Today’s construction labor shortage makes it difficult for many companies to find qualified workers. In fact, the skilled labor shortage has been a challenge for years — some people believe it’s been a problem for decades. Add a pandemic to the situation, and the lack of skilled workers suddenly got worse.
A 2020 Construction Outlook Survey confirms what construction business owners are thinking. According to the survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, 81% of construction firms struggle to hire salaried and hourly workers. The survey also revealed that 72% of contractors believe labor shortages will be the biggest challenge in the coming years.
Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of the skilled construction labor shortage, let’s look at how today’s construction equipment can not only help your company recruit skilled workers but also retain them once they’re hired.
Increased Heavy Equipment Technology
If you regularly operate excavators or wheel loaders, you know there’s a big difference between the machines of today and the ones from 10 or 20 years ago. Manufacturers invested a tremendous amount of research and development in their equipment to enhance the machines’ capabilities.
In recent years, excavator manufacturers have added 2D and 3D grade control systems to their machines. This not only improves the accuracy of the work but also reduces operator stress. Another example is onboard weighing systems in wheel loaders. An employee operating a wheel loader can confidently know how much material the operator is loading into a truck with the help of the weighing system.
In addition to more technology in construction equipment, today’s heavy equipment cabs resemble more of what you’d expect in your pickup. Standard features include enclosed cabs with heat and air conditioning, heated and cooled suspension seats, Bluetooth connectivity, large monitors with 360-degree views and easy-to-use joysticks. Your employees can leave work after a long day and not feel exhausted or covered in dirt. And some operators who grew up playing video games may excel at using the machine’s joysticks to perform precise work.
Fleet Telematics Data
How does telematics data help you retain employees? With the help of your dealer, you can use telematics data as a training opportunity to help employees become more skilled, valued operators. You may not be on a jobsite with your crews every day, but you can still monitor your machines and see how they’re operated. You may notice that an operator leaves an excavator in a particular work mode when another mode may be more fuel-efficient. Telematics can also be a conversation starter for you with operators who let a machine idle too long. You can discuss why it’s important to turn off the machine when it’s not working, helping them become more skilled, valued operators.
If you operate large construction equipment and can’t find a subcontractor for smaller tasks, consider supplementing your fleet with additional machines from your local dealership. For example, if you’re working on a project that requires a mini excavator, consider renting the machine rather than hiring a subcontractor. Then have one of your employees do the work.
You may decide after a few projects that you enjoy using compact equipment and want to keep a mini excavator in your fleet. It’s a good opportunity to visit with a sales specialist about long-term finance options, including a lease or financing a mini excavator.
If you’ve been hanging onto an older machine, now may be a good time to reevaluate your fleet and consider upgrading to some newer equipment. You can work with your local dealer to find new or used machines that may be more attractive to your operators or when recruiting new operators. Ask for a demo and give your operators the chance to use the machine on your jobsite. Make them feel like they’re part of the purchase decision.
Encourage the Trades
This won’t fix the current construction worker shortage, but it will be beneficial in the long run. Encourage young people to consider a career in construction or a similar field. Invite young people who may have an interest in the construction industry to visit one of your jobsites. Let them spend part of a day learning what it’s like to work in construction and operate the equipment. Who knows, you may be recruiting a future employee or someone who could become a heavy equipment mechanic who works on your machines.
See what one construction company did to encourage high school seniors to learn more about heavy civil construction. Visit the Sargent Construction Academy website.
Want to learn more about how construction equipment telematics can give your company an edge? Check out this recent blog post.