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Top 3 Causes of High Worker Turnover in Construction

A rear shot of a construction team walking into a building. Four workers were yellow hard hats, and one worker wears a white hard hat. All are wearing safety vests and three workers are wearing backpacks.

The construction industry has a reputation for having a high turnover rate. This was true even before the COVID pandemic disrupted demand. The Great Resignation is partially responsible, but it’s not the only reason for construction's attrition problem. 

Aerotek Business Development Executive Scott Minto has over 12 years of staffing experience in construction. He identified a few reasons why construction companies experience such a high turnover rate. 

A focus on four-year degrees created a skills gap

Employers are trying to raise awareness of the benefits a career in construction can offer. However, companies are still struggling to fill their openings.

Minto highlights the Great Recession of the late 2000s and the emphasis on earning a college degree as major factors for the current skills gap

“From 2000 to 2012 the emphasis was more on students needing a degree instead of going to a trade school, which led to a lack of qualified and interested construction professionals/workers. This also included the Great Recession when the construction industry wasn’t booming; many opted to seek careers in technology and other industries. These factors paired with the amount of people retiring from the industry are the main contributors to our current 10–15-year skills gap,” says Minto. 

Better compensation and advancement options are available elsewhere

With a skyrocketing demand for labor, workers have a lot of leverage to negotiate pay and better benefits. If your project doesn’t offer competitive pay, you’ll have difficulty finding the workers needed to get the job done on time and on budget.

First and foremost, consider offering competitive compensation based on how much your local competition is paying. A partner like Aerotek can provide insights that show you what rate will make your job competitive. 

“Ultimately some long-term employees will stay loyal to a company with a lagging or lower pay rate, however when you are dealing with project-based labor you will have to accept the going rate which has been on the rise,” says Minto.

Also consider offering more flexible work schedules. Adjusting compensation and benefits strategies can help your company reduce turnover.

If raising wages and creating flexible schedules isn’t feasible, there are other monetary benefits companies can offer their workers, says Minto.

“Most construction workers are commuting to a jobsite or to multiple sites every day. Fuel reimbursement to compensate for the cost of gas is one of the biggest benefits that I've seen companies offering. You can also try other retention incentives like per diems or offering performance-based bonuses,” says Minto. 

Construction workers also want opportunities to advance their careers and learn new skills. When companies don’t offer aggressive performance-based advancement programs, workers will find jobs that can provide the desired experience. 

Along with a lack of advancement opportunities, poor field leadership is also a contributor to attrition. Field managers that don’t treat their workers well or poorly communicate will lose their workforce to a company that does.

Construction is a seasonal job

The demand for construction is strongest during the summer months. Workers seek out summer construction jobs since there are more job opportunities and the schedule aligns with their other occupations or interests.

While construction employers may see an influx of workers coming out to work during the summer, it’s finding workers through the fall and winter months that is the challenge. Construction is the most seasonal industry in the United States, with an employment swing of over 20% industry-wide, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Working construction is a labor-intensive job that can involve long hours and unique safety risks. This makes it difficult for companies to expand their year-round candidate pool. Partnering with a staffing agency can help employers reduce some of the challenges caused by seasonal turnover. Their relationships with construction workers can help you find the right talent for your project. 

If you’re looking for construction workers to fill empty positions within your company, contact Aerotek today. Our specialized recruiters can connect you with construction professionals across North America.