The Battle for Finding and Keeping Workers
Article Date: June 30, 2021
The New Unicorn - Qualified Workers in the Building/Construction Category
As the pandemic appears to be in the rear-view mirror and the economy gains momentum, the building and construction industry is saddled with a workforce problem. The issue permeates supply chains, creating product shortages and preventing building product brands from meeting increasing expectations from their customers.
Demand for building products has been incredibly strong, particularly in the residential market that has witnessed sky-rocketing investment in housing and home improvement. Those same forces are impacting the commercial construction market. While the shortage of skilled labor has been a problem for some time, today’s issue is unique and with a common denominator: Many companies – both in the building and construction industry and beyond - are looking for the same worker, the $12-$20/hour general laborer. We all know the role - factory floor worker, forklift operator, warehouse fulfillment, or driver. Collectively, they make up a critical component of the workforce. Building and construction brands are now in an ultra-competitive environment to find and hire this worker. Other industries such as warehousing/fulfillment, food processing, and other manufacturing-based industries are all bidding on these same candidates.
While many workers have returned to the workforce, there is still a significant pool of potential employees sitting on the sideline. The reasons are many – continued fears of the virus; having children home, first from school, now through the summer; and augmented unemployment stimulus benefits without the requirement to show proof of searching for a job.
The result is a tsunami of companies investing marketing dollars to identify, recruit, and retain these workers. At BLD, we are helping our clients navigate through these waters and are counseling brands to rethink hiring activity norms to better compete for talent.
Recruitment Begins with a Hyper-Targeted Approach
Simply running a job post on Indeed or other recruitment sites is not enough anymore, especially if you are looking to fill several positions and have ongoing needs. In today’s climate, it takes a different approach, one where HR work closely with marketing to treat it as a highly targeted marketing campaign.
- Understand the Target Candidate Deeply
Like many marketing challenges, finding the candidates you need begins with identifying exactly who you seek. This is where marketing and HR need to work closely to understand not only the job description, but the types of values, motivation, and cultural fit that best matches your organization. The outcome should be the development of a persona articulating the candidate’s desired behavior, desired attitude, their needs, and identifying potential barriers that would prevent them from wanting to work for your organization.
A strong target profile and persona also avoids attracting the 007 candidate. As a recent social media meme described it, it’s the candidate with zero motivation, zero talent, and 7 smoke breaks. Building product employers likely seek to weed out the 007s.
- Deploy Hyper-Targeted Digital Approach
Digital job sites like Indeed are usually the primary component of a recruitment campaign, but the intense competition for these workers calls for a stepped-up digital approach using hyper-targeted, profile-based digital advertising to better target, reach and drive recruits to your job website postings. At BLD, we utilize a combination of algorithm-based programmatic digital display advertising, video, paid social and even streaming television and radio to reach this candidate in a highly measurable, cost-effective manner.
- Augment with Traditional Media & Grass Roots Efforts
At times, more traditional media like radio or outdoor is a great way to build more general awareness, particularly if a volume of candidates is needed for a specific location, you are hosting a hiring event, or your brand awareness is low in a market. Additionally, grass roots efforts such as ads in local community bulletins and at community locations like grocery stores, elevate awareness within a well-defined zip code clustering a high volume of potential candidates.
- Provide Ground Cover with PR and Media Relations
Getting your building products brand into the overall employment conversation lends your brand credibility and a voice to position your specific hiring needs and promote your individual organizational culture. Soliciting media to attend and cover hiring events is an effective tool for increasing event attendance.
- Use Social as an Evergreen Approach
Leveraging your own social media platforms is a controllable way to get the word out on new positions and to encourage current staff to share and network the posts. This should be an ongoing activity the HR team performs with help from marketing to create templates and assist in developing interesting content.
- Promote the Building/Construction Industry as an Asset
One advantage building product brands have over other employers is the industry opportunity. Candidates can carve a path and grow in an incredibly large, profitable – and relatively stable - industry offering many paths to growth. The job opportunities also provide workers with knowledge that can be applied to future career opportunities.
- Measure Performance
The advantage of a strong digital approach is the ability to measure it along the way. An effective recruitment campaign measures not just the indicators – open rates, CTRs, number of event attendees, web traffic – but also the results – number of applications, interviews, hires, retention rates. Above all, be nimble with the approach. Test, analyze, learn, adjust, and optimize.
Hiring and Retention Incentives
Recruitment advertising should feature hourly wage rates and any other benefits. It’s now expected, and many competitors are already doing this – both inside and outside of the building industry. In fact, $15 an hour is now table stakes. $17+ is the new minimum for the nonunion manufacturing worker in many markets.
Incentives should go beyond just an hourly wage. Hiring companies are getting more creative. The market is seeing signing bonuses, perfect attendance bonuses after a month, and quicker performance bonuses as a recruitment hook. Companies are even offering incentives like free lunches to get candidates to attend an onsite job fair.
Building product companies need to be careful not to alienate the current workforce. BLD has spoken to companies that have already adjusted hourly rates for current employees, knowing the competitive hiring needs require a higher hourly rate than what current employees are making. Beyond an across-the-board hourly rate increase, hiring companies need to take care of their very best talent – not only to retain them, but to make them ambassadors for new employees.
Where it’s Headed
Values have changed with younger generations regarding employment, and the pandemic has shifted the job mindset of the overall population. Many employees now want more time with family versus time at work and a larger voice in making decisions for themselves as it relates to work. They also seek to make more money more quickly and won’t settle for low hourly wages.
At the same time, there is good news for employers. State economies are reopening, and many states are removing the $300 weekly unemployment incentive and reinstating requirements that unemployed workers must prove they are actively seeking employment. Additionally, filings for jobless benefits and the overall unemployment rate continue to decline.
To get the workers you need now, invest in a smart, targeted recruitment campaign, and demonstrate an appreciation for the worker – both the candidate and the current employee. Create a program that lets them know they matter as an individual.
BLD Marketing is a results-based, digitally-focused, full-service strategic marketing firm exclusively serving the commercial and residential building materials category.