Speed and personalization will be the next competitive advantage in construction recruitment.
While there is no disputing that those with access to the internet have benefited enormously from the technology of e-commerce, social media and streaming services, the same, unfortunately, cannot be said for professional networks and recruitment tools.
In the past two decades— as some 80% of the workforce was on their feet building our infrastructure, producing our goods and managing our sick—desk workers reaped outsized rewards from the creation of an ecosystem of digital tools for desktop users, by desktop users (LinkedIn being the best example), that made it easy for them to engage with their customers and potential employers online.
The dominance of this opportunity flywheel is why non-desk workers, and in particular skilled trades, have been hard to find online and why construction companies have relied upon WOM for recruitment. This in turn has created an overwhelmingly homogeneous (read white, straight, male) skilled workforce and placed a sheetrock ceiling atop minorities and women who predominantly occupy the industry’s unskilled roles. Add to this a recession, a cultural obsession with attending college, an aging workforce and a pandemic and its no wonder construction finds itself in poor shape regarding its skilled labor potential.
And while exciting tailwinds provide reason for optimism, such as younger generations challenging the educational ROI of a 4-year college degree and skilled workers increasingly using their smartphone to start their job search online, never before has technology itself represented such an enormous opportunity to attract workers into the construction trades.
With more forward-thinking construction companies infusing technology of all kinds into their workflows every day, the industry becomes safer, more productive and higher-paying and increasingly positions itself as an attractive career pathway for tens of millions of digitally-native workers eager to join any industry tackling the world’s infrastructure and green energy goals.
But while technology will help uplift construction’s reputation, today’s workers also demand a fast, smooth hiring experience on their schedule and real and perceived labor shortages have granted them new negotiating power to need only participate in hiring processes that meet their expectations.
So while promoting field crews using iPads and Semi Autonomous Masons is a great start, expecting candidates to navigate a labor-intensive and analog recruitment experience is doomed to fail (by way of analogy, imagine discovering Netflix online only to be asked to visit a retail store before enjoying your movie experience). Nor does it make sense to recruit from a diverse talent pool online only to have predictors of applicant performance missed or screened out by human bias.
Construction companies have a tremendous opportunity to democratize access to the trades and grow their talent pipelines but they must walk the talk and make their end-to-end employment experience digitally consistent. For example, a job board application or social media message should lead seamlessly to a self-serve remote interview, digital assessment and transparent hiring decision.
As the talent war for skilled workers wages on, all companies will continue to offer higher incentives, salaries and bonuses but these will prove expensive while being considered nothing more than just desserts by a labor force that considers itself chronically underpaid.
The real competitive advantage will come from providing workers with the speedy and convenient hiring experience that they, and every other worker in the World, has been conditioned to expect from the digital and on-demand economy revolution.