By John Goodner, Vice President of Operations
In the past year, I’ve had three trade contractors call and ask me who would be on the team for a project they were bidding on. They wanted the names of the individual team members to help them make the decision if they should work on our job, or someone else’s. Think about that. Trade partners are able to cherry pick their projects based on whatever is most important to them. To put it simply, there is an abundance of construction projects and a shortage of skilled labor.
I was recently interviewed for an article that argues trades partners have increasing power and control over a project’s price and timeline. So, what does that mean for your project? The answer depends on your contractor’s ability to recruit trade partners to your job. If you’ve never asked a potential contractor about their recruitment tactics or processes, you might want to start after reading this. Here’s 3 reasons why trade partner recruitment is more important than you think.
1. Labor Shortage
We already touched on this, but it’s the driving force that makes recruitment critical. When there’s more than enough work to go around, your contractor needs to be able to make your project the project every trade wants to work on. If they can’t, your job won’t get the most skilled trade partners available, or worse, your project won’t get fully staffed at all. Making a job site the place everyone wants to work isn’t something that happens without a lot of effort and consideration. Projects have to be safe, organized, and run efficiently. We always come back to our core value of treating others as we want to be treated. We hate having our time wasted, so we run our jobs as efficiently as possible — sequencing the work so our trade partners are never waiting around for the person ahead of them to finish. We also engage our trade partners early in the planning process so they can help us create the most logical work flow. They’re the people actually completing the work, so their input is critical to the project’s success.
2. Relationships Matter
If you scroll through our social media pages, you’ll see pictures of trade partner appreciation events we hold on our job sites, in our offices, and at off-site events. They’re fun for sure, but these events are about more than socializing. We know that without our trade partners, our projects wouldn’t get built. It’s important to us to show our appreciation for their hard work and also to continue to foster great relationships. But why should our clients care about that? Solid relationships between contractor and trade partner can make or break a project. Schedules change. Weather happens. When things beyond your control impact the start date of your project, what will the trade partners your contractor hired do? We’ve already established they have their pick of jobs right now. So, if working on your project is nothing more than a transaction, chances are they will move on to another project and leave your job understaffed. But if a trade partner has a solid relationship built on trust with your contractor, they’re more likely to stay committed until the project is complete.
3. Design Disasters
Sometimes there’s just not enough trade partners to recruit. In addition to trade partners being inundated with work, there’s not as many skilled people entering the workforce. According to Go Build Alabama, for every four workers that leave the trade industry, only one is replacing them. So, depending on your location and the type of construction, there’s a very real possibility your project could be severely impacted by the labor shortage. For example, there’s a major shortage of block masons in Florida. It’s a dying trade, which is driving design changes on our projects. We recently had to recommend changing from masonry to tilt wall because the projects were so large, there simply wouldn’t be enough masons to complete the work. If your contractor is focused on trade partner recruitment and building relationships, they should naturally have an understanding of the current labor and market conditions. Engage them early in the design process and they can help guide the design to ensure the labor shortage won’t derail your project. If you don’t have a builder who understands the market conditions, your project could turn into a nightmare full of delays and change orders as they react to labor shortages instead of helping you plan for them.
The labor shortage continues to plague our industry. Meanwhile, the construction market isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. As long as those conditions exist, trade partner recruitment remains critical. It’s not enough to hire the best builder for your job, you need to hire the builder who can recruit and hire the best team of trade partners. If they’re not actively working to make your project the job everyone wants to work on, building and maintaining relationships, and staying up to date on labor market conditions — your project could suffer. For more information on how the labor shortage is also impacting the cost of your project, click here.