Guest Blog: Recruiting Trends for Craft Labor and the Effect on HR Departments

The most recent recessive economy, coupled with the focused push by our educational system toward 4-year degrees, has left the nation with significant gaps in our craft labor talent pool. By some accounts, the construction industry downsized its personnel by 30% or more compared to staffing levels from a few years ago.

Trends in craft labor recruiting are revealing shortages in a number of key areas. The top five trade workers in demand for the next five years include laborers, heavy equipment operators, carpenters, and ironworkers. At the same time, the top five trade workers that will be hardest to find include: heavy equipment operators, welders (boilermakers), carpenters, pipefitters, and ironworkers.

Human Resource departments must become the prime engine supporting a company’s growth, through effective talent acquisition. This means most HR departments must change the way they are thinking. Our nation’s current skilled labor demands require that they adjust their traditional methods of recruitment and retention to attract the talent they need.

Rick Clevette, Sr. VP Human Resources for M.A. Mortenson Company stated that: “He who controls craft, wins.” This trend is demonstrated by the projected shortfalls in craft labor based on our most recent historical averages. In 2008, 3.8% of the construction workforce was in the oil and gas industry. In 2012, that percentage climbed to 6.4%. It is projected that in 2017, 10% of the construction workforce will be directly related to the oil and gas industry in the United States.

“He who controls craft wins.”-Rick Clevette

The competitive challenges for companies and HR departments are dramatically more challenging than in the past. The need to keep up with labor laws and regulations, record-keeping challenges, skill-specific training, and safety procedures have become prerequisites to a fully qualified workforce. Our current state finds us with a unique segment of workers mired in what many call “Structural Unemployment.” Structural Unemployment is an extended downturn or sudden shift in the economy when the available jobs do not match the available skill sets. Sound familiar? 

Contractor business models are beginning to trend toward more self-performing roles within this emerging economy. Contractors who self-perform work have determined that they have a greater ability to control margins and cash flow strategies. In doing so, they have found that the key to successfully implementing this model is a fully trained and reliable workforce. This workforce is crucial to their ability to deliver projects on time and with the quality demanded by consumers. Human Resource teams are finding it increasingly difficult to process an increased number of new employees, indoctrinate them into the safety culture, and ensure they are fully trained and on-boarded—all while aggressively recruiting new talent. An ever-changing economy will only put more stress on HR departments, striving to deliver fully qualified employees in a timely and efficient manner.

Human Resource teams need to keep up with new technologies for processing “paperwork” even as more of this function is being accomplished and stored electronically. Company websites, social media and other electronic recruiting methods are being used to not only to recruit management-level roles but skilled trades positions as well. Companies will need to continue to find ways to embrace various tactics recruiters are using to ensure a good fit between the open position and a candidate’s experience. They will be required to create, or at least have access to, a database that logs prospective hires around the country, and brings HR personnel on board with keeping in touch with these prospects. 

There appears to be a growing trend amongst companies to expand the traditional role of Human Resource’s function by assigning or contracting with a dedicated resource to focus on recruitment and retention of trade/craft employees. In order to create the human resources machinery needed to consistently recruit, train, retain and promote the best talent, the HR process must be both systematic and humanistic.

Results from a 2015 FMI Craft Labor Recruiting and Retention Report indicate that some of the most important things companies are doing to promote talent development include:

  • Exceptional training and development and increased focus on employee engagement
  • Improved delivery and quality of training programs
  • Stronger focus on internal and external development, including coaching
  • Robust talent management system that prepares for future needs and growth

The upward cycle of growth in construction trade companies requires that recruiting strategies be constantly improving. Additionally, companies are expected to invest in and update the skills of their workforce, helping them advance in their careers. Any company thinking it can wait until the direct hiring needs arise before starting a long-term recruiting plan will be caught napping and find it difficult to impossible to staff their next large project.

SOURCE: FMI Craft Labor Recruiting & Retention 2015 Survey Report

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An Employee Wellness Program is a Competitive Edge


What if there were a fail-safe way to create a healthier and happier workplace for your employees? What if you could attract and retain skilled talent while slashing your company’s health-care costs? There is a tool that can help you achieve these objectives, and then some: an employee wellness program.

According to the 2015 study from the Society for Human Resource Management, the popularity of company health plans has surged in recent years. In fact, 70% of companies surveyed offer a general wellness program. This stat is a major increase from a measly 58% in 2008.  A related study from Rand finds that half of all companies with 50 or more employees have a wellness plan. In the meantime, small businesses have found creative, cost-effective ways to offer such support while ultimately cutting their health costs.

What is this trend about? Companies are realizing that healthy employees are happy employees. Happiness leads to greater engagement and productivity. So the beauty of it is this: investing in your workforce’s health is a strategic move to ensure long-term growth. No matter the size of your company, a wellness program is a sure-fire way to sharpen your competitive edge!

“What I care about is the well-being of our team… I believe healthy, happy employees will allow us to do our best work.”-Jean Bourgeois

The primary benefit of a wellness plan, arguably, might be its effect on health-care costs. Another Rand study finds that every $1 invested into wellness yields a return of $1.50 in health-care savings for the employer.

How can such a plan reduce health-care costs? It’s simple. It incentivizes your employees to remain healthy and active, reducing their dependence on health care. The more fully employees participate, the more rewards they earn and the healthier they become. Ultimately, this incentivization reduces your employees’ risks of major problems like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

“Health care costs have become such a large part of the expense pie for companies that offering cost-effective wellness programs to employees make a lot of sense…”-Tim Church

Additionally, it can help you attract and retain skilled workers. If you’re interviewing a prospective hire, you can tell them about your program. Extra compensation and benefits for moderate exercise? A true win-win. They’ll be much more inclined to work for a company that offers this kind of support.


So… are you sold? Are you ready for your next big collaborative initiative of building this competitive edge? Keep the following tips in mind as you start the long and rewarding journey of creating an employee wellness program:


Your employees will be the ones participating in this plan, so let their input inform the structure of your program! What perks interest them? They may want compensation or rewards, such as extra vacation days, tickets to local events, or even longer lunch breaks. Send a survey out to your employees asking the important question: what benefits and rewards would encourage a healthier lifestyle?

“Organizations need to look at their employee base and get a sense of what makes most sense. And they need to collaborate. It won’t help if they offer a program that’s not what employees want or need.”-Evren Esen

Create a committee of employees to help with the process of building out your program. Their input will ensure your goals and incentives are informed closely by your workforce’s preferences.


‘Wellness’ is a general term that encompasses a variety of areas. Your program needs to be guided by a specific set of goals to be effective. These objectives will shape your entire program, so it’s important to have a clear vision!

For instance, do you want to reduce workplace stress? Do you want to decrease your workforce’s risk of chronic issues like heart disease and obesity? Do you want to improve your their strength and durability, reducing workplace injuries? Gather your executive team and identify the fundamental goals of your wellness program. Again, send out a survey asking your employees about their personal health goals.

Once you have identified fundamental goals, brainstorm the activities that might foster them. and enact the rewards and benefits your employees have chosen to kick off your initiative.


Reporting is an important component of any new initiative. How will you verify that your employees have actually completed certain activities? Management software such as MediFitWelcoa, or TotalWellness can streamline tracking and reporting.

Some companies also use technologies such as FitBit. FitBit even offers personalized health programs that track, manage, and monitor activity as it relates to your program.


A wellness program is a promising long-term fix for attracting and retaining talent while managing health-care costs. For industries within competitive labor markets, a skilled workforce is vital for success. Consider the competitive edge that this program offers in securing this workforce. Huffington Post even calls ‘corporate wellness’ the new ‘competitive advantage’. 

But first and foremost, it is a straightforward way to prove your commitment to your loyal workers. Investing in your skilled workforce’s health and well-being is the most practical way to build your company for long-term growth. This growth is the true prize.

“Essentially, it comes down to this: take care of your talent, and your talent will take care of you.”-Alan Kohll

Point and case. If you’re looking to do the following…

  • Attract and invest in the right talent
  • Increase productivity and efficiency at work
  • Develop a more positive company culture
  • Cut costs on insurance and employee health-care packages

Then what are you waiting for? Start building the program that will give YOU the competitive advantage for the long haul.

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