The long-awaited bipartisan infrastructure package is finally a reality, and the result is a $1 trillion investment in the nation’s infrastructure needs. That represents a high volume of work that construction companies will be bidding on in the coming years, from lead pipe replacements to highway and airport developments to bridge repairs and everything in between. Savvy companies are already preparing for those funds to be dispersed, rather than waiting until it’s time to place bids. Here are five things construction companies can do today to set themselves up for success when the influx of work arrives.
Get Familiar With the Details
Obviously, it’s not important for construction executives to read and memorize every line of the infrastructure bill or every analysis of what it entails. But having a good grasp of what types of projects are being funded and how much of the funds are being allotted to specific geographical markets is an important step in understanding how best to prepare. There are also great sources that help break down the most important details and provide some key insights on how this funding will impact the economy and the hiring market. Industry leaders should take the time to get a comfortable understanding of what is to come, so that they can get ready to pursue new projects by taking steps that make the most sense for their company’s core competencies and markets.
Implement Strong Retention Strategies
The last thing any construction company wants is to lose great employees during a tight market with potentially heavy backlogs on the horizon. If a company doesn’t already have a robust retention program in place, now is the time to create or strengthen those programs. Check in with employees to gauge how they’re feeling: are they fulfilled, challenged, and engaged by their work? Are they compensated fairly? Is there room for them to continuously learn and grow in their careers within their current company? If any of those conditions aren’t met, it can spell trouble for companies who want to retain their best employees. Managers should use this time to establish or reaffirm an open-door policy, communicate frequently with each of their employees, and put together retention strategies to keep everyone happy and excited about their future with the company.
Make Strategic Internal Moves With Top Talent
For some companies, the talent they need is already in place; they just need to move around the pieces to optimize their teams. Here’s an example: a company picked up a big pharma project with a client that one of their Project Managers had an existing relationship with. That Project Manager was already on a job, but his company knew that his skill set was the perfect fit for the new project. So they moved the Project Manager to the new pharma job to further build upon his existing relationship with the client and experience with larger projects, and they moved a strong Assistant Project Manager into a full Project Manager position on the ongoing project. That project was about 80% complete, so the Assistant Project Manager was able to step in and keep things running smoothly while getting critical experience in a full Project Manager role. In this way, the company was able to use the talent they already had on their team in the best way possible for everyone through some creative thinking and trusting their employees to rise to the challenges set before them.
Bring Key Long-Term Hires On Board Now
Many companies will need to add to their existing teams to be able to compete effectively for the types of projects they want. Making those key hires now, as opposed to waiting until the work is just around the corner, is especially important given how tight the market already is. Candidates know about the funding package and want to see that companies are planning ahead to manage that workload. If there are any obvious gaps in a company’s talent pool, that’s a good starting point. Field labor will be critical to companies taking on new projects, so building up and training strong labor crews, Foremen, and Superintendents is another priority for companies. In addition, companies should look at bringing on business development executives with federally funded project experience, public private partnership jobs, or alternative delivery projects. These types of employees can elevate a company’s standing with the relevant entities and teach the company leaders what they need to do to bid effectively on upcoming projects. This might include anything from bonding to developing JV partnerships to understanding how the company scores overall in the eyes of the entities.
Explore the Gig Economy Workforce
One of the most significant shifts in the workforce over the past several years has been the rise in prominence of independent contractors and gig economy workers in every industry, including construction. Some of the most in-demand construction workers, including Schedulers and Preconstruction Managers, are offering their services in a contract capacity, often with a higher price tag than companies are used to paying. The good news is, those candidates are able to deliver great value on a project-by-project basis. Many construction executives are still unfamiliar with the pros and cons of tapping into the gig economy; however, those who get on board, explore the possibilities, and budget now for critical short-term needs will be ahead of the game when it comes time to secure those highly sought-after contract candidates.
For many companies, it can be difficult to look beyond current needs and hiring plans based on existing and imminent projects. But those who look ahead and make strategic hires and internal changes now will benefit when the federal infrastructure funding comes through and the work starts rolling in.