Tackling Emerging Business Challenges in Construction
PWC Canada’s 2020 Real Estate Trends report recently released, and revealed valuable insights not only into what people are buying, but the challenges builders are facing. PWC urges companies in the construction industry to “look inward” and address three main challenges.
The “Missing Middle”
Most have heard the term “missing middle” before in relation to income and the middle class, but in construction the middle that is missing is one of skilled labour. The current workforce is aging, and will soon retire in numbers greater than has ever been witnessed in the past. At the same time many trades have fallen out of fashion among younger generations, and less are entering apprenticeships.
As demand for real estate only continues to grow, companies will find themselves having a difficult time finding qualified labour. This will create an hourglass shaped workforce with lots of new inexperienced talent, very little experienced working talent, and a large amount of very experienced soon to retire talent.
How could such a situation be remedied? While change at a larger scale will require a social adjustment in attitude regarding the value of an education in the trades, individual companies can take action to improve their own workforce prospects. Some companies are setting up their own trade schools with a promise of a guaranteed job to graduates. Others are looking towards automation, modularization, and prefabrication to increase the efficiency of smaller workforces. While these solutions aren’t cheap, they do help tackle the labour gap.
Securing Key Skills and Talent
As well as a shrinking workforce, many companies are finding that there is also a growing gap around talents and skills available in the market, making attracting and then retaining the right people more difficult. The increasing intergenerational gap between management and new hires can frustrate both parties, but it is up to management to make their workplace attractive to the talent they need. Modern tools, technology, workplace flexibility policies, frequent feedback, and responsibility are cited as being some of the most important aspects of a job for younger employees.
While Canadian businesses have traditionally believed that they can hire their way out of a skill shortage, a changing workforce means this tactic will have limited success. Instead businesses need to focus on training and “upskilling” their current employees.
Investing into the talent you already have can patch skill gaps and increase employee satisfaction, decreasing turnover and even increasing your attractiveness to job seekers!
The Issue of Cybersecurity
Real estate’s increasing digitization, whether in the end product (IoT sensor filled buildings) or in business (data storage and process automation), means industry players are at greater and greater cybersecurity risk. And according to a PwC interviewee “The real estate industry is behind in learning about cyber crime and taking it seriously enough to either train or hire staff to combat it”.
So how does a business owner assess their vulnerabilities and learn to combat them? Once again the answer is training. Hiring cyber security experts is valuable when starting out, but in order to foster a proactive approach to digital resilience in the long run, there must be staff who are well versed in your technology embedded throughout the organisation. Equipping employees with the skills and tools to spot problems before they happen, allows an organisation to counter a potential crisis while minimising service interruptions and delays.
It’s important to realise that many of your employees are willing and even eager to learn new skills. In nurturing who you currently employ, you can not only increase retention of your most valuable assets, but become a far more attractive prospect for those who hold the skills you need. Technology can also help fill skill gaps by increasing the efficiency of smaller workforces, and even automate some tasks.
The future of the construction industry is bright, but will require businesses to adapt and evolve in order to survive.