Builders can address the labor shortage by appealing to new talent
By Paul Hanson
Residential construction has been facing a labor shortage since well before 2020. In fact, the industry has faced a shortage of between 250,000 to 400,000 jobs month over month since the Great Recession, according to the National Association of Home Builders. If you’re feeling a pinch on getting trades to your job site, it’s time to help them be more efficient, productive and profitable at your project.
Provide clarity and consistency
Builders can overcome today’s construction labor challenges by being every contractor’s client of choice—one they can count on to provide a ready job site, a clear scope of work and a steady stream of business in a consistent location. Production homebuilding regulates and stabilizes the flow of labor on a job site, allowing you to manage an accurate construction schedule and move trades seamlessly from one house to the next, rather than putting your workers through the ebbs and flows that often accompany custom building and scatter shot job sites. Building an entire community is also more convenient for trades than a custom home job in a location by itself.
Production building helps your tradespeople get to the point where they can do some of the work on auto-pilot or even off-site. If you’re a custom or semi-custom builder, how much time are your tradespeople spending making special trips to scattered job sites, learning new floorplans and grappling with inconsistency and uncertainty? Your business and your workforce could benefit tremendously by committing to a simplified and replicable business model with systems and processes in place to supplement your vendor training and onboarding efforts.
Keep it simple
Customization might provide a path of least resistance for your sales professionals, but it’s often at the expense of a happy construction crew. Building a limited selection of floor plans, and each with only a handful of structural variations, allows vendors to price that entire portfolio one time and then expect consistency in what they see from job to job. Furthermore, building a limited lineup of floorplans allows tradespeople to avoid a learning curve on every job, which makes the process much more efficient over time.
You don’t have to sacrifice your buyers’ ability to put a personal touch on their homes, though. By paring back excessive customizations and offering well-designed plans with a limited number of in-demand options, you can please both your trades and your customers.
Invest in ongoing training
Labor makes up a third of the cost in a residential home, so it’s important to keep job skills sharp on your job sites. The best trade partners are a significant investment and can be costly to replace, so retaining them for the long haul means they can quickly educate new crews on your products and processes and provide valuable insights to anyone who steps on the job. Investing in them through training opportunities will pay off in the long run and help better meet the market’s high demand for skilled labor.
Train your trade partners on your scopes of work, preferred field practices and warranty policies. If you can make sure every last one of your trade partners have on-the-job training (or virtual training when hands-on is not possible) as part of their toolbox at your job sites, you will begin to see consistency in quality and timeliness.
Search for a new pool of talent
With workers from a wide range of industries recently laid off or furloughed, there is a substantial pool of unemployed workers ready for a new career and a fresh start. Workers in a variety of related fields have the skill set needed to pivot to a career in residential construction management, including commercial superintendents, framing contractors, trim carpenters, purchasing estimators and professional engineers.
Combating the labor challenge requires builders to make their jobs more attractive than their competitors’ jobs. If you can help your tradespeople be more efficient, productive and profitable, they will prioritize your jobs. This will help you find and retain talented tradespeople in any economic condition.
Paul Hanson is the president of Epcon Franchising. Epcon Franchise Builders are given exclusive access to the homebuilding business blueprint that has helped Epcon become a top 50 builder year after year. For more information, visit EpconFranchising.com.