By Thad Plumley
I spoke years ago with the manager of a book warehouse whose workforce mostly consisted of temporary employees.
I asked why he didn’t have more full-timers and was told the workers didn’t want it. He had permission to promote several of them but got turned down nearly every time.
The main reason he pointed out was: “They wouldn’t be able to not come in when they didn’t feel like it.”
Why do I feel like that story doesn’t surprise you like it did me at the time?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot since I read the results of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) 2023 workforce survey.
A staggering 85% of respondents reported they have open positions to fill, and 88% said they are having trouble filling at least some of them. Why? Largely because 68% said applicants lack the skills needed to work in construction.
The AGC noted that nearly every community around the country had open construction positions that pay better than the average job and would be vital to that area’s local growth. And yet the jobs remain open.
Why is for an article another day. Today we need to tackle how you can find a workforce to service your customers of tomorrow.
Three words: more, better, creative.
Simply put: It is going to take more money. Eight out of ten (81%) of companies answering the survey said they have raised their rates in the last year. You need to do the same.
Sure, I may not know what you pay, but I feel confident in saying there is a good chance you need to raise your rates.
After all, know this: You’re not competing with the local water well contractor down the street anymore. You’re competing with the electrician, the plumber, truck driving company, and other blue-collars careers. Yes, I said careers, not jobs.
It’s also going to take offering a better benefits package. We’re a long way from a couple of weeks of vacation, insurance, and a holiday dinner. Think of benefits as compensation without the wages. They need to truly be of value.
For starters, pay for training and professional development, pay for gym memberships, set up discounts with area businesses, and have a retirement plan. Heck, even free snacks in the breakroom is a nice perk. When employees see all of that grouped with a strong array of insurance programs and competitive pay, your company will start to stand out.
Finally, be creative. Sixty-three respondents of the AGC survey said they revamped their recruiting methods by adding online strategies and digital advertising. That is mission critical.
Don’t give up on visiting high schools and technical education programs, but you must go where the next workforce is—and it’s online.
There is no doubt the workforce shortage is a problem that isn’t going to be solved overnight. But the start must happen today.
Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and the director of publications for the National Ground Water Association. He is currently the secretary for the AM&P Network Associations Council Advisory Board. The AM&P Network is a national association for publishing professionals.. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.