Colorado Real Estate Journal – Retail Properties Quarterly – November 2018

CREJ – Retail Properties Quarterly – November 2018

Contractor challenges in this strong economy

Colorado’s current unemployment rate of 3.1 percent sits well below the Federal Reserve’s estimated natural rate of 4.5 to 5 percent unemployment, and is still below the United States’ unemployment rate of 3.7 percent.  Meanwhile, Colorado’s construction industry is booming and the hot housing market leads the way to major retail construction growth.  That’s a great scenario for our economy, unless you’re a construction company leader looking to hire and retain qualified employees in this tight labor market.

Denver still is an isolated community related to construction so it’s not easy to draw labor from other metropolitan markets.  The primary challenges for general contractors in this market are:  Finding qualified employees who can manage subcontractors.  Shifting the millennial mindset related to construction careers; and meeting the stringent construction deadlines required by retailers opening in new markets.

Finding and retaining good people when they have a sundry of employment options. It’s a challenging employment market for most companies, especially contractors.  The industry is coping by adjusting its hiring requirements and creating robust on-the-job training programs and competitive benefits packages.  Contractors are willing to spend more time and dollars on employees with the attitude and aptitude to learn the trade.  Many companies will pair new workers with experienced ones for hands-on learning experiences.  Construction industry employers also are investing heavily in recruiters to help locate talented people – most of whom are currently employed elsewhere.

Networking and referrals are hugely popular ways to identify and employ qualified people.  Our firm, along with many of our industry peers, embraces social
media as a way to reach people.  We encourage our employees to share our open positions through their social media channels.  We often share open positions, as well as content about our company culture, on our social media with the expectations that our employees and industry influencers will refer our company to potential employees.  We’ve recently hired several great people via social media networking and referrals.

There’s also a National Association of Women in Construction organization, with the purpose of enhancing and promoting the success of women in the construction industry.  The group, which has an active Denver chapter, supports women in all construction fields and has a strong focus on educating young women on various construction career options.  NAWIC and similar programs greatly help construction recruiting and hiring initiatives.  (As a woman-owned business, we are extremely proud of our heritage and the success of organizations that promote women in construction careers.)  Contractors also are offering much more competitive benefits packages as a way to entice talented people to make career moves.  For example, many companies offer bonus packages, referral programs and robust well-being/wellness plans.

Reconstructing the millennial mindset toward construction careers.  One additional factor leading to the construction worker shortfall is the lack of younger workers pursuing careers in construction.  Millennials make up the largest generation in the U.S. labor force at 35 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.  Many members of this growing workforce population view construction jobs as “dirty work” for unsophisticated people.  Shifting this millennial mindset is fundamental to keeping the construction industry and American economy thriving long into the future.  The construction industry is hard at work with a focus on demonstrating the external value and intrinsic rewards found in construction careers, as well as educating millennials on the wide variety of construction careers that exist.  Also, key to recruiting millennials for construction careers is offering work environments that appeal to them, which may be work ideals not historically found in construction environments.  Millennials want flexible schedules, innovative settings, clear growth paths and autonomy.  Contractors are pioneering culture changes to meet the millennial demand.

New construction technologies, such as those required by many retailers, also are attracting millennials to the construction industry.  If you’ve ventured into any retailer or fast-casual restaurant over the past year, you’ve likely noticed technological shopping enhancements, including scan-and-go technology, self-service checkouts and even modern conveniences like “social media friendly” backdrops for snapping and sharing photos.  The network cabling, audio-visual requirements and environmental-friendly features of today’s retail stores require
advanced engineering, sophistication and careful planning.  This is the type of work that’s attracting millennials to the construction industry.

Meeting retailers’ tight deadlines.  Once retailers settle on a location, they have tight deadlines to meet lease agreements, holiday shopping routines and employee hiring start dates.  A rampant issue for general contractors today is hiring subcontractors that have the bandwidth to bid the work and the workforce to build the project on tight deadlines and accelerated schedules.  Building strong relationships with reliable subcontractors and treating them well is how general contractors are succeeding in today’s demanding retail construction environment.  The future success of the construction industry, especially in this tight labor
market, relies on the industry’s ability to change attitudes, change traditional cultures, learn new technologies, and a willingness to train good people and reward them for hard work.


Original article can be found at



Back to all posts