A Blueprint for the Construction Labor Shortage

Just as homebuyers are discovering that they must make an offer quickly or risk losing a home to another family, construction companies across the country are finding the same in recruiting experienced, qualified candidates to their firm. Along with a shortage in materials, there is a shortage of experienced workers for nearly every tier of the construction industry:

  • Labor
  • Skilled Craft Workers
  • Superintendents
  • Estimators
  • Project Managers
  • Operations Leaders
  • Project Accountants
  • Controllers / CFOs

Even though some construction companies are coming out of their most profitable years and there is a great deal of investment interest in construction, the labor crunch is forcing companies large and small to scramble and adjust. How a construction firm adjusts will determine future success.

“The worker shortage is real—and it’s getting worse by the day1.”

– Suzanne Clark | U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO

What built the shortage?

The workforce was already stretched thin before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now the industry is facing the issue that — post-pandemic — workers may not be able or ready to return to work. The experience of 2020 inspired many people, including those in the construction industry, to reexamine their values and work/life balance. Those ready to return to the workforce are being more selective and some, especially with project management or accounting experience, are being recruited by other industries.

The other issue facing the industry is age. By 2022, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that four out of 10 U.S. construction workers are expected to retire by 20312. A recent USA Today article stated that about 10% of the infrastructure workforce – about 1.5 million people – will permanently leave their jobs every year over the next decade3. This wave of retirement is causing construction companies to reevaluate how they create a culture that trains and molds younger employees who stay for the long run.

In short, this is a candidate’s market and construction companies are having to adjust to this new dynamic. In the construction space of our DHG Search Team, our experience had been that companies seeking help finding a candidate might reach out to us once a week. Now we are fielding multiple requests a day, a reflection of the market dynamics.

The result is that candidates can afford to be patient and wait for an offer that fits their goals. They feel confident that there will be better opportunities. Construction companies, on the other hand, cannot afford to be passive. Understandably, the construction industry is risk-averse, so there are limitations for getting into a bidding war for a candidate, especially for smaller firms.

In collaborating with construction companies across the country, there have been a common set of best practices that have helped organizations achieve their goals:

  • Hire with intention – You must be proactive with your interest and accelerate your process. Do not expect the candidate to work around your schedule for interviews; you must adjust to them. And if you wait too long to make a decision, that candidate may already be hired.
  • Express your corporate values and culture – While you may not be able to out-bid a rival, you can reflect why your corporate culture is a better fit for that candidate’s career and personal goals. Consider developing a career path program and other benefits that demonstrate your genuine interest in the candidate.
  • Promote flexibility – While many jobs require candidates to be on the construction site, you can find opportunities to offer flexible hours and better technology to accommodate a worker’s schedule.
  • Customize positions – There may be ways to create hybrid roles based on an employee’s talents that allow workers to grow skills in another aspect of the industry.
  • Develop to retain – Due to the current labor shortage, most companies are rightfully putting a focus on recruiting top talent. It’s important to remember that it may take several recruits to ultimately fill one position, and it only takes one retention to fill that same role. A successful focus on retention includes intentional development. Firms that commit to working with employees to develop their careers and opportunities should experience higher retention rates,
  • Enlist a Chief People Officer – Transform your culture with a specialist who understands how to help you make employees feel valued and motivated to help you succeed.
  • Practice diversity – An inclusive culture can help construction companies to recruit and retain key talent. There are only about one million women in the industry4. The good news that many of them are in leadership roles, but construction entities can be more proactive about looking beyond their usual talent pools to more diverse groups.

To learn how we can put our technical knowledge, industry insight and connections throughout the construction industry to help build your success, please reach out to DHG.


  1. https://www.uschamber.com/report/the-america-works-report-quantifying-the-nations-workforce-crisis
  2. https://www.enr.com/articles/51865-military-recruitment-tactics-that-could-solve-constructions-skilled-labor-shortage
  3. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/money/2021/06/03/biden-aims-create-jobs-with-infrastruture-plan/7489192002/
  4. https://www.nawic.org/nawic/About_NAWIC.asp


Mark DeVerges
DHG Senior Recruiting Manager


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