While the construction industry witnessed a decline in job starts towards the end of 2018, they are rising again as we approach the half-way mark of 2019. According to AGC and Chief Economist Ken Simonson, construction employment continues to rise, and in January 2019, the number of employees in construction surpassed the 2008 pre-recession height.
What has changed in the workforce since 2008? Until this year, salaries in the construction industry had not returned to the level they were at in 2008. Now however, we are seeing increases in salaries on the management side, as the analysis George Bernard Shaw plays out before us: “The price of ability does not depend on merit but on supply and demand.”
From an expectation standpoint, let’s briefly examine a few double-edged swords for employers and employees regarding compensation.
1. As an employee’s wages rise, increased responsibility comes to both employee and the employer.
If you purchase a car with a payment of $1200 per month, it is likely because it has the ability to transport you to work faster, more comfortably and with less needed maintenance than a car with a payment of $1000 per month. While it may seem as if the only monetary difference between the two is $2400 per year, but the reality is that the insurance payments and tax burden on the more expensive car is higher, requires special parking, and tends to require more expensive maintenance. At this stage, one may conclude the additional payments on the car make the entire purchase not worthwhile.
2. Salary demands should be addressed during your scheduled performance reviews, not in the midst of a project for which the budget has already been set.
Imagine you rent a room with a friend who agrees to split the rent with you 50/50 for the following two years, and that this would allow you to pay your rent easily with enough money leftover to pay your other expenses. However, at the end of year one, your roommate says he will would like to stay, but would only be able to pay 1/3 of the rent going forward. Your friend may be a great roommate, but he has forced you to make a decision: You can either permit him to stay and take the chance that you will be “in the red” each month, or you can find another roommate who agrees to pay 50%.
If you end up parting ways with your roommate, you will probably not consider them “great” anymore, because he did not keep his commitment. It is quite the same in construction, for leaving in the midst of a project demonstrates lack of commitment, and will likely be noted in future references.
3. “This other company presented me an offer I can’t refuse, and so I am leaving my current job. Nothing is really wrong here, but by leaving I would receive substantially more than I am paid now.”
It would be somewhat analogous to a stranger contacting a married man on his old match.com profile, the man finding the newcomer more attractive than his wife, and therefore consenting to commit adultery with her. While one’s source of employment obviously does not rise to the level of marriage, the principle of adhering to one’s word is the same.
Many intone the phrase, “A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush” when they decline to take a chance with someone who is proposing a seemingly-beneficial career change with them. What they are saying in effect is that it is better to hold onto something one has already than to risk losing it by trying to attain something better.
Twenty-five years of match-making in the construction industry, and I have accumulated more stories and sayings about it you could imagine. One of my favorite sayings is, “If you are leaving your employer for a reason other than to achieve a career goal he can’t offer you, it is a conversation and not a resignation.” Money is not a career goal. Money is the payment you receive for helping your company achieve its goals.