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The struggle to find construction labor is an ongoing—and growing—issue. As of July 2023, 4.4% of construction positions are currently unfilled, a higher percentage than the year prior. From shifts in worker sentiment to job hopping to losing some workforce to retirement, it’s not a trend that construction employers can simply hope blows over.

Currently, it’s a worker’s market. Already challenging work conditions plus a desire for more work-life balance and stronger benefits following the pandemic has changed construction workers’ expectations. Companies that respond well and make employees feel heard are more likely to attract and retain talent, while those that don’t will continue to face high turnover.

The good news: small gestures and tweaks in your workplace benefits and perks package can go a long way toward making construction workers feel valued. By investing in employee happiness and easing some stressors during their workday, you’ll improve employee engagement and your employer brand. 

Something to Eat

Retaining current talent is easier and more cost effective than recruiting new people, yet many employers take their current workforce for granted. Incorporating perks designed to keep them feeling happy, productive and appreciated is well worth the effort.

Bringing free food to jobsites is something that 65% of workers say would motivate them to work harder, according to an ezCater survey of construction workers. Free, catered food saves workers time and money, while also signaling that the employer is encouraging them to take breaks to refuel and recharge. 

In the survey, 37% of workers say it's too expensive to buy lunch on the jobsite, while 29% grapple with not having enough food options nearby. Plus, more than a third of workers say their lunch breaks aren’t long enough to get food offsite. When employers provide food at the jobsite, paychecks go a little further and workers get to enjoy more of their break time without having to leave and come back. 

The survey also found that 87% of workers say they feel hungry during the workday, with 51% concerned about making mistakes due to hunger. What's more, 44% report feeling sleepy or having low energy, 39% feel less focused and 35% feel unmotivated. From a productivity perspective, proper nutrition is vital for helping crews stay energized and focused during work.

Free food does indeed help retain employees. Three out of four construction workers say they’d stay with a company that provides free meals, while 61% said they’d be more willing to take a job with a company that offers the benefit.

Somewhere to Sit

The research is clear that taking periodic breaks is important for productivity and staying sharp on the job. But according to the survey, the majority of workers only have 11 to 30 minutes for lunch—and 7% don’t take a break at all. Without a break room or employee lounge to retreat to, it’s up to employers to step in and provide a safe break space and encourage workers to step away when they need to recharge. 

Project managers can break that cycle by implementing more substantial breaks throughout the day and giving workers a clean, safe, work-free place to take them. Designating a wellness space gives employees the necessary tools to make the most of their downtime. 

An onsite wellness area doesn't have to be complicated. It might be a tented space with a few chairs and small tables where workers can hydrate and rest.

Lastly, breaks must be enforced from the top down so workers know that they won’t be perceived as lazy or slacking if they need to take a few minutes to recuperate.  

give an Action Plan

Honing employee growth and development through upskilling is an effective way to improve retention—and a lot more cost-effective than outsourcing to fill talent gaps. Plus, when employees are presented with a clear path toward career advancement, they are more likely to stick around for the long haul.

This is crucial because the construction industry has an aging workforce and struggles to attract younger talent. As of 2021, the median age of construction occupations was 42 years old, while only about 10% of workers were 16-24 years old or older. As these workers retire, employers must fill those gaps with the next generation of young tradesmen and hope to hold onto them for the duration of their career.

Recruiters and hiring managers who offer an employee value proposition that includes upskilling and career development will be better equipped to attract talent.

be proactive 

Between the shift in workplace expectations following the pandemic and the ongoing talent shortage and aging workforce, it’s the perfect time for construction employers to consider implementing and enhancing onsite perks.

Investing in new benefits that demonstrate a culture of caring should provide a return of happy, motivated employees and increased recruitment and retention success.


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