April 21, 2021 — GET YOUR HARDHATS READY 👷‍♀️

If you build stuff for a living, or are waiting for someone who builds stuff for a living, to build something for you, the post-pandemic period could be a good one for you.

According to U.S. Census data, commercial real estate bidding activity has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. During the month of January there was a 36% increase year-over-year. And bids for projects are being turned around in 8 days, highlighting that it’s not just Tom Cruise that has the need for speed!

TIME TO MODERNIZE THE WORKFORCE

Increased growth creates increased issues. Chief among them, modernizing and increasing the pool of available workers. Despite unemployment being higher than pre-pandemic levels, good jobs are still going unfilled in high-demand roles.

The hardest contract positions to fill are labourers, carpenters and heavy equipment operators. For full-time positions the squeeze is happening with project managers and construction supervisors. Hmm didn’t we just cover something about additional workers….. 🤔

BACK TO THE DIVERSITY DISCUSSION

Another roadblock to the construction industry’s own success is gender bias. Currently over 90% of the construction industry is male. Greater engagement at the university level is being sought as a way to open more pathways for more people to enter construction. Additional discussions need to be had with unions and labour groups for the various trades and skills. It is in their best interest as well to see a diversification of their membership.

TIME TO FIND EFFICIENCIES TO SAVE THE PLANET AND STUFF (AND YOUR WALLET!)

If you’ve tried to build a deck or a fence over the last little while, you can be excused for wondering if it might be cheaper to build it with gold than wood. The price of materials has skyrocketed since he pandemic started. Especially hard hit are steel and lumber. Unfortunately, two major components of most construction projects.

A stronger focus on anything you build or are paying to have built is going to be the reduction of waste. Prefabrication is one such option to help with waste reduction. Subsequently, sustainability plays a big part in the conversation. As countries begin to roll out more CO2 emission penalties, construction projects will need to find a way to source more environmentally sustainable materials, and be less wasteful in the process.

And with materials costing an arm and a leg for the foreseeable future, change orders must be tightly managed. Current data shows that a project that has more than 6% of construction value occurring in change orders, profits erode quickly.

The post-pandemic period looks rosy for construction. But it is not without it’s challenges, many of which, thanks to good ol’ COVID-kiss-my-ass-19, may be around for a while.

No time like the present to modernize, diversify and become more efficient. 🔨

WE ARE HERE TO TELL YOU THAT YOUR EMPLOYEES AREN’T AS HAPPY AS YOU THINK 😲

People smarter than us (just about everyone) are projecting a massive hiring boom coming once this pandemic horse shit nightmare slowly recedes. That’s going to be great for anyone looking for a job. And unfortunately, despite what a lot of employers believe, their employees may not be as happy as everyone thinks.

WORKPLACES ARE FALLING SHORT, AND IN THIS CASE, SHORT REALLY DOES MATTER AND IS BAD

MetLife’s 19th annual employee benefits trend study found that there is a widening gap between the positive perception employers have about what they offer their employees (I mean, we are all awesome, right?) and what the employees really think about it (those jerks never listen!).

The largest shortfalls happen in benefits programs and workplace flexibility. And given that 3 out of 4 individuals surveyed believe their employer holds a measure of responsibility for their well-being, it’s time to get over yourself and figure this sh*t out!

IT’S NOT YOUR GRANDPA’S, OR EVEN YOUR DAD’S, WORK ENVIRONMENT ANYMORE

The workforce right now is quite possibly the most dynamic and diverse from a generational standpoint it has ever been. Consider that currently all jockeying for prime gossip position around the water cooler are:

  • Baby Boomers
  • Gen-X
  • Millennials
  • Gen Z

That makes for a recipe even Gordon Ramsay would find challenging!

Let’s start with benefits. Each group is looking for different things. Boomers are looking for things that prioritize their physical health as they age. The younger staff like Millennials and Gen-Zs are looking for things that positively impact their mental and financial health: legal services, student debt assistance, life insurance and more wellness-based programs as opposed to strictly medically-based appointment coverages and drug plans.

Workplace flexibility is another huge issue, as we previously discussed. That, however, is also different across generations. Consider the Boomers again. 75% of Baby Boomers have reported struggling with having less casual conversations at work (due to no one being around) which subsequently has led to a lower job satisfaction rating. Whereas Millennials and Gen-Zs clearly have no issue with wanting to spend upwards of 75% of their working time remote from home.

WHAT THE F*&$ ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO?

Start by auditing your workforce. What is the generational breakout of your employees? If you’re brave enough to face the music, give your employees the ability to anonymously provide feedback on the key areas of benefits, flexibility, company culture, and what makes them happy at work. From there, you can start to tailor your offerings.

Call a meeting with your benefits provider and compare what you are offering, versus what it is that your employees are looking for. You pay enough for them! Make sure they are what people actually want. Otherwise it’s wasted money and expensive ill feelings.

Determine what you can offer from a work flexibility standpoint. Discuss it with your staff. Be open to the idea, but also lay down some firm expectations and requirements. It’s fine for people to know you are willing to give them flexibility, so long as your business goals are still being met.

Focus on the culture of your workplace. Really focus on it. This should be #1. Do you employees feel safe and valued? Are you supporting and encouraging the taking of vacations? Are you focusing on victories, not just business-related, but in their personal lives. Have you made them feel comfortable and secure enough to tell you when something is wrong?

We covered culture here. And we strongly recommend it be revisited over and over. It’s something that should never be ignored or considered ‘done’.

Your staff have options real soon. Make them not want to even look at other employers because you’re covering off their needs and keeping them happy and productive!​

ONBOARDING A NEW MANAGER PART 1: A QUICK HOW-TO IF THE OLD MANAGER IS STICKING AROUND TO TRAIN THE NEW HIRE

Bringing on a new Manager for a department or section of your business is both a scary, and exciting, undertaking. We’re assuming as the hiring Manager (or owner), you’ve done a rockstar job of finding the next Jack Welch (maybe no longer a great example….?) and are ready to revolutionize things! 🚀

RESPECT THE OLD GUARD

If you are lucky enough to have the current Manager spend time training the newbie, perfect. This makes your transition waaaaay easier. However, it isn’t without its up and downs. Consider:

Positives:

  • Newbie isn’t forced to jump in and learn with their feet held to any sort of fire
  • Processes and policies can be taught by incumbent (otherwise it’s you, and come on, we all know policies and procedures, while critical, are boring AF and sometimes we slide on that, which is horrible, but you get what we mean…)
  • The integration with, and acceptance of, by other staff can be accelerated and much less painful than someone trying to learn their way around blindly

But as with everything, there’s a flipside. However, for the Negatives, there’s really only one that you need to focus on, which makes this really simple for you:

  • The incumbent passing along their sh*tty, you-can’t-wait-to-change-them old habits that they’ve ingrained in the position over their tenure.

That does not mean they are a bad person and you are trying to stamp them out (well at least we hope not, otherwise, why the hell did you keep them around??). It just means that as with any change, there is the opportunity for improvement. And what once was, does not mean that is how it must always be.

START OFF WITH KIDS GLOVES

There’s no sense in a) overwhelming your new hire with a gazillion changes you wanted implemented yesterday and b) offending your exiting employee by shoving in their face a gazillion changes you wish they had implemented yesterday.

Start off slow. Let the new hire and incumbent spend time mixing together like butter and egg yolks in a Hollandaise sauce. Your job as leader is to let the new hire first see with their own eyes potential areas of improvement.

TIMELINE FOR CONQUERING THE WORLD:

Here’s an example of a good cadence for bringing in the new, without throwing out the old (depending on how long the change-over period is, you can swap out the days for whatever you feel works with your timeline, or replace the word Day with the word Step and create your own fluid schedule based on your circumstances):

  • Day 1: explain you want them to observe and learn for a few days
  • Day 3: quick meeting to see how they’re fitting in and how the learning is going and let them know next meeting you’ll be asking for some observations on potential improvements
  • Day 5: ask for a few things that could be improved on
  • Day 7: point out a few things you would like to see improved/changed and ask them to go and observe what you just spoke about
  • Day 10: meet to prioritize the top 1 or 2 things you’d like to tackle first from a change perspective
  • Day 15: pick one item, and create a plan to start implementing the change
  • Day 25: make this a soft-ish deadline for implementation

At this point people should be familiar with each other. The Manager should be getting their feet underneath them. And you’re now slowly entering the regular work relationship. That’s not to say one month is enough to put it on auto-pilot, but the new and old Manager should have sorted out their idiosyncrasiess and the exiting employee is probably wrapping up, if not already gone.

Oh but actually, one thing we didn’t put in the schedule, but that is SUPER important: throw a big-ass party for the leaving Manager to thank them for all their hard work for you! 🎂 🥳

Always celebrate your staff. Whether it’s because they are retiring, or because they are moving on to another opportunity. It shows everyone you valued their efforts while they were there, and you value them as people as well (more important).

We’ll do a Part 2 eventually on our thoughts about on-boarding a new Manager when there is no grace training period with incumbent.

Stay tuned… and thanks for reading… and we’d love any feedback on these thoughts if you have them!

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Marcus Luft

General Manager at a Chevrolet & Cadillac store. Bit of an expert on surviving business with an ex-family. Wannabe author. Athlete. Wine & gin lover.