Why It Has Just Become Harder For Construction Companies To Hire Tech Talent (And What They Can Do)
The upsurge of technological adoption in the construction industry has been rapid. The construction sector has become less shy of adopting mobility as well as modern tech such as ERP and BIM to improve processes, streamline projects, and make building construction sustainable. These modern tools are bringing together stakeholders belonging to the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) sub-fields and improving planning, estimation, collaboration, and tracking/monitoring. The construction industry is evolving without a doubt. But the rise of technology has a hidden entry barrier. When it comes to the ability of construction companies to attract and hire technology talent, the construction industry pales in comparison to the Silicon Valley giants or tech startups along the east and the west coasts.
Hiring tech talent has always been a rocky road for construction companies but it’s high time the old-world perception of the construction industry changes. In this article, let’s have a look at what makes hiring tech talent harder for construction companies and what exactly they can do about it.
Why is it harder for construction companies to hire tech talent:
Competition with other tech players
When we talk about tech talent, either fresh out of college or seasoned and experienced, the first image that strikes our mind is a millennial working in a modern, glamorous office space, enjoying work flexibility in terms of hours and physical presence. When a construction company sets out to hire tech talent, they are basically competing with a sea of startups and companies from established tech centers. Beating these well-branded companies that have heavily urbanized tech centers and culture for innovation, to find and retain the best tech that would be interested in working for construction tech is not a cakewalk for sure. To add to the challenge, as the pandemic has driven more and more tech companies open themselves up to location-independent remote talent, even the people from the smaller towns who used to look for jobs in construction have become hard to hire.
Lack of flexibility
Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce in the USA and in the next decade, the millennials will form around 75% of the global workforce. For them, it is necessary to have a culture that accommodates flexibility- be it with flexible working hours, telecommuting, or fully-remote working. The construction companies do not fit in the traditional image of being ‘flexible’, something which is gradually becoming non-negotiable for the modern employees.
Lack of gender diversity
The construction sector overall is known for its rugged image that is perceived to be male-dominated if not entirely male-only. The civil/construction engineering branches have more male students than females and the trend seeps across even when it comes to hiring IT talent. This simply slashes the number of potential candidates available for hire. For millennials and Gen Z, workplace diversity is critical, in fact, around 83% said it is something they look out for when choosing their employer. Moreover, having a diverse tech team that employs women along with a background in tech can usher in the much-needed innovation in the construction industry.
Lack of innovation
Although now actively using modern tech, the construction sector has been pretty old-fashioned when it comes to fostering innovation. In fact, many of the elemental innovations or ideas that can redefine the impact of construction come from people with a non-construction background. For example, Elon Musk was the first one to propose the construction of underground roadways and the development of a heavy-duty, highly sophisticated tunnel-boring machine to combat LA traffic, an idea that was barely considered by the construction companies across the countries, Innovation and development programs to drive career growth are key factors that determine the employee experience, especially for a modern workforce. The reluctance of construction companies to innovate, embrace modern tech, and reform its organizational culture overall is one of the major reasons why tech talent shies away from joining a construction company.
What the construction companies can do about it:
For attracting the talent
To begin with, “glamourizing” the construction sector and changing the prevailing ‘dusty’ image of the construction companies is essential in attracting tech talent. This includes infrastructural as well as cultural changes- more modern office spaces, visible technology adoption, workplace diversity, and flexibility are all important. With COVID-19 creating the need for remote working, construction companies are also opening up to the concept of the same, and hence hiring no longer needs to be geo-specific. Construction companies can now affirm that employees can be equally productive when ‘working from home’ provided they are provided with the right tech to connect and collaborate remotely. Embracing automation, reducing the dependency on manual work, and using modern productivity and collaboration tools to streamline remote working can further help in attracting tech talent. Incentivizing performance, offering learning opportunities, and creating lucrative performance-based pay packages at par with non-construction companies can be monumental in attracting tech talent.
Retaining the talent
Talent retention is as important as talent acquisition, especially for construction companies where tech talent is hard to find. Modern employees today want to associate with organizations that foster employee development through innovative programs, opportunities for upskilling, and learning. Construction companies need to bring in a cultural change to retain employees- through mentorship programs, team activities and acknowledging workplace diversity- for women as well as underrepresented communities. Purpose has never been more important -to the growth of the company as well as to the employees. Emphasizing tech-driven initiatives will of course be critical.
Looking in the pool of talented individuals, companies have to fight hard to land the best of the lot. Construction companies in particular need to stay ahead of the game when hiring tech talent and these pointers could help them get the people who could help them become more effective and impactful.