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Recruiting and Retaining Top Construction Industry Talent

Workforce Development

, from Construction Executive

There is no question that it is more difficult for construction and related industry firms to attract the number of candidates needed to fill today’s positions and to build managers for the future. For companies in remote or less developed regions, such as much of Northern New England, this challenge can be compounded by the lure of higher earning potential in bigger cities.

States such as Maine also are faced with progressively older populations, fueling a rise in the number of employees aging out of the workforce or nearing retirement. However, younger workers and candidates interested in a new direction are looking for opportunities to shine and build a resume. By using this to their advantage, construction companies can retain top talent and support the next generation.


Looking outward, firms may work harder to simply increase the number of potential hires needed, but conventional advertising and other traditional approaches are not likely to yield real success here. One option is to engage recruiters to increase the supply of candidates. This is really a recruiter’s market. They range from large national firms to very small boutique groups that work with specialties such as engineers, architects and construction managers.

However, one difficulty companies find with recruiters is there can be a natural tension when the construction firm client places high emphasis on cultural fit. Recruitment firms often are designed with commissioned recruiters who are focused on numbers and getting the client to make an offer and close the sale. This can present a challenge for managing a smooth and productive recruitment relationship.

Looking inward (at the character of the company), firms must recognize and stress the value of variables such as culture, interesting work, advancement opportunities and company reputation. Creating a sound environment that appeals to potential candidates will not only produce improved results in staffing efforts, but also will yield the enduring benefit of retaining well-suited, philosophically aligned employees over the long-term.



Cultural fit can be a leading characteristic when working to attract candidates, but it’s an even stronger tool to ensure the longevity of an employee’s service. Candidates of various ages are seeking out the most desirable professional atmosphere. They mention factors such as collaboration, ethics and professionalism, and a supportive environment.

There is increasing interest among individuals to see the value of their effort beyond the time they put in day in and day out to deliver work in the field. Companies that give back to the communities in which they live through voluntarism, charitable support to local non-profits and a “buy local” focus can indicate a fuller sense of purpose. This can create pride in working for a great company.


Companies with successful recruitment and retention also provide interesting and challenging work. This is important to higher-performing employees. One way to create interesting work is to push advanced methodologies. The next generation of builders wants to leave a mark on their projects. Progressive project management styles such as lean construction or integrated project delivery, along with exposure to advanced materials, allow room for meaningful input and continuous learning, and provide incentive for motivated professionals to use leading-edge techniques.


Another way to create interesting work is through portfolio projects, which are often high end or complex, and offer the chance to gain experience on unique and well-regarded work. These jobs are attractive and garner community attention, which can be a point of personal pride for a workforce, and provide ample challenge for building professional experience.


Another critical element for recruitment is a firm’s ability to provide opportunities for career advancement. Well-defined career ladders guide the way for future professional development and help individuals achieve their goals. In turn, they allow firms to hire entry-level employees and grow them into managers with the talent, characteristics and values of importance to the firm. Candidates and employees want to see how an organization will support their advancement. The ability to be promoted and increase compensation over time is important to employees who have growing families and obligations. Supervisors who are trained to provide constructive feedback to their staff will be most effective in supporting individual growth.


Finally, employees are looking for companies with a positive and enduring reputation for quality end results. This is not built overnight, but rather develops through sound execution, attention to customer needs and, above all, ends with beautiful buildings the community can appreciate.

The talent war is real, and the staffing environment in the construction industry is more challenging than ever. Savvy companies that understand the needs of new recruits and highlight the right company strengths will realize the greatest success in their efforts to entice strong candidates who become firm-building employees.

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