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Winning the War on Talent in Engineering and Construction

There’s no doubt that it’s a job seeker’s market right now thanks to a massive talent shortage. From the “great resignation” to the pandemic, candidates are being more selective. Hiring managers are being forced to offer more competitive salaries and find other ways to stand out.

This is especially true in industries like engineering and construction where there was already a looming skills gap. One Deloitte survey of engineering and construction executives found that 52% are facing a severe labor and talent shortage on the job site. This causes projects to get delayed or cancelled.

Add to that the fact that construction and engineering projects are expected to boom, in part, because of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and you can see why firms are struggling to staff up. You even may have had roles like project managers, project engineers, designer engineers, safety personnel, project controls, construction managers and field inspectors go unfilled for longer stretches of time.

Are you currently facing or anticipating this hiring challenge? Here are some strategies to start trying today to help you attract and retain engineering and construction talent.

Play the long game

There aren’t a lot of engineering or construction firms that are household names. Doing the work to make your company well known in your industry can attract more applicants. Start reaching out to candidates early on, whether it’s meeting them at career fairs, on their campuses, or starting mentor and apprenticeship programs.

Put up the money

Not only is salary the number one factor most candidates consider, in this period of inflation where prices have increased by 7.9% in the last year, job seekers will likely be even more focused on salary. Of course, you don’t have a limitless budget. However, you must be at least on par with what your competitors are offering. You could help seal the deal with a sign-on bonus and other financial benefits that your company offers, like 401(k) match, employee discounts or stipends. When you weigh these extra costs against the expense of longer hiring times, onboarding and productivity loss, it makes sense to increase your salary offers.

Get creative

If you truly can’t stretch salaries any further, there are other ways to entice applicants that translate into real dollars. For starters, a more robust benefits package that includes mental health and wellness is especially important in a post-pandemic world. Or, consider commuting allowances or health benefits that don’t have a waiting period. The key is to talk up these extra benefits so candidates understand their value.

Freshen up your employer brand

With countless employment options out there, and the fact that many job seekers are passive ones, honing in on why your organization is a “great place to work” can go a long way. In fact, according to Monster’s Future of Work 2022 report, 28% of candidates said they seek a caring work environment when looking for a job.

But that’s not something that can happen artificially. Get real employees to act as ambassadors to share their experiences and give candidates an inside look at what the day-to-day culture is like. Amplify your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and other values that are important to your company and today’s workforce, such as having climate-friendly practices.

Get on board with work life balance

Flexible work schedules, the ability to work from home at least some of the time, a good amount of PTO – these types of policies are super important to today’s candidates. Rigid shift work is no longer going to be desirable to candidates who can find more flexible options that allow them to enjoy their home life and manage family responsibilities.

Lay out the career path

Top talent doesn’t just want a paycheck – they want a profession that is meaningful to them. In your job postings and during the interview process, let candidates know about development programs and upskilling opportunities that are available to help them succeed and grow. Highlight what a typical career path might look like over a few years so they can understand the long-term investment you are making in them. Spotlight a few employee success stories of people who have thrived in the company and taken on new challenging roles.

Be more flexible with skill requirements

Demanding a laundry list of skills, a set number of years of experience, or a specific degree level is short-sighted. In fact, it is likely leaving out people who have a ton of potential and could be a great fit for your roles.

Try expanding your reach and filling your pipeline by being willing to train highly motivated hires on the job. Also, recognize and accept the transferable skills of people who’ve worked in related industries. A great question to ask yourself when considering alternative candidates: “Will it cost more money not to have this person in place, or to train someone that doesn’t have all the skills we are looking for?” Take into consideration delayed timelines or project starts, the hours of lost work, potential overtime for others on the team, burnout of colleagues, and eventually more turnover.

Provide a good candidate experience

Having poor communication or not responding within a couple of days gives other hiring managers the opportunity to swoop in and grab their attention. Moving the candidate through the process quickly, keeping them in the loop and being ready to make a strong offer is key to a good candidate and employee experience.

While the talent wars are nothing new for high-skilled industries, filling engineering and construction roles is going to be extra challenging as talent gets scarcer and construction projects increase. Working on your hiring strategy now can help ensure that you’ll be able to build the right team.

By Mike Lazarz

Photo courtesy of Canva