With activity in the multifamily housing market picking up steam across the nation, concern about how the construction sector will meet increasing demand for qualified labor is mounting.
All key construction measures for multifamily housing rose by double-digit percentages in 2015, and demand for rentals, which accounts for the largest part of that construction, is expected to remain robust over the next decade, according to The State of the Nation’s Housing Market 2016 published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. After several years of rapid growth, reports Freddie Mac, the multifamily market is poised to continue to grow in 2017, although at a more moderate pace.
While this trend reflects a strong and steady economy, it also presents an ongoing challenge to the industry: an acute shortage of skilled labor at all levels. A number of factors are contributing to the shortage, including the migration of accomplished workers from the industry during the recession who never returned, a shortage of younger, more technologically savvy workers and the need to replace retiring baby boomers.
Between 2007 and 2011, the construction sector was not attractive to college students and few pursued degrees in majors such as construction management, engineering or technology. This gap, coupled with increasing demand for candidates who can see a project through from conception to completion, has put tremendous pressure on the construction job market, particularly in the multifamily sector.
Following are a few ways to address the industry’s current workforce challenges to find the right employees for the job.
Younger people entering the construction market, like their counterparts in most industry sectors, place a high premium on meaningful work that offers new challenges and the capacity to grow and acquire new skill sets. Employers have to provide a culture of opportunity if they want to retain the people they hire.
Pre-determine whether candidates are willing to travel, since many field management positions may require up to 100 percent travel. Also, consider the candidate’s willingness to relocate if necessary.
Career pathing, the mapping of the incremental progression to new roles within the company, is a powerful tool because it places upward mobility in the employee’s hands, rather than with management. Top talent candidates are not looking to sign on for one position that they will hold for the rest of their careers. Realistic and achievable advancement opportunities must be clear and defined.
The days of making low offers hoping to snag someone for cheap are over. No one is making lateral moves, most moved are for compensation increases over the candidates’ previous jobs. To determine the best way to handle compensation, consider the following questions.
- Is a difference of $5,000 to $10,000 in base salary now more important than the cost of a poor hire?
- Do we have the time or funds to reassess the candidate pipeline and go through another three to six months of hiring?
- Is the offer one that would truly attract the top candidates?
People are a top motivator, since the culture in an organization is often one of the top motivators for candidates to accept or decline an employment offer. Give thought to how you can better communicate your company culture from the perspective of your employees, whether it be through marketing materials, your website or social media.
Security and safety
Most candidates do their research on a company just as thoroughly as recruiters vet them for their suitability. They look for evidence of sustained growth, the number and kinds of projects on the books and what employees and customers have to say about the company. Openness and honesty are imperatives, as is monitoring your social media presence.
Contractors should take a few moments to consider their relationship with recruiters and find a recruiter in their specific market and industry sector. Make sure a recruiter has a true grasp of your niche. That includes anticipating near- and long-term trends, identifying the movers and shakers, and knowing how to motivate and create change. Recruiters network and speak with top talent every day. Contractors will want a good one on their team as they strive to capitalize on today’s hot construction markets.