The Changing Workforce: Get on Board or Get Run Over

The workforce has changed – on many levels.

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Up until very recently, technology has evolved slowly enough that people could readily learn new tools and skills during their careers. Just think about how quickly we have moved from the days of pen and paper, to manual data entry, to voice recognition on our devices. We are now quickly moving toward artificial intelligence that helps us automate routine tasks and the need for more and more bandwidth to interpret big data and run marketing and hiring online and on social media. All these programs and platforms can mean ongoing training for employees.

Although advances in technology may make it difficult for employees to keep up with required skills in the workplace, technology has made it easier to work outside the office. With the prevalence of personal computers and communication apps like slack or skype, companies can now allow staff to work off-site. The connectivity that the internet, file sharing, and smartphones provide mean that workers can make decisions anywhere, on the fly, and with ease.

Culturally, workplaces have changed drastically for employees and employers alike.

Employees are seeking companies that provide work/life balance with flexible schedules, and employers are capitalizing on the reduction in expenses that comes through remote work. We are also full swing in the gig economy, or contract work, that provides the ultimate flexibility to workers and employers.

Additionally, there have been demographic shifts across gender, ethnicity, and age in the workforce. Though women’s gains in the workforce have now gone flat, from 1960 – 2000 they jumped from 37.7% to 59.9%.

Nonwhite participation in the workforce has climbed from 60% to 65% in the past ten years, and employees 55 and older have increased more than 5% in the same period as well.

So, what do these general changes mean for the construction industry?

While contract work (also called gig work) is nothing new to the construction industry, what is new is the gaping worker shortages and rapidly changing technology that threaten to eat the industry alive. You need employees, but let’s face it, they are not exactly beating the door down, and we all know it is getting worse as people are aging out of the workforce. While individuals that are over 55 occupy around 22% of the general workforce, a whopping half of trade workers are over the age of 45.

However, there is a silver lining here!

While some companies are still tied to pen and paper solutions, it’s clear that construction is undergoing rapid changes in technology across the whole sector. This offers a unique opportunity to tap into the younger generations who are adept at using software and excited about the technological shake-up in the industry. Additionally, in an effort to diversify, companies are abandoning the age-old stereotype of man’s work and seeking out and equipping women with sought-after trade skills.

To give you an idea of how big this market is, in 1978 the Office for Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) set a goal for women to work 6.9% of federal construction contractors’ work hours, and this goal has never been updated. And, currently, only 2.6% of more than 8 million construction workers are women. While women’s participation in the construction trades may never equal men’s, we can indeed begin to improve those numbers by including this underrepresented market in workforce development plans.

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While adopting the latest technology and diversifying your recruiting efforts are no quick remedy to the looming worker shortage, not doing anything means you’ll get more of the same. And those firms that are embracing these changes will be winners in the race to attract qualified workers and cream of the crop projects.

Is your workplace prepared for the changes to come?  

 

Josh Munns
Joshua Munns grew up in the construction industry differently than most, his Mom, Mary Davis, started a window company as a single mom when he was just 4 years old in 1983. Having a mom who was starting a business in the construction industry at only 23 years old made for some very interesting days. Fast forward 24 years to 2007 I took over the family business just in time for the Recession which hit my business extremely hard. I spent the next 11 years rebuilding the business, rebuilding my workforce and completely reshaping the company. In 2018 I sold the business to focus my energy on my passion, building careers in construction. In 2018 I founded Ground Up Construct to help business owners and employees build careers together. The career does not exist with the employer and the employer does not exist without the career. When employees and employers work together the end result is amazing. By building a strong company culture, offering great benefits and career paths for my employees I was able to build the business back stronger than ever. I did it and I want to help other owners take that step to take their business to the next level. It is an amazing feeling and a great privilege to be able to provide people with great careers.

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