Organizations from all corners of the country are saying it: Top talent is hard to find. But before an organization creates a plan of attack for this serious business problem, it’s important to understand how the industry got to where it is today. Understanding the past provides a good compass of where companies should direct recruiting and hiring efforts in the future and why technology could be part of the solution.

The shortfall of talent in the construction industry results from a convergence of three primary factors. First, the retirement of the baby boomer generation is affecting all industries, including construction. With their retirement goes the exodus of hardworking industry know-how and expertise. 

Second, it’s a numbers game. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 78 million baby boomers are retiring, and there are 42 million millennials to take their place, leaving this new generation of workers many choices about the work they do.

The good news about millennials is that this generation is interested in doing meaningful work. What could be more meaningful than creating the roads, bridges and buildings that are the infrastructure for this country and the economy? Forward-thinking organizations know it’s time to take a new look at the construction industry and put together a marketing plan to communicate its benefits. 

Finally, since the last economic downturn, young workers have not sought jobs in construction. Construction in many sectors is on its way back to pre-recession levels, but the skilled workers are not. Organizations need to be ready to compete for top talent. To attract and hire the modern job-seeker, companies must be ready to change and innovate, and do so efficiently.

The Society for Human Resource Management reports that companies spend 90 percent to 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary to hire a new employee. Making the right hire the first time is important.

Using technology for human resources—not just for project management and documentation—is a natural next step in that evolution.

Using Technology to Target the Right People
Creating or refreshing a recruitment strategy starts with understanding project needs and company goals. With both short-term and long-term plans in mind, it’s a best practice to identify the critical roles that are needed and create a profile for candidates that will succeed in those positions. Once the profiles are created, a company’s HR team can go to work and target that audience with job ads. Many organizations use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to template job ads and automate job distribution. For these companies, gone are the days of putting an ad in the newspaper.

Clover Electric, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, has automated its job distribution to multiple online locations reaching candidates in multiple states with a few clicks in the company’s ATS software. Jobseekers see the Clover Electric ad and can visit the company’s website and career page to research the company and the open position.

To take the technology revolution one step further, think about the adoption of mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets now outnumber personal computers in the United States. Allowing top talent to apply for a job via mobile has become a critical business practice. Nine in 10 jobseekers search for jobs via a mobile device, and 78 percent of candidates would apply to jobs from their mobile device if the process were simple.

And these statistics don’t just refer to millennial mobile usage. Jobseekers at every age are looking for convenience. For example, 72 percent of people ages 35-44 and 54 percent of people ages 44-54 use mobile devices to search for jobs. Because Clover Electric uses an ATS, jobseekers can apply for the position at any time or share an open position with their own network via Facebook, Twitter, email or LinkedIn.

Companies can use technology to market open positions to potential candidates and create a positive impression of the organization.

Streamlining Recruitment
The benefits of using technology for job placement aren’t exclusive to the jobseeker. What if a company could take that simplified experience and extend it to recruitment managers throughout the interviewing, background-checking and hiring process? Companies can use an ATS to create interview, communication and feedback templates. When all recruiters and hiring managers use the pre-approved templates, the entire process can be automated for consistency, streamlined for efficiency and documented for regulatory needs.

In addition, hiring managers, whether in the office or in the field, can manage interview schedules and receive real-time feedback about candidate progress using an ATS. This speeds up the time to hire, creates efficiencies and centralizes communication.

A System for Recruiting Success
The United States needs a strong construction industry—one people are excited to join and where they can build a career. Mike Rowe has been quoted as saying, “The skills gap is a reflection of what we value. To close the gap, we need to change the way the country feels about work.”

How does an employer’s brand stack up against the competition? Is the company an employer of choice? The key is making sure the recruiting and hiring process is working—and keeping up with a tech-focused generation.


Ann Torry is a vice president at BirdDogHR and an ABC webinar presenter. For more information, email atorry@birddoghr.com.