Leadership

Capability Focus: Stakes Get Higher To Solve Skills Deficit

Strategies have begun to line-up and tap investment to reverse the skills hemorrhage plaguing building. Now it's time to commit to a cultural pivot to make construction's many job sites places to thrive.

Leadership

Capability Focus: Stakes Get Higher To Solve Skills Deficit

Strategies have begun to line-up and tap investment to reverse the skills hemorrhage plaguing building. Now it's time to commit to a cultural pivot to make construction's many job sites places to thrive.

February 25th, 2022
Capability Focus: Stakes Get Higher To Solve Skills Deficit
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The moment, this morning, today, this week, this year, and this still-fresh decade, rattles us, here, near, and far. It's, as some would say, "a moment of heightened danger and crisis." Inflation. Worker shortages. War. Rather than dwell on and panic over what's going on elsewhere, there's a single reflexive refuge. Work. Work in this place, today, ... and on this question.

What if housing – and all its messy, self-contradictions and counterintuitiveness – were a solution? If you could fix it, what else would you be able to fix in the economy and its corrosive inflationary challenge of the moment, in communities, in society, and in a culture of freedom and compassion? How and where would you start fixing housing, and igniting its multiplier-effects on other current challenges in health, education, jobs, etc.?

If, as Brookings Institution fellow and political scientist William Galston says, “Inflation is not only an economic phenomenon, it’s also a psychological one in politics, because it is a psychological proxy for things being out of control," this work on more homes, more communities, more places for people can solve for restoring that control – and begin to tame inflation.

Housing can be a solution.

New York Times writer David Brooks writes:

Over the past few years a wide range of thinkers — across the political spectrum — have congregated around a neo-Hamiltonian agenda that stands for the idea that we need to build more things — roads, houses, colleges, green technologies and ports.

Whether it's all the shovel-ready work in the pipeline now, or a raft of new Infrastructure Bill-inspired building initiatives, what's missing in the equation is people, of course. A working-class that is celebrated, valued, and socially, educationally, and financially mobile.

However, consider:

Image Source: Associated Builders and Contractors
  • The construction industry will need to attract nearly 650,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2022 to meet the demand for labor, according to a model developed by Associated Builders and Contractors.
  • U.S. employers struggling to fill jobs would be better off offering flexible work arrangements and other incentives to younger workers because pay increases aren’t enough to lure them back to the labor market, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  • "The construction industry needs more than 61,000 new hires every month if we are to keep up with both industry growth and the loss of workers either through retirement or simply leaving the sector for good," said Home Builders Institute president and ceo Ed Brady. "From 2022 through 2024, this total represents a need for an additional 2.2 million new hires for construction."
  • More than one of every three people working on job sites and in the building supply channel actively contemplates switching jobs right now, and half of those folks mull leaving the construction fields altogether.

These separate threads make the fabric of the business of building's biggest red flag. People. Human capability.

While the first three nuggets lay out in vivid terms the scope and contour of the challenge, its sting and urgency comes through sharpest in the fourth bullet point,

For builders and their partners to ever fix recruitment, training, and hiring, they're going to also – and probably, first -- have to fix retention. This is especially true in the earlier phases of an individual's career in a building trade, where far too many start looking for a trapdoor from the field within the first six months to 36 months of joining the construction workforce.

Fixing both or either – and neither is optional – will take:

  • Recognition of the current situation and its causes
  • Discovery of the array of linkages and mechanisms needed for solutions
  • Commitment to action and investment in seeing it through to results

Those requirements map strategy, which organizations like the Building Talent Foundation have made strides and inroad in green shoots results that come of clarifying the steps and setting up the mechanics, gaining consensus, support, and raising money from a broadening ecosystem of real estate and construction enterprise stakeholders willing to make the investment.

Then, there's the part that has to ride along with strategy, that's essential to pulling off the plan. Culture.

Peter Drucker, quoted often as saying "culture eats strategy for lunch," may have unhelpfully inferred that, a company can keep a consistent winning edge minus one or the other.  Strategy + Business contributor Ken Favaro's case that the two really go together, and both take time to develop and are hard to change, concludes with the quip:

Don’t let culture eat strategy for breakfast. Have them feed each other."

The thing is, you can boil it down to strategy being the plan on paper and culture as the way to get it done, or any other construct you want. The mistake would be to dismiss culture as a bunch of phony baloney that people talk about as a distraction to having a plan and good strong management capability to execute on the plan.

Culture is not a nice-to-have. Nor is it magical, nor BS, nor some sort of secret sauce. Furthermore, it doesn't cost anything out of pocket, and you can't buy it.

A company culture, and an entire business sector's culture – the very first essential step to causing people who work for you to want to keep doing that – starts and ends with two raw essential ingredients, common sense and the Golden Rule.

In a "moment of heightened danger and crisis," it gives us confidence that a common denominator nature, character, and, yes, the culture among leaders in the business ecosystem of homebuilding, community development, and real estate investment – stripped to their essentials – is about resolve, the nobility of purpose, and canny willingness to adapt and persevere.

So, there'll need to be both a plan – to attract, grow, and create success pathways for talented people who both lead and be led – and a culture made of common sense and the Golden Rule as a way to get that plan done.  That's hard. Builders and their partners know hard. Now, get it done. Housing needs to be at least part of the solution.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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