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Industry Insight Resources Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

How Severe is the Construction Industry’s Labor Shortage?

A lack of skilled workers is nothing new to the construction industry. Trade organizations, hiring managers, and small businesses have been complaining that the trades just aren’t attracting young adults anymore, and the current workforce is aging out.

But that labor shortage became even more apparent during the pandemic. With fewer people willing to risk going to work combined with a boom in residential construction, the labor shortage continued to grow. How severe is the issue, and how can it get better? These are the questions the industry should be asking.

How Severe is the Construction Industry’s Labor Shortage?

While the construction industry faced labor shortages in the past (think back to the housing boom of the 2000s), the one it’s facing now is a serious challenge. Estimates show that to keep up with current demand, the US construction industry would have to add 650,000 skilled workers to its ranks. If projections are correct, the current trajectory will require 2.2 million new workers within the next three years just to meet current housing needs.

The Canadian outlook is actually worse. Numbers in Canada require hiring an additional 80,000 workers. Considering population numbers, this is a higher percentage than the issue seen in the US.

What’s causing it?

Retirements

Plain and simple: folks are retiring. The average age of retirement for construction workers in the US is 61 years old. In Canada, the age of retirement across all industries is slightly higher at 64 years old. With over 20 percent of the industry’s workforce being over 55, they’re leaving in droves. 

The pandemic didn’t help. The Great Recession helped many employees find the door, spurring moves to other industries as well as trips to social security offices around the country. 

Lack of Young People

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the interest of young people in entering the construction trade is far too low. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 20 to 24-year-old segment made up just 7 percent of the survey respondents working in the construction industry. 

The root cause of this issue is the younger generation’s upbringing that focuses on college and degrees rather than skills or licenses. Instead of construction, this age group is seeking employment in the medical, business/management, and tech or IT fields. 

Market Competition

Even if there wasn’t a housing boom at hand, the industry would be in trouble. Unemployment rates are low, while vacant job numbers are very high, indicating that every industry is facing the same shortage. In this environment, job seekers have options.

Construction employees are leaving job sites for better working conditions in the service or warehouse industries. Those that are staying in construction, they’re able to bounce from employer to employer in search of better pay and better healthcare.

Increased Demand

The pandemic might’ve shut some individual job sites down, but it didn’t slow the construction industry much. Project volumes ballooned with a shift from typical commercial construction to a focus on residential home building. Folks were leaving cities in droves, building new houses, or renovating older ones in the country in order to escape the monotony of struggling cities.

Commercial construction’s direction changed as well. With so many folks staying home and ordering their goods online, fulfillment centers became a precious commodity. Warehouse construction is experiencing a boom in volume without a boom in skilled labor.

What Does This Mean for the Industry?

Ultimately, the labor shortage will have a profound effect on the construction industry. Business owners will need to offset increased costs, and keeping projects on track will seem an impossible task. 

Increased Prices

Construction companies big and small have had to increase the amount they pay their employees over the course of the pandemic. They’ve also had to improve employee benefits to sweeten the deal. The issue is that with already slim profit margins, these companies have had to offload these increased costs of doing business onto customers and project owners.

More Delays

One of the issues of hiring during a labor shortage is that it’s not always possible to find quality employees or vet their experience before hiring. Many projects have gone off the rails in recent history due to poor quality and low productivity. Couple those issues with up to 25 percent of project owners reporting delayed or incomplete deliveries, and delays abound.

Lack of Experienced Leadership

With so much of the experienced workforce hanging up their hardhats, there’s going to be a marked reduction in seasoned leadership. Employers will be forced to promote less experienced employees to foreman or project management positions than they had in the past. While there’s always a learning curve, this lack of experience may cause a ripple effect through the workforce, possibly causing lower productivity, more waste, and more inefficiencies until this group of managers matures.

What Can the Construction Industry Do About the Shortage?

Construction as a whole has been trying to solve the labor shortage issue for a very long time. However, there are a few moves that companies can make to lessen the impact a labor shortage has on the company’s growth.

Consider Improving Wages and Benefits

The modern job seeker has options, and it’s important that companies make their outfit the most attractive. Higher pay than the competition is certainly helpful, but so are better healthcare programs, fringe benefits like childcare reimbursement, tuition assistance, or more days off for time with family. 

These changes may increase younger job seekers’ attention, giving the construction industry a leg up on manufacturing or e-commerce. They can also help one company stand out against the rest. While this will ultimately cost the company more money, it may be one of the only ways to keep a staff full during a continental labor shortage.

Focus on Training

Rather than finding new skilled labor, construction companies can attempt to mold current employees into skilled ones. Investing in tuition or training programs will help employees learn the types of skills that a company can build on. Sending them to specialized schools or setting up programs where senior staff mentors them on their way towards licensure may also be options.

While there is always a risk in training someone only to lose them to another company, consider that it’s possible to invest in a person’s future and create a loyal employee. It also gives employees the feeling that the employer cares—something today’s generation of job seekers is looking for. This can help retain staff rather than let them slip away to competitors offering slightly more money.

Reduce Inefficiencies

Getting more boots on the ground is a challenge that will take long-term planning, so the construction industry needs to focus on finding solutions in the interim. One move that most construction companies could benefit from is reducing inefficiencies through technology.

For example, companies that switch from basic accounting software to construction-specific management software can lower some of their dependence on specific manpower. These software programs are customizable, allowing users to tailor workflows, create custom forms, provide wireless access to current drawings, and track progress through accurate, up-to-date job costing reports.

While technology might not replace skilled labor, it can help make management personnel more efficient. With access to cloud-based drawing storage, site leadership can ensure the crews are working from the most current drawings to prevent mistakes. These folks will also be able to send and receive RFIs and change orders and their approvals from the site, potentially reducing the need to leave for administrative tasks.

Promote Awareness

The construction industry still has a stigma, and it’s preventing younger job seekers from considering it as a potential career path. The idea of it being a low-paying, gruff boys’ club is keeping folks with degrees from joining the ranks of new electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and other trades.

The industry must consider promoting awareness that a career in construction can be a fulfilling and inclusive one. With the potential for promotions, a great living, and competitive benefits, getting the word out that construction could be a viable option for young folks shouldn’t be hard.

Part of promoting awareness may mean shifting the focus from marketing the business to marketing the careers. Senior management may need to partner with local youth organizations and social groups to encourage open dialogue about the industry. Adopting modern media streams like social media, YouTube, and podcasts can help reach younger audiences as well.

None of these tactics will have an immediate impact on the labor shortage, but they can help change the stigma that construction is a dead-end career choice. Young folks who are on the fence about what to do after high school or college may not be considering the industry, and some pointed effort can help. 

The Labor Shortage Isn’t Going Away—Companies Have to Act Now

Ultimately, every industry is feeling the pain of the labor shortage. Construction, however, is particularly affected since it needs skilled workers. It’s important that the industry—and the companies that comprise it—make the moves necessary to attract new employees, retain current ones, and make sure they’re operating as efficiently as possible over the next decade.

Get your business back in financial control amidst the labor shortages. Find out how Premier can empower your business for success.

Schedule a demo today.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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Company News Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

The North American Construction Market and the Future of Construction Software

Very few people could have guessed that the past few years would be so interesting. But, despite the tumult, supply shortages, unrest, and other challenges, construction is still one of the fastest-growing industries in North America. All across the U.S. and Canada, construction crews continued to build while other industries were at a standstill—albeit, not all at the same pace.

But what does the future hold for the construction industry? And what does it mean for the future of construction software? Let’s find out!

Where the Industry is Heading

As a whole, the construction industry is heading toward continued growth over the next few years. Government spending on infrastructure projects is helpful, but the majority of the growth will come from the effort of the residential industry. In fact, residential construction deserves most of the credit for the industry’s bounce back after the 2020 recession. 

But how much will it grow moving forward?

With so many entities performing market research on the construction industry, the estimates regarding growth vary. However, most researchers believe that the industry will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 4.8 and 8.4 percent over the next few years. While that might seem to be a drop in growth rate from 2021’s numbers (roughly 12 percent), it’s still within a healthy range for most industries. 

Trends to Watch

One of the best ways to understand the direction of the construction industry is to look at current trends. While they may be temporary, they can steer the direction of the ship.

Residential is paving the way. While the commercial and municipal construction sectors slowed (crawled, really), residential construction experienced a boon. Despite the rising costs of materials and lumber, new home construction and renovation made up the majority of the industry’s growth.

Some construction firms saw the writing on the wall and pivoted from commercial and residential outfits to residential-only. Many downsized their workforces but were able to keep the doors open by building new homes or remodeling existing homes for folks fleeing big cities.

Commercial and industrial projects are likely to continue crawling moving forward for the next year or so, leaving the emphasis on the residential sector. However, both of these industries are expected to bounce back shortly after. 

Labor is still an issue. Finding skilled workers has always been a challenge for the construction industry, and it’s an issue that isn’t likely to go away any time soon. But, it’s not just the ironworkers, carpenters, and electricians that are hard to find. It’s also a lot of the clerical and office staff. In fact, the number encompassing all positions lost during the pandemic is just shy of one million jobs.

Many folks chose to stay home from work for a few years, while others transitioned into other industries that were more work-from-home friendly. Whatever the case may be, there just aren’t enough experienced, qualified workers to keep up with the industry’s demand. 

Companies are doubling down on technology. Despite the industry’s resistance to technology and the changes it may bring forth, companies are investing heavily in connected construction. The hope is that by investing in technology, these companies will be in a better position to answer the call for smart cities, climate change programs, and Urban Air Mobility initiatives.

Along with positioning themselves to take advantage of big-spending bills and government programs, the companies within the industry can now realize improved efficiency, accuracy, reduced costs, and larger margins. 

Supply chains are far from fixed. Supply chain issues plagued all industries in recent years, but they’ve really held the construction industry back. Between not being able to get certain materials or basic materials doubling (or tripling) in price, materials availability and affordability have been an issue.

This issue is likely to play out over the next few years before it comes back to the center. Some materials are still difficult to find, and then getting them to the job site can be even more of a challenge. Until other countries open completely and everyone heads back to work, this is an issue that won’t go away any time soon. 

How The Construction Software Industry Will Respond

While there may be good things on the horizon for the construction industry as a whole, the construction software industry must adjust accordingly. In general, this means developing new technologies or adapting older tech to modern trends. 

1. Adapting to Residential Contractors

Most construction software programs are designed for large contractors tackling commercial and industrial projects. However, with the current trend showing residential work to be the shining star of the construction industry, software companies will have to adapt.

Adapting to residential construction won’t be difficult for most software developers. However, a greater focus on making estimates easier to understand, making forms easier to customize, and simplified invoices will help those working in the residential industry.

2. Better User Experience

With such a shortage of skilled employees to choose from, growing construction companies will often rely on less-experienced personnel to see the job through. In fact, some employees may go right from the slab to the office, and they need to adapt quickly.

In this case, making construction software easier to use will help those lacking experience adapt to the new system. Also, these systems will help to reduce the number of mistakes or errors caused by inexperience—something the industry may come to rely on in the coming years.

3. Cloud-Based Access

With so many folks working from home these days, cloud-based storage systems and real-time reports will become critical. While the actual building happens on-site, plenty of the clerical and administrative roles can transition to a remote commute. And, companies will have to start offering these WFH positions if they want to attract the right people.

For these roles to work, however, they need reliable access to the company’s construction software program as well as the drawings and files that it may contain. Software companies will have to partner with strong cloud service providers to pull that off.

3. Improved Flexibility

As supply chains continue to work themselves out, modern construction software needs to be nimble and flexible. It should allow for easy changes it can also track through the system, adjusting the appropriate values automatically as it goes. There’s no way to predict how often this could happen during the lifetime of a job, and streamlined automation will help.

Construction software should allow for the easy production of change orders should a particular material become unavailable. These change orders should operate on customizable workflows so everyone who needs to see it and approve it can do so. With these features requiring minimal input from the contractor, there will be fewer errors and less downtime, helping to keep projects on track. 

Growth on the Horizon

Between the construction industry and the software that supports it, the future looks like growth. While certain sectors might struggle to keep up, the overall industry is poised to grow over the next few years, and savvy construction software creators will adapt their programs to go along for the ride, including yours truly, Premier Construction Software! Amidst the market shifts, one thing Premier and the team behind the brand can do is adapt. We will ensure your business can benefit from a system like ours.

See how we can help you structure your business for success, schedule a demo today.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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Features Industry Insight Ultimate Guide

The 101 on Lien Waivers in Construction

When a contractor agrees to take on a project for a set price, they expect to get paid for their work. If a project owner decides not to pay them, the contractor then has the right to file a lien against the property. While this does initially put the contractor in the driver’s seat, another document exists to protect project owners as well: lien waivers. 

So, what is a Lien Waiver?

A lien waiver is a document that a contractor or subcontractor can sign to give up their lien rights in exchange for payment. This form is exchanged during the payment process, and it states that for a certain amount of money, the contractor will agree not to file a lien against the owner’s property.

This is a powerful document.

If a contractor has lien rights, they can file a lien against the property if they don’t receive money for their work. If the owner still doesn’t make good on the payment, the contractor can act on the lien and force the sale of the property. Once the property sells, the contractor is able to take their cut from the proceeds.

This creates a lot of risk for the project owner. Although most owners want to pay their contractors to keep them happy, they also prefer a bit of reassurance that the contractor won’t file a lien against the property. That’s exactly what a lien waiver does. 

Two Types of Lien Waivers

There are two types of lien waivers: unconditional and conditional. If a contractor signs either one, they’ll give up their rights to a lien. However, exactly when they give up their rights changes based on the waiver type.

  • Unconditional waivers essentially state that the moment the contractor signs them, they give up their rights to a lien. These are excellent documents for project owners because they essentially wash their hands of risk. For contractors, they might be signing this document before receiving any money, meaning they’re shouldering all the risk. If the project owner doesn’t pay, there’s no recourse other than a long, drawn-out lawsuit process.
  • Conditional waivers are a bit more diplomatic. A signed conditional waiver states that a contractor will give up their right to a mechanics lien when they get paid for their work. These forms are essentially like receipts for the project owner and create very little risk for the contractor. If the contractor doesn’t get paid, they still retain their right to a lien. 

Nailing the Lien Waiver Process

These documents carry a lot of weight, so it’s important that they’re handled correctly. Project owners need to ensure they’re receiving lien waivers from the general contractor before or at the time they pay them. However, it’s also important that the GC get lien waivers from their subs as well.

One missed lien waiver throughout the payment chain can lead to a lien.

So how should a project owner or general contractor handle the lien waiver process? The best route is through automation. 

Automated Lien Waiver Generation

Tracking down lien waivers from every contractor, sub, trade, or material supplier can be a nightmare. And, it can drag the payment process out far longer than necessary. Instead of manually handling the process, lean on automatic waiver generation.

Premier Construction Software can be programmed to generate lien waivers automatically. Contractors and subs can generate them and send them when submitting invoices, or the system can require them before issuing payment. The system’s customizable workflows can send these documents to everyone who needs them, including internal and external personnel.

This automated process can provide a bit of relief for the GC or project owner. As the system automatically generates proper lien waivers (unconditional, conditional, or even final payment), they’ll know that money won’t switch bank accounts until the document is signed. This lessens the risk for these parties tremendously. 

Electronic Signatures

When a contractor or sub receives or submits a paper lien waiver, they have to sign in and include it in their payment application paperwork. This creates yet more risk, as the document could easily get misplaced, leading the project owner’s accounting staff to believe the contractor never submitted the document, so they withhold payment until they receive it. Since the contractor isn’t getting paid, they might consider filing a lien. 

It’s a nasty cycle caused by one misplaced document. 

Since Premier Construction Software allows for electronic signatures, the risk of losing a lien waiver is almost non-existent. Contractors are able to access documents on any mobile-enabled device. Once they review the form, they can sign it and submit it to the project owner. This happens in real-time.

Storage and Review

Keeping all those lien waivers organized in hard copy form can be challenging for office staff, and it allows more room for human error than is necessary. Poor file management can mean time wasted looking for a specific lien waiver, or not knowing who even submitted them.

Premier Construction Software puts secure storage at the users’ fingertips. Premier automatically stores signed agreements on its cloud, and then sends the contractor or sub a copy of the signed document. The project owner knows who’s submitted the doc, and the contractor knows their lien waiver is on file. 

And, once the waiver is in the system, it enters an approval inbox. Users can access this inbox to view approved documents (such as signed waivers) and drill down for important information like payment amount, dates, and who signed the document. 

Customizable and Repeatable Lien Waivers

Depending on the owner, GC, and sub, lien waivers can look very different between each party. The owner’s customary lien waiver they send with payment could look different than the version coming from the GC or subcontractor. While they all serve the same purpose, standardizing them into one document can streamline the payment process.

Premier Construction Software offers users the ability to configure and customize their forms. This gives the owner and GC a standardized form they can use across the payment tiers. Subs submitting invoices will be filling out the same document the project owner sends to the general contractor. This consistent language not only makes the form easier to produce and send but also ensures everyone understands the form, allowing better transparency and communication. 

Lien Waivers Require Careful Handling, and Premier Can Do It

Lien waivers are vital to both project owners trying to keep their properties clear from litigation and contractors and subs looking to speed up their payment. Both entities can benefit from a system like Premier, like automatic generation, real-time electronic approval, and cloud-based storage takes the guesswork out of lien waiver management.

To see how Premier Software can help you structure your business for success, schedule a demo today.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

Why Embrace the Future of Automation in Construction

For construction companies, time is money. Both in the field and the office, time wasted is money lost. Using out-of-date processes and multiple software programs can quickly eat into slim profit margins. Construction companies must rely on technology to make their processes faster and avoid errors. If they don’t, they will continue to spend money and time fixing problems and repeating work.

Construction’s future?

Although no one has a crystal ball to tell exactly what the future holds, here’s where we think construction is headed:

Automation

Smart contracts will make the payment process faster. Technology will assess how much of the work has been completed, and payments will automatically be distributed to those contractors who have completed the work.

The software will analyze compliance documents, and automatically notify all pertinent parties when insurance or licenses have expired. Contractors will be able to submit compliance documents directly through a portal, where the software will analyze them and gather the required information.

All the documents that pertain to a specific project will be organized and searchable in one location. All team members will have access to these documents, and paper files will be a thing of the past.

Accounts payable invoices will be scanned by software, and the information will be automatically entered into the accounting system. The software will provide analysis and let operators know when contracts are overbilled or change orders are not updated.

Payments to subcontractors and suppliers will be processed automatically by the system, without the need for checks or other paper documents. Payments will be tied directly to the completion of the work.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Project software will be infused with artificial intelligence that allows the software to provide predictive analysis based on past project data. As contractors process projects through the software, they will learn what activities cause the most delay or create the most risk and remind users when these possibilities occur.

Using the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technology, the software will be able to analyze the completion of work in the field. It will then compare that information to the project schedule to determine if there are any delays. Parties will be notified when the schedule slips, allowing the team to proactively respond.

Machine learning

Machine learning, a subset of AI, will assist estimators in project bid analysis, allowing them to select projects they will be the most successful on. AI will also identify the most common bidding errors and correct them before they bid goes out.

Photos will be taken of each worker as they arrive on-site and will be analyzed to determine if the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is being worn. If there are missing items, the system will notify the worker and their supervisor, allowing them to correct the problem.

Problems with the status quo

Currently, construction teams work with a hybrid of software and paper documents. While some contractors strive to go paperless, many still rely on paper documents for certain activities, like material takeoff. This dual approach leaves contractors open to the following problems:

Lost time

The process of entering and analyzing information by hand takes more time than an automated system. Systems are available that capture data automatically directly from documents and provide analysis, saving contractors time.

Lost information

Paper documents are often lost or misplaced when they are filed incorrectly, or not filed at all. Even teams that rely on software often use multiple systems for different purposes (estimating, project management, accounting). This confuses users who don’t know where to look for the information they need. This takes extra time to determine the correct system and find the data they need. If documents are lost or misplaced, more time is lost in searching for them or re-creating the documents.

Errors are more likely

An experiment in 2009 showed that data entry workers made up to 10.23 errors when entering data from thirty spreadsheets. Data entry errors can cost companies millions of dollars. Workers can spend more time searching for errors and correcting them than in the initial data entry.

Hidden costs of mistakes

Besides lost time finding and correcting mistakes, it has been shown that incorrect data can cost companies up to 30% or more of their revenue. A 2018 Goldman Sachs report stated that the direct and indirect costs of manual paper invoice processing are $2.7 trillion for businesses around the world. The hidden costs of manual data entry can be enough to make or break your business.

Benefits of new technology

Embracing automation and other technological improvements can save companies real money.

  • Work is performed faster.
  • When there is only one integrated source of information, less time is wasted searching.
  • Accuracy is improved with automatic data capture.
  • Time and costs are saved by limiting time wasted on rework, searching through data, and fixing errors.

In a nutshell?

If your construction company is wasting time on manual processes and paper documents, it’s time to embrace automation. Premier Construction Software can help you reduce errors, speed up data entry, and waste less time looking for information. We bring the power of automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to construction accounting and project management. For more information on how our software can save you time and money, contact us today.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Trends & Technology Ultimate Guide

Why is Software Support Critical to the Success of Your Business?

We know that changing financial and project management software can be stressful. The transition is often bumpy and can take several weeks or months to implement. With Premier Software you get the help and support you need throughout the software implementation and use process.

We help ensure that you are getting the most out of your investment and that your team is working at its peak efficiency. Here’s how Premier Construction Software provides you with the support you need to improve your business success.