The labor shortage continues to loom over the skilled trades industry. Not only are employers concerned about a shortage of qualified workers coming into the field, but by increased retirement rates among veteran employees. The industry’s average age of retirement is 61, and more than one in five construction workers are currently older than 55. Approximately a quarter of workers will retire in the next decade.
Organizations should prepare their non-retirement age employees for a shortage that could demand more from them in the long-term. How? By equipping them with a digital-first mindset to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.
Establishing Digital Literacy
In order to capture generational knowledge before a quarter of skilled workers call it quits, organizational leaders should quickly and efficiently roll out digital tools. Luckily, most workers (70%) are interested in trying new, diverse tools on the jobsite, and almost half agree that overall technology integration will be a critical skill. In short, workers are on board with digital tools.
The first step to establishing a baseline of digital literacy within the organization is to identify the needs of the organization and determine which tools will be most critical. When introducing digital tools, finding applications that are both user friendly and meet demand is critical. For example, if the organization needs to improve collaboration abilities, making sure the tool has real-time collaborative features where all members of a team can discuss processes, updates, or next steps, is key. Or, if there’s a need for additional training and certifications across dispersed teams, a digital training tool where employees can learn at their own pace and on their own time will provide more value than in-person training sessions.
Organizations should consider providing training opportunities for workers to learn about the new technology and the benefits it will yield in their day-to-day work. By prioritizing technology implementation and training, organizations can set their workforce up for success from day one.
From Mind to Matter: Ensuring Knowledge Transfers
Critical to ensuring the longevity and success of an organization—and thus, the job security of its workers—is a seamless knowledge transfer from future retirees to the remainder of the workforce. A recent survey found that 42% of skilled workers cited lack of knowledge sharing and collaboration as their top challenge, meaning critical insights from retirees aren’t being passed down to existing workers.
Digital tools provide employees with portable, easily accessible resources that they can carry with them, whether in the office or on-site at a job. This creates a single repository of expertise for young or new employees to use when training, onboarding and seeking professional development. As a result, anyone from contractors to facility managers can access these resources, whether they be notes, diagrams, or additional supplemental resources, at any time.
Veteran workers hold all kinds of knowledge only gained from years of hands-on experience. By enabling these workers to capture their findings, notes and other relevant code information in one digital setting, digital tools ensure younger workers are better equipped to handle the challenges brought forth by a leaner workforce. By codifying knowledge in digital environments, workers can access key insights long after the generations before have retired and simultaneously record their own knowledge for the generations to come. Creating digital trails creates more resilient organizations, democratizing expertise so new employees can get up to speed quicker and without risk of losing physical resources.
Doing More with Less
Leaner workforces brought on by mass retirement can often mean additional work for remaining employees—and fewer experienced workers to collaborate with should they have questions or need guidance. While this may seem daunting at first, digital tools can serve as a steppingstone for workers to accelerate their growth in their respective field. When workers have access to information at their fingertips, they are more likely to seek out answers on their own when questions arise. Workers can easily find the answers to their own questions without needing to rely on coworkers or even a physical codebook.
As they feel more empowered to find solutions, workers will experience greater learning and can make informed decisions about the project they are working on, thus showing superiors their ability to problem solve in challenging situations.
With digital tools, workers are empowered to do more with fewer resources. While digital platforms may not entirely make up for much-needed personnel on jobsites, they can supplement activities and streamline workflows for more efficient project management. For example, anyone involved in a project—from management to a contractor—can collaborate via digital platforms. This ensures that all members of the team are in the know from day one of a project through completion and are aligned on process and goals every step of the way. When all members of a team are able to collaborate seamlessly, they are better positioned to complete projects in a timely manner, thus driving cost savings and client retention.
Technology in Practice
Retirement is inevitable, so the sooner organizations can implement a succession plan, the better prepared they—and their workforces—will be to manage operations in the absence of veteran workers. As the hiring and labor landscape changes, there’s no better time for organizations to adopt technologies that will help streamline work and alleviate the extra load left behind by retirees.
For over three years, Kyle Spencer has been working alongside his peers at NFPA to develop NFPA LiNK®, providing digital access to codes and standards. Now serving as the Director and Product Owner of NFPA LiNK®, he oversees the strategic direction for the application and helps support ongoing development and content creation efforts. Kyle has spent over a decade working in the electrical products industry, learning from engineers and installers on how to make the products they use more efficient.