11 Things to Know About ‘Building’ the Workforce of the Future

I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference where the topic was how contractors and construction companies are going to handle workforce needs in the future.

We all know there is a shortage of great people in the contracting industry and the statistics show a decreasing number of millennials being interested in going into this sector. The question is, what can we do to arrest this trend and how can we win more than our fair share of the best people? 

After listening to industry experts at the conference, I distilled the commentary down to my top highlights from the day:

Top highlight No. 1: The top challenge facing this industry is getting the word out about the evolution of it—it’s not as stodgy as millennials and others think it is.

Top highlight No. 2: One of the attendees sitting close to me at the conference, Tonya, shared that her background is psychology and she works at a construction company. According to Tonya, there’s a need to get the word out that construction is not just about swinging hammers. There are many opportunities that have nothing to do with the field. And, field personnel can’t expect to just swing a hammer anymore—it’s not enough! They need to be ready to embrace technology (i.e., productivity apps for timecards, BIM, 3D scanning, drones, etc.)

Top highlight No. 3: Today’s workforce doesn’t always come to the construction industry with skills and the world is evolving faster; lifelong learning is the most important skill. 

Top highlight No. 4: Training and education for employees isn’t an expense, it’s an investment.

Top highlight No. 5: Times are not tough right now in our space. The times are 90 miles an hour right now so there is no excuse not to invest in our talent.

Top highlight No. 6: Companies with 30% of executives who are women have a 15% increase in profits, according a recent study.

Top highlight No. 7: If you’re not diverse, you’re losing money!

Top highlight No. 8: Diverse teams (age, race, gender diversity) are 35% more productive, according to a recent study.

Top highlight No. 9: If you’re not diverse, you’re losing money!

Top highlight No. 10: Every company in construction is a tech company going forward, period

The importance of professional development

Every time I attend one of these events, it reminds me how important it is to spend a day each quarter getting out of my routine and attending a conference to learn and grow. This sector is heading for massive and disruptive change in the next three to 10 years. Technology is going to displace many workers and completely change how we build things. The conversations at these events aren’t optional anymore. Going to conferences isn’t a nice thing to do if you have time (which nobody does) but a necessary part of being the president, CEO or owner of a contracting business. If you don’t go now and start thinking about how you’re going to manage change in your construction business, I believe you’re going to have a LOT of time to think about it during the next three to 10 years when you’re left behind and no longer getting your fair share of profitable projects.

Call me Chicken Little, but even if I’m wrong you’ll still learn a lot, grow your business (top and bottom line) and meet great contacts by attending more industry events. So, get out there and start attending some of your industry events, conferences and more!

Jonathan Slain works with businesses that want to grow (exponentially) thru implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System “Traction.” You can contact him by filling out an application or emailing him at jonathan@autobahnconsultants.com. Be careful…  Your business just might grow and make a lot of money if you contact him!

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  • Next up: 11 Things to Know About Gen Z
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  • 11 Things to Know About Gen Z

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  • Next up: 11 Things to Know and Expect from Generation Z
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  • 11 Things to Know and Expect from Generation Z

    They’re social, educated, digital natives—and they are just entering the workforce. Here are 11 things to know about the next generation you’ll be sharing office space with.

    Have you heard of them yet? The newbies on the block. The newest generation to enter the workforce. Generation Z.

    Generation Z is identified as individuals born after 1995, making them 23 years old or younger today. They are just entering the workforce and are vastly different than generations that have come before them. They are described as being optimistic with high expectations. They grew up in a generation where the Internet, laptops and everything else has been at their fingertips. New things that have come out with this generation include apps, social games and tablets.

    So, who are they are what might define them? I think it is important to note that like any prior generation, not every member of this generation will fit into the stereotype that is being created for it. However, I’ll share some of what the data is showing from places such as Forbes and the Huffington Post.

    Data point No. 1: They are a social generation. They spend a lot of time socializing with friends and family each day.

    Data point No. 2: They are multi-taskers. They thrive off utilizing multiple screens and devices to accomplish their work.

    Data point No. 3: They have an entrepreneurial spirit. Nearly 75% of them want to start their own businesses one day.

    Data point No. 4: They are educated. They want to constantly learn and 50% will have a college education.

    Data point No. 5: They want to do good. They are philanthropists at heart.

    Data point No. 6: They are the first true natives to the digital era. Thus, they spend more than 15 hours a week on their smartphones.

    Data point No. 7: They want to interact with people. They enjoy face-to-face conversations despite being so digital.

    Data point No. 8: They are tech-savvy. They depend less on books and information from advisors and instead use the internet to answer any questions that might arise.

    Data point No. 9: They lack focus. Their attention span is 8 seconds long requiring constant stimulation.

    Data point No. 10: They are cautious. They spend less and save more as a result of growing up during the Great Recession.

    Data point No. 11: They have been connected since birth. Some 40% state that they are fully addicted to their smart devices.

    Ashley Basile Oeken is president of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.


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  • Next up: 12 at 12 on Workforce
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  • 12 at 12 on Workforce

    Last Friday, I had the opportunity to have lunch with 12 COSE small business owners to talk about workforce issues and their businesses.

    Last Friday, I had the opportunity to have lunch with 12 COSE small business owners to talk about workforce issues and their businesses. Lunch was at the new Adega Restaurant at the Metropolitan At The 9 Hotel. Pretty neat new place and some great conversation and informal networking among those that attended. 12@12 is a good chance for a small group of small business owners to share ideas and talk about what they are thinking about in their business.

    In general, the whole process of finding workers continues to be difficult. In the polling we do of members about 20% indicate that it is hard to find the workers that you need for your business. While that sounds like it’s not much of a problem, when you consider that only 25% of you are in the mode of hiring at the current time it changes the picture quite a bit. That means that 4 out of 5 employers that are hiring are having a hard time finding who they need. That sounds crazy given how many folks are still out there unemployed or underemployed and with a lot of money being spent on government workforce support systems like www.ohiomeansjobs.com.

    The owners in the conversation indicated difficulty with finding the “right” employees. A lack of the right skills was a big one. No surprise here, but finding people with current skills continues to be difficult.  Beyond skills though, most indicated a real willingness to train people with the right attitude and with the ability to show up on time, drug free and ready to work. Most of the attendees were boomers or X’rs with a real desire to give people a chance to work—but there has to be a commitment by the employee to want to be there and be accountable for the work they do.

    The process of identifying job candidates has also gotten trickier. Newspaper classifieds don’t do the job they once did and there are all kinds of different job sites, job boards and social media tools out there making it hard to know just where to go. The owners at lunch mentioned some good luck with www.indeed.com, FaceBook, and www.craigslist.org.

    Work ethic was another topic of conversation. And as we talked through that issue, it seemed that the best approach was being clear with expectations and holding employees accountable. Then following up to ensure that those that don’t fit, don’t stay was some good advice. One of our attendees recommended the book “Traction” (www.tractionbook.com) as a good read for establishing structure and accountability in your business that helps to set expectations and grow customers.

    Internships haven’t been heavily pursued. We explored internships as an opportunity to both build a pipeline of employees and as a way to imbue some real world education in students to help better prepare them to be quality employees. For most, internships feel like a difficult way to get help. From structuring and managing the role to finding the right students and then getting real value from them, there seemed to be a lot of perceptions that discouraged interns as an option. Folks were encouraged to check out resources like NEOIntern and the Northeast Ohio Talent Exchange at www.NOCHE.org or highly managed intern programs like at Youth Opportunities Unlimited at www.youthopportunities.org.

    Overall, good conversation on what seems to continue to be a tough topic for small business owners. If you’ve got ideas on workforce, have found good solutions or want to share your own story, I’d love to hear from you at smillard@cose.org.
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  • Next up: 12 Essential Elements of Engaging Your Employees
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  • 12 Essential Elements of Engaging Your Employees

    Around the world, only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. Disengagement is more than just a percentage in a Gallup report, though. A disengaged workplace is the emotional effect of poor management. It’s an outcome that employees can feel on a daily basis, one that has a major impact on a company’s performance — no matter its size.

    Around the world, only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. Disengagement is more than just a percentage in a Gallup report, though. A disengaged workplace is the emotional effect of poor management. It’s an outcome that employees can feel on a daily basis, one that has a major impact on a company’s performance — no matter its size.

    Disengagement carries a hefty price tag. In the U.S. alone, active disengagement costs organizations half a trillion dollars each year. For the largest of companies, disengagement is a proven drain on efforts to reach profit goals and reap improved earnings per share.

    For small and medium-sized businesses? Disengagement can be fatal.

    But it shouldn’t cost a lot to engage your employees. For years, Gallup research has proven that an engaging workplace starts simply enough: with managers asking their employees the 12 questions that gauge their emotional connection to where they work. There’s a hierarchy of considerations, a sequence through which to address the 12 elements that Gallup knows directly impact engagement. 

    Don’t overlook an employee’s basic needs
    Do your employees know what is expected of them at work? Do they have the materials and equipment they need to meet — and exceed — those expectations? It seems easy enough, but plenty of companies struggle to ensure that their people have what they need to do their work to the best of their ability.

    Don’t treat every employee the same
    Do your employees get to do what they do best every day? Have they received recognition for their efforts in the past week? Do they feel that someone at work cares about them as an individual? Do they have someone at work who encourages their development?

    These questions are specifically worded for a reason. Engagement resonates on a personal level, at the core of an employee’s feelings. To be engaged, they must feel connected to their work at as individual a level as possible.

    Don’t take teamwork for granted
    Do your employees think their opinions count at work? Do they think that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their jobs are important? Do they think their fellow employees are committed to quality? Do they best friends at work?

    Imagine just how more productive and efficient your teams could be if your people could strongly, genuinely agree with each of these statements. You can achieve a lot with an empowered, mission-driven workplace attuned to quality and cooperation.

    Don’t forget to address the future 
    Do your employees have the chance to talk about their progress? Do they have an opportunity at work to learn and grow?

    No matter what they do day in and day out, it is vitally important for managers to talk to their employees about how well they’re doing their job. That also means making plans for acquiring new skills or experiences related to their role.

    Listen, learn, and lead to engage your employees 
    Gallup research has proven that measuring employee engagement using these 12 elements predicts performance on the metrics that matter most to companies of all sizes—turnover, productivity, and profitability, among others. We also know that these are the elements of engagement that managers can most directly impact on a daily basis, too. That’s important, because it is up to managers to listen to their employees, learn how to engage them in their work, and then lead their teams every day with those needs in mind.

    There are plenty of strategies and techniques managers can use to engage their employees. But all efforts always come back to asking those 12 questions and addressing the 12 elements of engagement in everything your managers do.


    About Charlie


    Charlie Colón is Gallup’s Global Channel Manager for employee engagement. He helps companies implement Gallup’s employee engagement solution for small- to medium-sized organizations to increase their productivity, customer engagement, quality, retention, safety, and profit. He has worked with clients in the financial services, hospitality, healthcare, and retail sectors.

    Prior to assuming his current role, Charlie served as Executive Director of Gallup Technology. He managed a team of technical project engineers who develop software used by clients and associates and served as the product manager for Gallup’s online reporting portal, which is used by more than 800 clients. Charlie also led Gallup’s information technology efforts worldwide. He managed a staff of technologists that served operations in the United States, China, India, Australia, Singapore, Bangkok and Tokyo.


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  • Next up: 13 Essential Employment Contract Provisions
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  • 13 Essential Employment Contract Provisions

    Get familiar with what you should include in your next employment contract by looking over this handy guide.

    There are as many types of employment agreements as there are industries. A machinist, a college professor, and a non-profit director will all have unique contracts specific to their vocation. But there are universal provisions off of which each unique contract builds. Things like scope of work, compensation, term and termination are indispensable in any employment agreement because they come into play 10 times out of 10. Other provisions like non-competition, works for hire, and confidentiality are protective measures. Still others act as incentives for valuable employees.

    Below, we’ll discuss each type of essential employment contract provision that you should include when hiring.

    Descriptive Provisions

    Provision No. 1: Scope of employment. Each employment contract should contain a job description with particulars about the employee’s responsibilities. This provision should identify whether the employee can be demoted, transferred to a position with different responsibilities, or have their existing responsibilities modified or increased. Travel and relocation should also be discussed. 

    Provision No. 2: Compensation. The compensation provision will list out base salary, signing and production bonuses, and base benefits such as pension plans and health, life, vision, and dental insurance. It will also address the circumstances where employee salary can be reduced; these may include suspension or termination of an applicable professional license or the company coming under qualifying financial distress.

    Provision No. 3: Term and termination. No contract lasts forever, but ideally we’d like to keep the good employees for the long run and weed out the bad ones. If your business isn’t employing at-will (meaning it can terminate at any time for any reason or no reason at all), there are several mechanisms to achieve this. One is a term-based contract with renewal provisions; renewals can be automatic with options not to renew, or can be elective by both parties mutually.

    The flip side of that coin is to consider how an employment contract might be terminated before its natural end. Typical grounds for termination include employee’s criminal conduct or breach of the employment agreement; other grounds for termination can be added based on acts that are detrimental to the business, such as revocation of a practice license. Keep in mind that if you’re granting company equity to an employee, you may want to include a claw back provision in the case of termination for cause.

    Provision No. 4: Probationary period. Some employment starts with a feeling-out process, a trial run to see if the applicant fits your business before offering him or her the benefits of a long-term contract. If you hire your employees on this basis, be sure to address all the conditions and guidelines of the probation period. These include the duration of the probation, training guidelines, and assessment standards. In all cases, notify the applicant of the results at the end of the probationary period to avoid an implication that they have (or have not) been retained long-term.

    Protective Provisions

    Many of these provisions center around retaining and maintaining the value that employees bring to the business. When a company invests in an employee, protective provisions ensure that the company remains in control of that investment.

    Provision No. 5: Non-competition. Very common in employment contracts, “non-competes” prevent an employee from taking a position with the employer’s competitor, investing in a competitor, or establishing a competing business during employment and for a certain time afterward. The non-compete must be reasonable in time and geographical scope to be binding; a conservative non-compete might be for two years after employment and prohibit competition in a five-mile radius of the employer’s place(s) of business. If your non-compete is aggressive, you may want to include a blue-pencil clause in your contract.

    Provision No. 6: Non-solicitation. The non-solicitation provision is an extension of the non-compete. It prevents an employee from soliciting, discussing, or accepting employment for competing business from another agent or employee of the employer.

    Provision No. 7: Work for hire. This provision states that an employee who creates products, methods, or any other work that is ripe for intellectual property protection as part of employment automatically assigns ownership to the employer. In this way, the employer owns the creation and the underlying intellectual property at the outset.

    Provision No. 8: Assignment. An assignment agreement is a catch-all that supplements the work for hire provision. It states that the employee also agrees to assign any creations made by the employee that fall outside the scope of the work for hire provision. This is an especially important provision if a personal creation was made using company equipment, funds, or on company time.

    Provision No. 9: Best efforts. A best efforts provision reaffirms the employee’s dedication to benefiting the employer and devoting his or her full attention to business during work hours.

    Provision No. 10: Confidentiality. Oftentimes an employee will need to be briefed on confidential or sensitive information in order to perform his or her work. Under a confidentiality agreement, the employee promises never to disclose this information to an outsider and to take reasonable steps to prevent inadvertent disclosure. This type of provision usually lasts well beyond the employment itself, in perpetuity unless and until the information itself ceases to become secret.

    Provision No. 11: Alternative dispute resolution. If a conflict arises over the employment agreement, employers will often require mediation before either party can sue. This encourages a candid out-of-court discussion and can save significantly on time and legal expenses. If mediation doesn’t solve the issue, some contracts call for the dispute to be handled by binding arbitration rather than litigation for a more expedient, cost-efficient resolution. 

    Incentive Provisions

    Provision No. 12: Employee benefits. Benefits make for a more attractive job offer, and can often sway a potential employee where salary alone cannot. In addition to insurance and pension, companies sometimes offer stock options – or outright equity – to high-level employees. The equity may be granted according to a vesting schedule as part of a “golden handcuff,” or as an option with a fixed price. Most incentive packages have a one-year cliff before the employee can begin to realize any equitable benefit. If you’re offering equity, consider including a tax distribution to cover the employee’s additional taxes as a result of receiving the benefits.

    Provision No. 13: Employee Liability Protection. Extending a limited liability company’s protection to an employee takes the pressure off when they have to make important decisions with a company-wide effect. Being free to make tough decisions without risking their personal well-being is essential to productive employment for a manager or director. Employee limited liability has two components: director’s and officer’s insurance (D&O insurance) and bylaws that provide for agent indemnification.

    Mark Turner is an attorney at The Gertsburg Law Firm. Get more legal tips for your business on The Gertsburg Law Firm blog, with new articles every week.

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