Water, Water Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink

Did you ever feel that there is a sea of talent all around us, but we still suffer the effects of the skilled-labor shortage? Some firms seem to have figured this out, while others report finding quality workers is as challenging as it has been in prior years.

It’s not your imagination—a lot has changed in the marketplace. During the past 12-plus years, I’ve facilitated a group to help unemployed individuals in the construction marketplace get back into the workforce, and have witnessed some profound changes in the employment marketplace. Here are some perspectives you may find useful, whether you’re involved in any stage of project delivery or a construction professional that is seeking new employment.

Let’s first examine the evolution of construction industry technology. It has permeated all construction processes, materials, communications, means and methods, and equipment. As a hiring manager may know too well, it’s often not that there aren’t enough applicants, but many of those who respond to your job postings lack the knowledge and skillsets to use the technology that comprises today’s workplace. Add to that, the reality that some of the applicants you interview may not be able to acquire the skills and proficiencies in the newer technologies. Good intentions, but doesn’t help you fill the critical positions needing to be filled.

Next, consider the way jobseekers look for work today. The methods that were used by jobseekers to look for work five years or more ago, more often than not, simply don’t work today. Unskilled in the “art” of finding employment, many jobseekers spend the majority of their time engaged in unproductive jobsearch activities that have less than a 2% success rate. It’s not just tradespersons either. I have worked with several foremen, superintendents, and construction managers that can successfully complete any commercial or industrial project you give them, but are clueless about how to find their next job on their own. Members of my group become aware of the 16 job search “competencies” that an individual must have in order to compete in today’s job market. Lacking in these skills, otherwise competent individuals can find their jobsearch efforts delayed by weeks, months, or even become derailed. Just as “a high tide raises all boats,” the number of qualified people in the craft (including supervision), that are able to present themselves as “ready to work” affects contractors and subs alike.  In today’s market, despite having good trade/project delivery skills, too few construction professionals have their jobsearch skillset developed to the same level.

Finally, consider the tools, technology, and techniques that you employ to locate and hire quality personnel, as well as retain top talent. Are you wasting too much time with resumes that don’t tell you what the candidate has actually accomplished (vs. what they did or was responsible for)? Do you use an applicant tracking system in a way that prevents promising candidates from ever appearing in your inbox? Are you fully using technology in such a way that the “hidden job market” works against you? Do your interviewers have the ability to uncover resistance to change? How strong is your track record for past technology change management implementations? Since most significant technological changes involve some element of conflict, does your culture handle conflict management well? And since we now are dealing with four active generations in the construction workplace, how well does your firm handle generational concerns? Knowing where today’s talent can be found, and understanding how to get them onboard has never been more critical to your success.

Effective recruitment and selection of personnel is the most important decision your firm can make. It demands that your posting, screening, and interview resources are matched to the reality and behavior of the labor market. If you don’t, you could be wasting precious time and resources on candidates that aren’t right for your company, or worse yet, not getting the top talent you need.

Jim Kissane is a retired industry veteran, having served the industry for more than 30 years.