Recruiting for Millennials in Construction: What You Need to Know
Buildings are going up despite the shortage of skilled labor in the construction industry. But the shortage is critical enough that it’s slowing down some projects, especially in residential construction.
According to a 2016 workforce survey by The Associated General Contractors of America, 38 percent of contractors are having trouble filling salaried field positions and 69 percent are having trouble filling hourly craft positions. And the need for workers is only increasing. By 2024, construction jobs are expected to grow to 7.2 million, up from 5.4 million in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 10 percent jump is bigger than average for all occupations.
Many older workers transitioned out of construction after the housing market collapse and recession (the industry lost about 2.2 million jobs from 2006 to 2010). To build the future, you’ll need the help of millennials — but you’ll have to compete for them.
What do millennials want in a job?
For workers 34 and under, a sense of accomplishment is the strongest driver of workplace happiness according to a 2016 study by Robert Half, a California-based global staffing firm.
Millennials also tend to crave teamwork and collaboration, noted Jean Juchnowicz, owner of Human Resources Simplified, a Florida consulting firm. They want to know their work will be valued and that it fits with their employer’s mission, vision and goals.
Construction companies can show they value their employees by giving them opportunities to share their ideas and offering ways for workers to learn the latest technology and equipment, Juchnowicz said.
One challenge for the construction industry is to convince millennials that this career path will be stable and offers work-life balance and financial rewards.
How to engage with millennials
Don’t expect millennials to scour your website for jobs. Instead, reach out to them where they are.
To reach the youngest millennials, partner with trade schools and colleges (and even visit high schools to court Generation Z). Find out which schools provide training programs for roles such as carpenters and electricians, which are among the hardest-to-fill hourly positions according to The Associated General Contractors of America survey. Get involved in those programs by providing insight, mentoring and job opportunities.
If your company does not have an internship program, consider creating one. Hold internship and job open houses with digital demonstrations and equipment displays that generate excitement about the industry, Juchnowicz suggested.
Post openings on social media — and show how employees have fun on the job.
“Millennials have a lot to offer,” Juchnowicz said. “They need to be enticed with solid information … and an inclusive teamwork culture.”
Lori Johnston is a former Associated Press writer and magazine editor whose work has appeared in publications and websites including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wall Street Journal, People magazine, HGTV.com and Bankrate.com.
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Why and How to Review 'Near Misses'
Sometimes bad things "almost happen" on construction sites. Someone would have stepped on a nail sticking out of a board if a co-worker hadn't given a last-minute warning. An equipment operator might have backed over someone if an alert bystander hadn't run over and banged on his window.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers these types of close calls indicators that future recordable accidents or injuries could happen. While the company doesn't have to report them to OSHA, the agency is in favor of programs that keep track of these near misses and help management take a new look at safety procedures.
But how do you get employees to inform their supervisors when a near miss happens?
First, as with any other successful company initiative, upper management has to demonstrate buy-in. Once workers see that the company has made near-miss reporting a high priority, they're more likely to comply.
Next, develop an easy-to-use, non-punitive reporting system. For each report that comes in, perform what OSHA calls a "root cause analysis," which looks at the episode and asks how and why it occurred and what needs to change so that it doesn't happen again. These assessments aim to get at the core reasons for the incident, not just the immediate cause.
In the example of the worker who almost stepped on a nail, the immediate cause might be that a carpenter overlooked the board as he was demolishing a wall. But one underlying reason could be that there isn’t an adequate, safe waste removal process in place.
Finally, management should educate workers about what the company is trying to achieve — fewer accidents — and roll out the specifics of the plan at a special group training session. The importance of reporting near-miss incidents should also be made part of each new employee's introduction to the company.
A near miss means someone got lucky — and might not be as lucky the next time. Near-miss reporting and analysis helps take luck out of the equation.
Kim Slowey is a writer who has been active in the construction industry for 25 years and is licensed as a certified general contractor in Florida. She received her BA in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of South Florida and has experience in both commercial and residential construction.