There Is A Severe Labor Shortage-What Are You Going To Do About It?

This is about people. It really is about people, and everything is about people it seems. Unfortunately, there is a labor shortage in this country right now. It hits us at all levels; you can go to any company, and you will hear the same story. Whether it be an estimator, job superintendent, project manager, skilled labor, or day labor, whatever it is, there is a shortage of labor across the board that everybody is feeling. 

There are a variety of specific reasons for this shortage, and it is bigger than any individual company. There are several things going on:

  • The birthrate in the United States keeps shrinking. It is the lowest it has ever been, and it is on a pretty good rate of decline so there are fewer people being born into the workforce. 
  • After WW II, we had the baby boomers and that was the largest influx of births into the workforce and what has been happening for the last 10 years and will continue for just a few more years will be more exiting from the workforce by the baby boomers as they are aging out and the numbers of the younger people entering the workforce is significantly smaller than the amount of baby boomers that are leaving the workforce. This is affecting us as we lose our most skilled and experienced workers and being replaced with younger, less skilled and less experienced workers. 
  • Immigration is down. This might be a surprise for most of you, but legal immigration as evidenced by the number of visas issued is down about 50% over the last 5-6 years. 
  • Pandemic and how it has shifted lifestyles and some people struggling to take care of their children and staying out of the workforce. We may have some that have been spoiled by government benefits and of course it has actually accelerated the baby boomers retiring by a few million. That’s a few million more baby boomers exiting the workforce than expected. Maybe some of them will trickle back into the workforce but they are certainly trickling back in slowly. 

So, what do we do about this labor shortage? Quit competing for people. Instead, provide the workplace that everybody wants to join. The people will come if you provide the right workplace. People will come from referrals, there will be a buzz in the industry that your place is the place to be! There will be more people coming to you, less people leaving and higher productivity. Very simply, be the workplace that everybody wants to join. 

It sounds simple but it isn’t. There are a few basics: 

  1. Care about your people and show them that you care. REALLY care!
  2. Appreciate the work they do. The #1 reason people leave a job is a perceived lack of appreciation. Make sure you show your appreciation!
  3. Provide a positive work environment. A “can do” attitude is important, and it flows down from the top.
  4. You need “can do” people. Make sure you don’t have any “Eeyore” employees bringing everybody down.
  5. Always set a high standard. This is done from the top.

Yes, there is a labor shortage but the good news is that you can do something about it.