Document Detail

Title: RR135-11 - Attracting and Maintaining A Skilled Workforce
Publication Date: 5/1/1999
Product Type: Research Report
Status: Reference
Pages: 228
Liska, Piper, Clemson Univ.
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In 1998, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its Workforce 2000 study that predicted shortages of skilled workers in the next decade. The report indicated no increase in the number of younger individuals to fill entry-level positions. To make matters worse, high school students are not attracted to careers as craftworkers in the construction industry. The inadequate pool of younger people presents a special challenge to the industry because construction is highly dependent on an influx of new entrants due to the high attrition among new workers, a shifting of experienced workers to other industries in their prime years, and early retirement of veteran craftworkers.

In view of the continuing lack of qualified craftworkers and the negative financial impact owners and contractors experience as a result of high turnover rates, the Construction Industry Institute formed the Attract and Maintain a Skilled Construction Workforce Research Team (RT 135) to study the problem. The research team outlined steps that, if adopted will assure a skilled and motivated workforce—available to meet the needs of the construction industry. The specific objectives of the team were to identify methods to attract and retain construction workers and determine the benefits of successful retention programs.

To accomplish the objectives of the study, the research was divided into several phases. A series of questionnaires was developed and completed by CII Owner-Member representatives on the research team, contractors—most of whom are CII members, and craftworkers. In addition, the research included a comprehensive literature search, a study of six projects, and an analysis of project labor costs with changing turnover and productivity rates for the CII Model Plant.

Because of the limited number of completed forms received from CII Owner-Member representatives, the owner-related findings were inconclusive. The important findings from the completed contractor forms and the literature search identified 34 attraction, and 53 retention attributes used by companies to maintain a qualified workforce. Contractors, who experienced a retention rate of 80% or better realized profits on more jobs, completed more projects on or ahead of schedule, and experienced better safety performance. This positive project performance, in part, was due to the utilization of key attraction and retention attributes identified in the research. The study also found most contractors do not monitor turnover on a “company” basis although some do on a “project” basis.

Craftworkers provided essentially the same reasons for why individuals leave the industry and what contractors should do to retain them. These reasons include provide competitive wages and benefits, permanent employment, safe job sites, good working conditions, and treat employees fairly. Finally, the majority of craftworkers responded they would not encourage their children to enter a construction trade as a career.

The study of the six projects showed a high correlation between productivity and turnover. The CII Model Plant labor cost analysis indicated that a 10% increase in turnover results in a 2.5% increase in total project labor costs—assuming productivity remains the same.

Based on the research findings and conclusions, the CII Research Team recommends owners pre-qualify contractors according to these elements: employee wages and benefits; overall craftworker retention rates; attributes used to attract and retain craftworkers; and efforts in craft training, assessment, and certification to enhance the employee’s career development process.

Recommendations to contractors include: providing competitive wage and benefit packages, monitoring and using retention rates to diagnose company field staffing trends, providing a safe workplace, implementing a skill assessment process, enhancing permanent employment opportunities, adopting a certification program to ensure qualified craftworkers, treating employees with respect, and adopting the 34 attraction and 53 retention attributes. Both owners and contractors should work together on plans and incentives to lower turnover and address project staffing issues on a local basis.