How to Overcome the Construction Labor Shortage

May 15, 2023

Finding skilled construction labor is increasingly difficult due to the labor shortage, resulting in an array of setbacks and complications for the industry as a whole. From increased construction costs to long-term project delays, the challenges affecting construction companies and construction workers have proven to be a serious hindrance to building and development throughout the US. 

In this article, we’ll explore the key causes of the construction labor shortage and introduce actionable solutions to attract and retain skilled construction labor to keep your projects on track for success. 

Top 3 Causes of the Construction Labor Shortage

As with many labor shortages, no single factor has led to the shortage of construction laborers entering the field. A combination of circumstances has pushed the emerging generation of workers away from the construction industry, and being aware of those circumstances can help management teams make effective adjustments to their modern recruitment, onboarding, and employee retention strategies. 

1. Impact of COVID-19

Throughout the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant roadblocks for the construction industry and its workers. 

According to a survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, almost 90% of contracting companies were unable to find enough skilled workers available to recruit for building projects. While vaccines have helped to mitigate some of the health risks brought on by the pandemic, labor disruptions still impact the industry. 

Worker shortages have led to project delays, plan cancellations, supply chain issues, and decreased desire for construction services. 

In response to layoffs or furloughs, scores of construction workers pursued opportunities in other sectors. Some of these opportunities led to permanent employment, which further deterred construction workers from returning to the industry.

2. Aging Workforce

The pandemic is far from the only circumstance that negatively impacted the construction industry. Many construction workers are approaching retirement age and permanently leaving the construction workforce. With fewer new workers entering the field to fill these open positions, there is a gap in the supply of workers compared to the demand for work. 

The average age of construction workers is 42, and due to the fact that many experienced workers take their knowledge and experience with them when they retire, the issue at hand will likely become more impactful in the coming years. 

Furthermore, because of the lack of knowledge in circulation among younger construction workers, the emerging workforce stands to make more mistakes. As a result, productivity will decrease along with the quality of new projects.

3. Lack of Interest in Construction Jobs

The younger generation of workers tends to view construction work as dangerous, low-paying, and physically demanding. This combination of details can make construction seem less appealing than it was for previous generations. 

Generation Z (or Gen Z for short) employees tend to set higher expectations for themselves regarding finding work that fits their needs and future plans. Younger workers value positions that offer liveable wages, perks, flexible schedules, and emphasize safety. Gen Z workers are less willing than past generations to sacrifice their physical and mental well-being for the sake of their careers.

As such, the interest in construction work has waned somewhat in recent years. However, innovative construction technology like robotic layout is helping make construction work safer and more attractive to new workers and seasoned workers alike. 

How to Attract More Workers to Your Construction Company

Though the current construction industry faces significant hiring and management challenges, plenty can be done to attract the new generation of workers. Evolving along with the rest of the workforce can present construction companies with opportunities that’ll not only keep construction workers interested in the field but will create competitive advantages over other industries and businesses.

Increase Wages and Benefits

Because the employment landscape offers an impressive array of career options, it’s essential for construction companies to pay competitive wages and present the newer generation of workers with attractive benefits. The cost of living is constantly rising and employees in any sector (including construction) need their wages to cover bills and other expenses.

Improve Working Conditions

Fatal injuries in the construction industry increased by 7.2% in 2021, and the construction industry also had the highest number of days taken off due to injuries. Nobody goes to work willing to sustain an injury on the job, and because the new generation of workers tends to view construction as a dangerous field, they likely won’t be enthusiastic about applying for a position. 

To combat this, construction companies need to develop ways to improve construction safety and working conditions. Making job sites safer and easier to manage will likely make employees feel safer when performing this type of work.

Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter gives foremen a better tool for completing the most dangerous and physically-demanding part of their job, manual layout. Printing layout directly on the construction site surface removes the need for workers to rely on the manual layout methods that previously required them to bend down and mark the floor thousands of times in a day.


Increase Recruitment Efforts

The younger working generation is often unaware of potential opportunities available in the field. Recruiting and spreading awareness about the benefits of construction work is essential for companies that need to replace workers who are aging out of their careers.

Partnering with schools and community organizations can draw more attention to construction jobs. Companies might choose to offer apprenticeship programs or mentorship opportunities to interested candidates in order to help them gain valuable work experience before stepping into the construction landscape. 

Construction companies need to maintain an active presence on online job boards, enhance the business’s recruitment techniques, and present new workers with a compelling reason to consider a career in construction. Robotic technology and automation serve as very helpful sets of recruitment tools because they attract younger, more technologically savvy workers to the industry.

Utilize Technology to Make Construction Jobs More Appealing

Gen Z workers grew up with advanced technology, and as such, tech has become a natural part of their lives. Younger workers are tech-savvy and if construction companies want to recruit more young people, making construction roles more technologically involved (rather than labor-intensive) is a must. 

Utilizing technology in construction doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds. Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter brings technology directly to the field without requiring businesses to jump through complex hoops in order to implement software and tools capable of revolutionizing the current industry.

How to Retain Your Current Construction Workers

Recruiting and hiring aren’t the beginning and end of managing construction teams. Companies need to retain their current workforce numbers by providing employees with compelling reasons to remain employed with the organization in question. 

For young workers, company loyalty doesn’t come naturally, so to retain a construction company’s employee numbers, offering competitive benefits will keep workers from seeking opportunities elsewhere. After all, when one company offers unbeatable benefits, employees value the positions they hold.

Below are seven ways construction companies can better retain new hires.

1. Improve Work-Life Balance

An exhausted, frustrated construction worker is rarely a safe and efficient member of the team. To prevent burnout and attract Gen Z workers, improving work-life balance in construction careers is a must. Young people do not enjoy the idea of working long, exhausting hours paired with very little time to recover from the workweek, so making changes to this previous norm presents hiring managers with an opportunity.

Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter works to compress construction schedules, which helps ensure consistency and reduce scheduling errors that otherwise result in overtime requirements. This feature makes construction schedules more predictable, which enables a reliable work-life balance for employees.

2. Improve Accessibility

Even when safety becomes a primary focus in construction, strain, and injuries do occur. In the past, construction workers who became injured on the job were unable to work in the field but didn’t have accessibility options to consider during recovery. As such, many were forced to seek alternative employment and abandon construction work altogether.

By providing accessibility options for construction workers who are dealing with injuries or other health conditions, retaining a company’s workforce becomes more manageable. A pathway from fieldwork to office work for injured or ill construction workers enables them to keep working, continue making a decent wage, and remain dedicated to the field of construction.

For example, one career path for injured workers involves becoming BIM detailers. Because they already have the expertise and field knowledge needed to thrive in this position, they can train to handle the software side of work during their recovery.

3. Use Technology That Helps Reduce Injuries

Innovative technology serves to take a great deal of the risks and associated dangers out of the construction industry. While in the past, many labor-intensive processes traditionally placed human workers at greater risk of sustaining injuries, modern construction technology seeks to move away from these practices. 

Modern construction technologies can handle many of the potentially risky processes human workers had to contend with in past generations. Now that machinery has assumed more risks than human workers, construction as an industry is viewed as a safer and more attractive field.

4. Provide Training and Education

Education and training are excellent ways to supplement the implementation of technology in construction. In addition to having machinery handle the more dangerous and labor-intensive elements of a project, training and educating construction workers aims to not only further reduce injury risks but improve efficiency and productivity as well.

Furthermore, providing employees with opportunities to learn and grow with the company motivates them to enhance their skills while remaining with the business. Much of the efforts to reduce employee turnover rates involve keeping construction workers engaged and constantly improving their skills.

5. Offer Opportunities for Career Growth and Advancement

On top of offering construction workers opportunities to learn and train under the guidance of industry experts, providing opportunities for career growth is essential. 

Young people are frequently looking for ways to advance in their careers and expand upon their current skill sets. Construction companies that express interest in the futures of their employees tend to see lower turnover rates. This is because when a company invests in the betterment of its staff, each member of the team develops a stronger sense of loyalty to the business. Helping construction workers advance in their careers compels them to remain employed with companies that make growth and advancement accessible.

6. Foster a Positive Work Culture

The entire US culture is growing and developing in an effort to be more welcoming and inclusive to diverse groups of people. Workers want to feel like they belong at work just as much as they belong in their personal environments. Yet, the common stereotype associated with construction work, and construction workers in general, points toward a gruff and sometimes hostile work culture.

For construction companies to attract workers from the younger generation, fostering a positive work culture is well worth the effort required. Construction management professionals need to increase workplace collaboration efforts, improve communication tactics, and create a transparent environment. 

Providing new employees from diverse backgrounds with the resources and support they need to become valuable and successful members of the workforce can mitigate many of the concerns that otherwise cause aspiring construction workers to hesitate.

7. Provide Competitive Benefits

Health insurance only covers the basics of today’s workplace benefits, so construction companies need to expand upon what they have to offer if they want to keep workers satisfied. 

Some companies offer the following benefits in an effort to stand out among competitors in the industry.

  • Greater family leave policies
  • Maternity/Paternity benefits
  • Child Care Assistance
  • Mental health services
  • College savings programs
  • Retirement planning
  • Education and training opportunities
  • Health club memberships
  • Diversity services

The entire concept of work is changing, and rather than pushing back, construction companies need to lean into change if they want to attract today’s workforce. Understanding the expectations of new construction workers and adapting through the use of technology can streamline the process of bringing construction work into the 21st century.

Explore how Dusty Robotics can modernize your workplace, attract and retain workers, and reduce risk. 

Dusty Robotics Team
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May 15, 2023