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Tips for finding and keeping skilled workers

In a previous post, we discussed the construction worker shortage that’s affecting the multifamily industry. The demand is there, but the workers have left for other industries because of the Great Recession, new attitudes in education and a different approach to immigration. This raises a tough question for multifamily builders — how do we bring skilled craftsmen back into the industry? After all, if there are only so many out there, what we have on our hands is a battle for talent.

With that in mind, let’s review several ways to attract and keep great people:

  1. It’s not all about money. Yes, offering a competitive wage is important, and it may be the thing that gets a great worker through the door. However, the wage isn’t necessarily what will keep them there. Offering company outings, benefits, proper equipment, paid time-off and wellness programs will go a long way toward retaining quality workers. These things may cost you more now, but they will build a corporate culture that makes people want to stay.
  2. Give them a purpose. We all know how construction can become a drudge. Every day can feel like a struggle against bureaucracy and the forces of nature. That’s why it’s helpful to remind the team what you’re doing. If it’s a hospital or a complex that will serve the community, get them together regularly to refocus on the service they’re all providing. Everyone wants to feel as if what they’re doing matters.
  3. Training, training, training. Nothing kills productivity more than a worker who feels stuck. Offering cross training programs and clearly laying out a path to career advancement gives employees a reason to take pride in what they do. For you as the builder, it will weed out the workers who are with you for the long haul and the ones who are just there to collect a paycheck.
  4. Know your people. Managing a build team is about more than just throwing skilled laborers together. Personality traits and skill levels will dictate how the team works together, so understanding who fits where will increase productivity and keep good people around. To do that, communication is key. Understand which jobs they excel at, which tasks they enjoy and how they would like to move up in the company.
  5. Hire character. Many managers only look at a person’s skills during the hiring process. What’s more important is the person’s character. Will they show up on time? Do they care about the job they do? Do they treat others with respect? Skills can be taught to nearly anyone, but character is a much rarer trait.
  6. Always be hiring. Increase the number of interviews as well as the length of each interview. That may mean asking a potential hire to come back several times, but it’s better to learn about them now than after you’ve hired them and sunk money into training.

In the end, it’s human beings who drive our industry, so finding the rights ones and treating them with respect will make you an employer of choice.

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