Labor Can’t Compete on Price
Competitive wages aren’t enough to attract top talent.
It’s no secret that labor is one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry right now. Many workers left the field during the early stages of the pandemic, and not all of those roles have been filled since.
Nearly a quarter of construction workers are over 55, and almost half of the field is expected to retire within the next decade.1 It takes time to replace those employees, especially in skilled trades, and inexperienced workers lack the efficiency and expertise of their seasoned colleagues. More will need to be hired to fill the gaps left behind.
President Biden’s huge infrastructure bill has poured government dollars into the system, increasing demand for new buildings and massive renovations. There are also many private projects underway right now, especially for apartment complexes and multifamily housing. The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) estimates that 546,000 new construction workers will be needed to keep up with national demand, on top of those needing to be replaced.2
Here in New Mexico, the numbers tell a similar story. As contractors, we have to get our projects staffed, both by hiring subcontractors and bringing new faces into our crews. If we want our teams to be passionate, hardworking, and committed to the long haul, we need to set that example with our actions and build a workplace worthy of their loyalty.
Raising Salaries Isn’t the Answer
When we bid on a project, we know better than to try to win on price. We price our work competitively, but we’re realistic about what our time and experience are worth, and we make a point of working with owners who understand and appreciate the value of skill. When you find a bargain hunter who’s only looking at dollar signs, you know it won’t be a good working relationship.
The same kind of logic applies the other way around, too. You can’t attract the right kind of workers with high wages if you have nothing else to offer. If salary is the only reason someone applies for a job, they’ll move on to other opportunities as soon as they get a higher offer.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be compensating people for what they’re worth. We understand the value of experience and work ethic, and we strive to compensate competitively, whether through merit increases, sign-on bonuses, and raising wages as needed to keep up with the field.
But we know we can’t win on price. No one can. And we wouldn’t want to. Because we’re looking to do more than staff a quick project. We want to build long-term relationships and nurture career growth, and that means finding team members whose values and vision aligns with our own.
Building a Career Worth Reaching Toward
Workers want jobs they can feel good about. We choose construction projects that have a real, tangible impact on the communities we live in, from raising buildings that meet the needs of our neighbors to lifting people up through job creation and opportunities. Every school, hospital, government facility, and housing complex we build or renovate has a far-reaching ripple effect on lives, and we find meaning in making a positive impact. Our best job candidates feel the same way.
We also take care of our employees’ health and safety. We understand that construction is physically demanding and sometimes dangerous, so we prioritize minimizing those risks and take our safety record very seriously. We also provide extremely competitive insurance rates and an on-site health clinic just for Jaynes employees and their families. Routine healthcare and preventative medicine are always covered and protected. That’s how you invest in workers for a lifetime.
Beyond regular compensation and benefits, our company is built around an employee stock ownership plan. As an ESOP, our company profits are redistributed among team members so that each person on payroll has a tangible stake in the company’s growth and performance. This sets us apart from most other construction companies, and it allows our team to be taken care of financially in a way that goes beyond base pay.
Solving the labor shortage in the construction industry isn’t a one-step fix, and it won’t go away overnight. But as a leading general contractor in the Southwest, we know it’s our responsibility to lead by example. And if we want people to invest their time and labor in us, we need to invest in them, too, in a way that goes beyond the dollar.
1 – Katara, S. (2022, August 22). Replenishing the construction labor shortfall. Forbes.
2 – Construction workforce shortage tops half a million in 2023, says ABC. Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (2023, February 9).