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HR Challenges in the Construction Industry

The human resources office plays an essential role in every business. However, HR professionals face unique challenges in the construction industry. While most HR staffers serve employees in offices, in the construction world, they are also responsible for men and women on roofs, bridges, scaffolding, and other worksites. Every successful construction project is dependent on the HR department, so it is critical that the HR staff is aware of the potential problems and special requirements—and knows how to manage them.

The Hiring Process

In the construction industry, before HR professionals hire workers, they must participate in forecasting. Since most companies operate on a project-by-project basis, the HR manager will need to collaborate with project managers, construction managers, contractors, and other personnel to determine the scope of each project or series of projects. They must work together to determine what the labor needs are and what new hiring they should conduct.

During the hiring process, HR staff will need to recruit and hire workers with specific skills for each job. In general, the construction industry faces a worker shortage. In fact, according to a 2019 report from the Associated General Contractors of America, more than 80 percent of construction companies struggle to find enough skilled workers. Finding the right people for each role can be challenging. They may require skilled laborers, in addition to administrative staff, engineers, and project managers. HR managers will need to offer competitive pay and good working conditions. Keep in mind that many companies do not hire until a project is under contract, so this means the HR staff must work quickly.

Diverse Workforce

Based on the needs of different projects. HR managers may hire both employees and independent contractors, so it is critical that they clearly define those positions and categorize workers accurately. For some large projects (such as those with government contracts), HR will be required to hire workers who belong to a union or at least pay union wages to everyone on the project. Also, some companies will need to hire subcontractors for specific projects. HR staff will need to remain nimble in managing these areas of flux.

Construction workers are often at different points in their careers, from seasoned workers with decades of experience to younger workers who may require more training. HR will need to use innovative techniques for recruiting and hiring workers from various generations. Apprenticeships can be a promising avenue for attracting younger workers to the field.

In addition, construction workers may come from different backgrounds and countries. HR must accommodate any cultural barriers and ensure that all documents are available in languages that the workers can understand. HR must also stay up to date on all immigrant laws and visa requirements, which can be confusing and are always changing.  

Training, Safety, and Compliance

Once employees are hired, the HR staff must ensure that they have been licensed and trained for their specific duties and know how to operate the specialized equipment. Unfortunately, injuries and accidents are constant risks on a job site, so HR must make sure that comprehensive safety protocols are in place and that workers understand the safety requirements. Training should not be a one-time event but rather an ongoing process as new employees are onboarded, new equipment is purchased, job conditions change, and safety regulations are updated. Many construction employees are eager to improve their skills, broaden their knowledge, and explore paths to advancement. A sound training process will offer these development opportunities and lower the company’s risk.

It is essential for HR to help keep workers safe, not only for their well-being but also for the company’s bottom line. Worksite injuries and accidents can lead to lost productivity, higher workers’ compensation insurance premiums, medical expenses, the need to hire substitute workers, and even potential lawsuits.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other government entities often revise safety regulations. It is crucial that HR stays current on those regulations, updates safety manuals as needed, and provides additional training as applicable. HR must also follow all guidelines from the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Affordable Care Act, and other legislation. Violations can result in stiff fines and can hurt a company’s reputation.

Retention and Benefits

Qualified construction workers are vital for any company, so losing any workers during a project can cause delays. The HR staff is responsible for offering incentives to employees so they remain productive and feel valued in their roles.

Good communication is a key component of employee morale and retention. Construction workers put in long, often strenuous hours on the job, so it is important they understand expectations and that they feel comfortable voicing their opinions. HR is responsible for giving workers a chance to make suggestions or lodge complaints (anonymously as needed), so the worksite is safe for everyone. In these instances, they must also make an effort to provide translators for those who do not speak English.

In addition, HR is responsible for recommending and managing investment accounts, wellness programs, insurance plans, and other benefits for their eligible employees. Since construction workers rely on being in good health to do their jobs, they need comprehensive health coverage, as well as suitable paid time off. HR must take good care of their workers, so they are eager to stay on the job, complete the project at hand, and be available for future projects.

Fierce Competition

In the construction industry, a company’s greatest asset is its people. Skilled workers will undoubtedly remain in high demand, which means they can be selective with job offers. HR departments must maintain flexibility in their recruiting and hiring processes so they can attract top talent. They can also reap huge rewards by setting up mentor programs. With such a system, veteran workers can guide younger workers, answer their questions, and help them earn valuable experience. These efforts strengthen the company culture and ensure that employees feel like they are part of the team and are eager to stay on board.

Cotney Consulting Group wants to help your business enhance your leadership skills and develop team-building strategies that will strengthen your team’s trust, improve company morale, and overall lead to increased productivity.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.