced workbook training.
4. Utilize Coaching and Mentoring to Retain Workers
Many contractors assume that if they’ve employed effective on-boarding procedures, implemented a 90-day review period, and invested in training they’ve done enough frontloading to ensure that new workers are successful for years to come. Unfortunately, developing and retaining skilled workers isn’t that simple, and these are the only the first couple steps in a process that could last years or longer. Even when your workers have earned your respect and confidence, you’ll want to offer coaching and mentoring opportunities to sustain their productivity for the long run.
Coaching occurs when you or another worker in a supervisory role observes an individual’s performance and offers suggestions, corrections, and words of encouragement to help them overcome challenges. Coaching is most effective when the coach can offer step-by-step instructions that help a worker nail down a specific process. On the other hand, mentoring involves one individual who possesses extensive experience and wisdom assisting another to realize their potential.
Typically, a mentor is paired with a mentee who they continue to work with on an ongoing basis to fully develop their skills. In addition to teaching skills, the mentor will also help the mentee understand their place within the workforce and their future possibilities. Coaching and mentoring isn’t easy, and you’ll have to work hard to make sure everyone participating “buys in;” however, if you can pull it off, your entire company will benefit from superior workmanship and stronger team dynamics.
5. Build Engagement and Inspire Participation
Contractors who fail to engage their workers in a prompt manner may find new hires walking away from the project site. While it’s important to set your employees up for success, if you coddle them for too long, or make it clear that you don’t trust them, you could find it hard to retain them. Workers want to feel like they’re making contributions. This helps them feel more important. The key is to recognize who is ready to take on a more in-depth role and allow them to do so without needless obstructions. Engaged workers will be inspired to participate more fully, giving each and every day their best effort and keeping a close eye on safety. Some ways you can bolster engagement include:
- Listening to employees’ opinions
- Including employees in discussions
- Asking employees to take on new tasks
- Encouraging relationships outside of work
- Requesting feedback on project site workflow and safety
6. Enhance Responsibility to Identify Potential Leaders
When a worker has proven their worth year after year with few lapses to account for, you’ll want to provide them with the opportunity to take on enhanced responsibilities. This is one of the best ways to separate leaders from followers. Dedicated workers who want to lead will be keen to take on new responsibilities that allow them to showcase their skills, knowledge, and experience.
Workers who aren’t prepared to expand their role may react negatively to enhanced responsibility. They may feel like you’re attempting to “heap” extra work on them. These types of workers probably aren’t cut out for leadership roles. However, those who embrace the challenge with arms wide open will prove to be valuable assets to your team for years to come.
7. Provide Comprehensive Performance Reviews
The one question on every construction professional’s mind is: How am I doing? By providing your team with comprehensive performance reviews, you can answer this question while simultaneously providing tips for improvement. Employees dread being left in the dark. Most employees assume that no news is good news, but the opposite is often true. Set aside time to create a logical workflow for assessing performance and filling out reports for workers. Your supervisors should be able to report on their workers, that way you don’t have to review every worker firsthand. However, if you lead a small contracting company, you may want to take the initiative and collect your own information to get a better idea of the quality of your workforce.
Retaining high-quality workers is an ongoing process that requires dedication from all members of your team. When you employ skilled workers, you can avoid the lion’s share of legal issues plaguing most contractors, such as OSHA violations, workers’ compensation claims, workplace violence. However, if you are facing legal scrutiny, a Miami construction attorney is standing by to assist you.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.