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How technology helps construction companies attract and retain talent

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

In today's competitive environment, construction executives should consider how the creation of a distinctive employer-of-choice brand can help attract and retain a strong workforce. In this second of a three-part series of technology articles, we’ll look at examples of how construction companies have leveraged their use of technology and social media tools to help accomplish this goal—particularly among the 75 million millennials (currently ages 19 to 35)1 that represent a prime recruiting market.

As the newer generation further immerses themselves in the digital world, technology is becoming the key differentiator in not only winning new business, but attracting new employees.

Leveraging technology outreach, creative applications

In a recent research brief on workforce challenges in the construction industry, FMI examined not just the big picture for attracting talent, but also key generational differences that are important to recognize. For example, millennials are widely known to have a strong social need to communicate with peers via digital tools, such as such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other collaboration technology. The ramifications of that generational wiring are two-fold: A strong social media presence is key to recruiting millennials, and the opportunity to creatively leverage technology once on the job is critical to retaining them as engaged and productive workers.

Let’s take a closer look at how some construction companies are leveraging technology to address these challenges:

  • Providing technology demonstrations. A 2,600-employee general contractor based in Alabama recognized that its rising use of virtual design and construction (VDC) technology required skill sets not found in the traditional construction labor pool. For that reason, the firm recently received permission from a nearby university to present a hands-on tutorial on how its VDC technology works, which included allowing students to try on Oculus Rift goggles that let them immerse themselves in a virtual building design. The technology presentation, which also included a construction drone flight demonstration, was an eye-opener for many students who might not have considered a construction career. For that reason, the firm is now expanding its technology outreach to other post-secondary institutions.2
  • Creating social tools for communication, career pathing. In this 1,500-employee home remodeling firm in Pennsylvania, millennials aren’t the exception—they’re the majority. In fact, 84 percent of the workforce is 35 or younger, and the co-CEOs are both in their mid-30s. The company has successfully attracted millennials with a collaborative, open-door management structure, and a heavy focus on technology tools to facilitate internal communications and external marketing and customer relations.3 This includes the use of virtual employee blueprints, which are personalized to show potential personal and career development paths within the organization.4 For those reasons, the remodeler was recently honored by Fortune magazine as one the best workplaces in the country for millennials.    
  • Choosing a more social location. Like many of its peers, this 350-employee construction and real estate development firm in North Carolina had the dilemma of too many openings with too few qualified applicants. That challenge inspired an experiment: Moving its existing regional headquarters location out of an old office park and into a millennial-heavy mixed use development. The new space was designed with a younger vibe—including open collaboration spaces and greater use of social communication tools—and it was backed by a public relations and social media campaign to announce the change.5 This novel approach has helped the firm gain recognition as a best place to work in its local market for the past several years.
  • Going social with video. A 250-employee concrete construction company in Illinois, looking for ways to overcome the perception their business was old and stodgy, developed and launched a Born to Build video branding campaign in 2015. The initial spot, released on YouTube, featured real employees at work, with voiceover narration that highlighted the independence and freedom that construction jobs can offer. Two follow-on videos feature clips of children building things (with voiceover narrative emphasizing how childhood dreams could be found once again in a construction career) and an edgier clip of face-painting construction workers and flashing sports-fan themes adapted to construction (with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” as background music).6 That campaign has driven substantial social media visibility for the company, and led to local recognition as a best place to work for the past two years.  

Adapting to generational differences

In some respects, millennials and prospective employers are on the same page. In fact, a 2015 FMI survey on the millennial workforce showed that competitive pay is viewed as the most important talent management attribute by both candidates and companies. However, the similarities end there. When asked to define the next most important tools for attracting and retaining talent, construction leaders identified enjoyable work environment, training opportunities and challenging job assignments immediately behind pay. In contrast, millennials pointed to work-life balance, personal development and organizational culture as their priorities for selecting one employer over another.7

Technology tools offer an ideal conduit through which to engage younger workers. While older workers might be more inclined to schedule conference calls or traditional meetings for information sharing, millennials often prefer the speed of instant messaging or video conferencing to accomplish the same tasks. Leveraging the latest VDC applications is a signal that the company is embracing technology, which is attractive for millennial employees, who can easily immerse themselves into the project management and collaborative technology it provides. And, when it comes to sharing human resources, benefits, safety or other general company information with millennials, save the paper. Instead, use links, Portable Document Format (PDF) files, webcasts or other secure digital tools to provide the detail in millennials’ preferred medium.  

There’s no question that attracting and retaining younger talent in the current environment is an ongoing challenge. However, construction companies that take time to recognize generational differences—and build plans that leverage technology to address those differences—have the best opportunity to position themselves as attractive options for prospective millennial workers and close the talent gap.

 

  1. Fry, R., “Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as America’s Largest Generation,” (April 25, 2016) Pew Research Center
  2. Brown, R., “How Construction Recruiting Strategies are Changing Amid an Evolving Industry,” (April 18, 2016) Brasfield and Gorrie
  3. Roberts, D., “Power Home Remodeling Named the Best Workplace for Millennials,” (June 23, 2015) Fortune
  4. How Individualized Blueprints Helped One Company Attract Millennials, Strengthen Workforce,” (2015) Philadelphia Magazine
  5. Wilhelm, B., “Engaging the Millennial Generation in Construction,” (Oct. 14, 2015) Shiel Sexton
  6. Coutu, P., “Family-Owned Business Adjusts Hiring Process to Meet Needs of Changing Workforce,” (June 9, 2016) Midwest Transportation Workforce Center
  7. “Talent Development in the Construction Industry: 2015 FMI Industry Survey,” (2015) FMI

 

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