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How to Attract and Retain a Traveling Construction Team During a Labor Shortage

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As these slim teams are needed for extended, out-of-town trips to worksites in other areas, it’s critical that their accommodations ensure their comfort and rest between shifts. Doing so ultimately keeps the entire team employed, safe, and productive.

The U.S. construction industry has been battling a variety of challenges for some time, including supply chain disruptions, rising material costs, high interest rates and a severe labor shortage.

Regarding the latter, the severe labor shortage, there are a few contributing factors: COVID-19, the great resignation, and an aging workforce – one-fifth of construction workers are older than 55. This means leadership relies heavily on current team members, many of whom are likely working long hours to get projects done.

As these slim teams are needed for extended, out-of-town trips to worksites in other areas, it’s critical that their accommodations ensure their comfort and rest between shifts. Doing so ultimately keeps the entire team employed, safe, and productive on the job.

Coupled with rising, inflation-impacted hotel, airfare, and rental car rates adds another layer of complexity to the construction travel manager’s role. Plus, many traveling workers have become accustomed to having their own accommodations rather than sharing a room, a practice that took off during the pandemic and is now an expectation companies may need to provide, despite higher costs.

Let’s dive into some labor-related challenges, planning strategies, and technology that construction industry leadership and travel managers can leverage to best support their teams. This includes exploring accommodations they need without breaking their budgets.

Pandemic Prompted More Spend On Homes, But The Construction Industry Can’t Keep Up

Construction employment in the United States has experienced nominal growth, with the number of workers inching up an average 2.1% from 2017 to 2022. However, this number falls way short of the spending on new construction, which is expected to top $2 trillion by 2025, up from $1.6 trillion in 2021.

After initial pandemic lockdowns, people spent more time at home, resulting in a demand for construction projects to upgrade their homes or move to different ones. Coupled with a shortage of inventory, it’s easy to see why there’s a need for more construction workers. The industry was understaffed due to COVID-related layoffs and illnesses, not to mention quitting to find employment in other less-volatile industries.

So, despite slow-but-steady inclines of construction employees, the industry’s employment rates have not kept up with the growth, specifically when it comes to hiring skilled labor. The labor shortage is expected to continue throughout this year – and likely beyond.

This means current construction employees could be working longer-than-normal, labor-intensive hours and possibly putting in shifts seven days a week. When this is the case, they are exhausted and need safe, comfortable accommodations to recharge. Failure to rest often leads to burnout and attrition.

America needs between 650,000 and 1 million more construction workers than it currently has. But since the 2021 median pay for construction workers is $37,520 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s easy to see why attracting and keeping talent is tough.

Aside from increasing pay and incentives, it’s critical for construction industry leadership and travel managers to do what they can to keep the staff they have. Technology can help. It can keep projects on budget, find the closest places to source materials, and can help pinpoint the best and most affordable places for employees to rest.

Tech Solutions Make The Construction World Go ‘Round

With more projects on the horizon than employees to build them, construction industry leaders have turned to tech to support their teams and drive job-site productivity and cost-savings. Such tools could include those that simplify scheduling, bidding and progress, or ones that compare and find the best pricing for lumber, bricks or steel, for instance.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in August 2021 includes $100 million over five years to accelerate digital construction technologies’ deployment, like 3D modeling software and digital project management platforms.

But there are other technology platforms to consider. For example, expense management technologies that formerly focused on decreasing the cost of processing expenses have expanded into managing employee spending habits and integrating corporate policies into decisions related to business travel costs.

These are particularly helpful for construction and travel managers in finding the most affordable hotel prices and rental car rates, especially since prices related to travel and dining out have increased because of inflation.

These digital tools can handle traditionally time-intensive tasks like finding nearby hotels with pre-negotiated rates, locating construction workers on the road in case of emergencies, and auditing and reconciling travel expenses.

When you consider the number of hours it takes to manually organize and manage business trip details, from making reservations to reconciling receipts, it’s easy to see why construction companies are investing in solutions to save time, keep increasing business travel costs at bay, and help improve worker satisfaction.

Step Up Your Game To Attract More Talent

McKinsey suggests companies reimagine talent by doing things like accelerating onboarding, boosting retention by delivering benefits that workers want beyond more money, and getting ahead of the game by doing a better job at developing pipelines for future employees.

Construction leaders should consider combing through every avenue that could make construction work more satisfactory to employees, including tech.

Robotics, data management, automation, and augmented reality can help the construction industry increase productivity and efficiency. There are also solutions to make lodging, dining, and transportation to and from sites and accommodations much better.

Since it’s tough to find enough construction workers to complete needed projects, from home-building to office upgrades to improving infrastructure, out-of-town work has become commonplace. Advancements in integrated platform technology enables construction leadership to easily manage communications surrounding the building process.

Respond to Workers’ Out-Of-Town Needs

Although the construction sector’s employment needs are unique in many ways, there’s a similar, underlying theme with other industries: employees want change. They expect to be treated well and want travel managers to understand their need for single, comfortable accommodations, while employers look for affordable solutions amid rising costs. The same goes for transportation and dining options, particularly when working at out-of-town sites.

Listen to employees’ needs. Listen to suppliers’ needs. But the bottom line is, technology cannot solve the labor shortage. But it can improve the construction worker and employer experience, especially when it comes to simplifying and streamlining working far away from home.