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The construction sector in the United States is a booming industry that is facing a surge in demand following the global pandemic. In the United States, the construction industry contributed to $684.40 billion in the first quarter of 2021. Yet, business leaders in this sector have been facing recurring human resource management challenges.

Here are four of the most common struggles industry-wide, and tips to help business leaders get back on track.

1. The Ever-increasing Need for Qualified Workers

Finding top talent is a common problem in just about every sector. Following the past two years of uncertainty due to the pandemic, the construction sector is booming. Freddie Mac's latest forecasts estimate that there will be an increased demand for four million new homes throughout the United States.

To manage this surge in demand, many construction businesses are looking to hire additional manpower. A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that construction companies will need to hire 430,000 more workers through 2021. This situation makes it challenging for most constructions leaders, as all other competitors are fighting for qualified professionals from the same talent pool.

Improving the recruitment process in the construction industry is vital to stay in business in the long run. Consider developing and maintaining a healthy pipeline of qualified applicants. Human resource departments should focus on building a network of potential candidates.

2. The Widening Skills Gap

The share of young construction workers is rapidly declining. In 2020, the median age of construction workers was 42.9 years old, up from 39 a decade prior. As fewer young workers enter the construction sector, the share of older construction staff has increased.

This has led to skill gaps from both younger and older generations of construction workers. For instance, the metal construction segment of the sector faces a shortage of workers with specialized trades, such as metalworkers. Similarly, many construction organizations have increased technology adoption, which may potentially leave older generations of maintenance engineers behind in terms of skill sets to operate new tech.

Managing skill gaps and investing in ongoing training is key to the construction industry’s sustainable growth. This empowers workers of all ages with the opportunities to learn and improve their skills throughout their careers. Cross mentoring programs can be very handy as they allow staff to pass on valuable information and knowledge.

3. Maintaining Worker Safety

Worker safety in construction is always an important concern. Data from the United States Department of Labor reveals that 20% of all workers’ death happen in the construction sector. Failing to maintain a worker’s safety can lead to expensive medical bills, rising legal fees and potential injury lawsuits.

Nullifying the likelihood of injury on a jobsite is nearly impossible, but construction leaders must imperatively minimize all potential hazards to a worker’s health. All construction businesses should have solid safety protocols in place. Moreover, workers operating potentially hazardous machinery and materials should have received appropriate training.

Implementing a return-to-work program is essential in the construction sector. The program should help injured employees get back to their work as soon as they are fully fit. This would potentially reduce the cost of workers' compensation insurance, providing a significant financial benefit for construction businesses.

4. Meeting Compliance Standards

Ensuring all industry compliance standards are met can be very challenging. The regulations cover almost all aspects of the construction business, from materials used to the recruitment process. From a human resource perspective, construction business owners must ensure HR operations are not violating any regulations from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

OFCCP auditors are always on the lookout for inaccurate records, especially with regard to interview practices. Discriminatory processes when terminating, hiring or even promoting a worker should be avoided at all costs. Moreover, all compensation disparities should be explainable and legit.

All the violations listed above can be avoided by simply keeping accurate and detailed employee information. Worker records and information should always be up to date and readily available. Moreover, performing periodical reviews of internal processes can help pinpoint areas that need improvement.

As the construction industry continues to recover despite the lingering uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Global output in the construction sector is estimated to grow by 5.7% in 2021. This resilience, coupled with the growing demand for housing, suggests that growth should be steady in the construction industry for the years to come. Construction leaders can benefit from this momentum by tackling the different challenges with a sustainable approach.

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