Quality, Quantity and Cost of People    

The 2020 AGC/Sage Construction outlook survey just came out.  I attended the webinar in which they confirmed over 900 companies participated in the survey.  81% of the respondents said they are having staffing challenges.  The top 3 employer concerns for 2020 are worker quality, worker shortages and rising direct labor costs.  You can download the report here.


What determines the quality of personnel?  There is an abundance of articles on the topic and many different words from the authors to define the quality of personnel.  The factors that seem to be prevalent in construction are not just the individuals’ knowledge of their trade for those working with the tools, and the experience of a construction manager with leading the building process, but more importantly their self-control.  Self-controlled people can work with different personalities.  They can do their job with little supervision.  They are punctual and do what they say they will do when they say they will do it.  They are reliable and committed and have the ability to consistently give their best.  These individuals are natural born leaders as they set the tone for others to follow.


With unemployment in the construction industry at an all-time low and project starts at an all-time high the number of bodies,  who meet quality standards or not, is a challenge. For an employer the challenge is not just in filling additional new openings, but also the ability to fill positions that open due to death, relocation, retirement or other life happens events.  Replacing a long term, quality employee with an exact match is impossible as no matter how close the match is on skillset the behaviors are the unknown, from both sides; employer and employee. Often replacing one person leads to the need to hire two. This is often due to new employees who can’t get up to speed fast enough or all aspects of what a former employee with longevity could. Have you ever heard anyone say “He’s like a machine” There is truth in that statement especially with tradespeople, as they can perfect their craft especially if working for a contractor that repeatedly does, like projects.  The machine part also relates to their ability to do their job with little supervision and a lot of precision.


Base wages have increased with supply and demand.  Benefit costs are at an all time high.  Those costs are just baseline get them in the door.  Investments in training, technology, incentives and growth can add up fast for an employer. You can add many amenities and add events to help maintain those employees, yet it is never one size fits all.  The book Love ‘em or Loose’em by authors Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans surveyed more than 17,000 employees with various organizations.  They discovered the top 10 reasons employees stay within an organization.  After over a quarter of a century building teams for the construction industry, I believe this list holds true.  Yes, we have those money chasers, but the people of quality don’t make money the determining factor.

  1. Exciting work and challenge
  2. Career growth, learning and development
  3. Working with great people
  4. Fair pay
  5. Supportive management/good boss
  6. Being recognized, valued and respected
  7. Benefits
  8. Meaningful work and making a difference
  9. Pride in the organization, its mission and its products
  10. Great work environment and culture

What can you do to attract your company’s definition of top talent?

First be prepared to not only discuss, but demonstrate how your organization defines the top 10 reasons employees stay at organizations as the top people who look for stability are usually looking to avoid a repeat of what is causing them to leave their current employer.

1. Exciting Work and Challenge:

What do you do for projects/work and what is the challenge? Do you challenge with more responsibility, more skill, etc.?

2. Career growth, learning and development:

Discuss the onboarding process who, what, where of the program and how long that might be.  Do they spend three days at corporate and then go to a jobsite or how does it work?  After onboarding where do they go to learn something or better their knowledge or skill? How does the company support that?

3. Working with great people:

I often say when a team of people with similar values come together, great things happen. Take time to define your company culture and know how to present that culture to people interviewing.  Allow them to meet and interact with team members on the interview process.

Next on the list is fair pay.  It does not say the highest pay or the lowest pay.  Taking time to understand what is the right pay range for your firm and define how someone achieves a compensation increase within your firm is key to building and keeping the best employees.

Quality, Quantity and Cost of Human Capital.  Is your company having the same challenges?  We are here to help.

Suzanne Breistol and the FLCC Career Matchmaking Team


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