Low unemployment rates may be good news for workers, but they present big challenges for heavy civil construction companies struggling to fill openings in the immediate term, and luring a new generation of skilled labor to the industry in the longer term. Adopting advanced software technology can be an important strategy for attracting younger workers who want—and expect—to use it on the job.
What does a labor shortage in heavy civil construction mean for the industry?
An August 2017 survey by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America revealed that 70 percent of construction firms have struggled to fill hourly craft positions—positions that make up the majority of the construction workforce. These alarming numbers are coming at a time when the demand for construction continues to expand across the country.
The AGC recently reported that more than two-thirds of 358 U.S. metropolitan areas saw growth in construction jobs during the year between July 2016 and July 2017. At the same time, 67 percent of construction firms anticipate that it will be just as difficult—or even harder—to hire hourly craft workers in the coming year. The total number of U.S. construction jobs remains more than 10 percent below the high points pre-recession. Even still, it’s estimated that the U.S. could have issues hiring for more than 1 million trade jobs.
ATTRACTING QUALIFIED WORKERS
For the heavy civil construction industry, simply trying to hire new employees isn’t an effective approach to combating the labor shortage. First, it’s difficult to modernize in a field in which the average age of a skilled worker is more than 50. What’s more, for every five skilled workers who leave the construction industry, only one will enter to replace them.
Heavy civil construction companies need to attract younger, qualified workers to jobs in this industry and, in doing so, they can also take steps to set themselves apart from their competitors.
While the AGC survey found that half of all construction companies said they had raised their base salary, improved in-house training, and increased overtime offers, there is one significant way to make your company attractive to job seekers: adopt modern software solutions and the practices that accompany this type of technology.
Make a commitment to technological progress and modernization. Adopting new software-based technologies makes trade and skilled labor jobs more “modernized” and efficient, therefore helping to attract younger workers who have grown up with software technology and expect to use it in the workplace.
Embrace new technologies. New technologies for heavy civil construction include advanced software programs that replace paper-based processes and spreadsheets for estimating, field operations, scheduling, and maintenance. They can also include electronic forms, telematics, drones, and wearable devices. The potential for enacting technological change on the jobsite is nearly endless. Technology can be applied throughout the construction project lifecycle for integrating project designs, improving bid estimates, scheduling and completing tasks more efficiently, monitoring performance, and more.
Select intuitive construction software. You need to hire skilled construction workers, not IT specialists. Make sure the software you choose works the way they work, with underlying construction logic and easy, intuitive interfaces.
Use a unified software platform. This type of platform allows you to manage all the applications, processes, and data that construction workers rely on daily. It will also eliminate the frustration construction employees feel when they have to spend too much non-productive time trying to get software applications to talk to each other.
Make data available. Data is an increasingly important asset for heavy civil construction companies. Workers in all functions of a project want information about equipment, performance, actual time, and cost versus the project estimate, employee productivity, and more. Employees who can work with technology to capture and use data to be more productive are in demand in construction, and the companies using modern software to generate and use data are in a far better position to attract those workers.
Today’s workers want their jobs to utilize the same technologies they use in their everyday lives. These digital solutions help employees do their jobs better and help motivate a workforce with better insight into productivity.
Don’t fall victim to the labor shortage. Adopting new technologies is a worthwhile investment to attract quality workers to help you meet your hiring goals and your bottom line.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Flynn is the CFO at B2W Software and plays a key role in driving B2W Software’s strategies while overseeing all aspects of finance, accounting, legal, and administrative operations. He has more than 25 years of high-tech financial and operations experience as a senior executive and CFO across firms focused on software, hosting, and technology-enabled services. Dave is a CPA and an active member of CFMA, where he participates on the Heavy Highway subcommittee and Talking Heavy task force. For more information, visit www.b2wsoftware.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, August 2018
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