There is a lot of discussion about the technical skills that are required in the construction industry. Construction firms put a premium on candidates with degrees in engineering or construction management, and it’s increasingly important for construction workers to be comfortable with various types of software and other technology as the industry evolves. But construction companies and employees alike should not lose sight of the non-technical skills that are critical to their success. Here are five soft skills that construction workers need to succeed in the market today.
1. Communication Skills: Few things are more important to career success -- across all industries -- than communication skills. The complex and fast-paced nature of construction work requires effective written and verbal communication from its employees. Construction workers need to know how to modify their language based on their audience: for example, giving a presentation to an owner requires a different approach than connecting with the field team. Good communication at all levels helps prevent problems on the construction site and build strong relationships throughout the industry, so employees who possess this coveted skill set add tremendous value to their companies.
2. Flexibility: As anyone who has set foot on a construction site knows, situations are constantly changing, from weather delays to change orders to safety concerns. Successful construction workers must possess the ability to adapt easily to new circumstances. Employees who are too rigid might find it difficult to adjust their mindsets and transition smoothly from one plan to the next, which can create a challenging environment for their teammates. A “go with the flow” attitude will carry construction professionals a long way as they rise to meet each new challenge.
3. Interpersonal Skills: No one employee, no matter how technically proficient they are, can successfully complete a construction project. Therefore, construction workers need to have interpersonal skills, including teamwork and emotional intelligence. It’s important for employees to be able to work smoothly with their teammates, even in high-stress situations such as tight deadlines. While personality conflicts are normal, good construction workers need to have an understanding of conflict resolution, when to let an issue go, and when to stand their ground. The best employees know how to relate both up and down the ladder, so that they can foster strong relationships from the C-suite to the laborers. That requires a good balance of both confidence and humility - a key combination for any successful construction worker.
4. Problem-Solving Skills: At every level of a construction company, problems crop up. Successful construction workers need critical thinking and problem-solving abilities so that they can address challenges as they arise. The ability to think creatively and come up with solutions quickly is highly beneficial. And it’s even more helpful when employees have the ability to identify problems before they happen and implement solutions to prevent them. Developing strong problem-solving skills includes staying organized and thinking ahead, which are strategies that any construction worker can benefit from.
5. Work Ethic: Last but certainly not least, construction workers need an excellent work ethic. Successful employees need to be punctual, reliable, and willing to work hard. Without the willingness to show up and get the job done, all the technical aptitude in the world will not help a construction worker to succeed. A “get it done” attitude can help construction workers in both technical and non-technical situations.
Fortunately, all of these soft skills can be worked on and improved over time. Construction companies look for employees who possess these skills - but they also look for employees who recognize where they have weaknesses and who are willing to learn and improve. Commitment to self-improvement is a good sign in construction workers at every level.