Business Tips

Construction HR issues

5 common HR problems construction contractors face—and how to solve them

As a business owner or operator in the construction or field service industry, you’re well aware of the difficulties that come with each project. Staying on task, hiring the right subcontractors, keeping your crews safe—the list of challenges goes on and on. Sometimes, though, the toughest obstacles to overcome in business stem from HR issues.

On that note, here’s a list of 5 common HR problems that arise in construction and how to solve them.

1. Employee substance abuse, including opioids.

Between 2008 and 2012, the construction industry had the second highest rate of workers with heavy alcohol usage. On top of that, a 2015 national survey found that construction had the fifth highest rate of illicit drug use. This is partially due to the long hours, irregular shift schedules and high-stress environments common in the industry.

These harsh working conditions often precipitate the use of methamphetamines by workers who want to up their energy to sustain long shifts, along with binge drinking to fill in the long breaks between jobs. Additionally, opioid addiction frequently takes root in people who suffered an injury and were prescribed pain medication—which is much more likely to happen in physically taxing industries like construction.

If you sense an issue with a certain team member, pull them aside and make them aware of resources like SAMHSA National Helpline.

This can be a tricky situation for business owners and project managers. While you want to be fully supportive of your crew members and what they’re going through, you also have a standard to uphold and culture to maintain. If you sense an issue with a certain team member, pull them aside and make them aware of resources like SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services) National Helpline, which is totally free and available 24/7, 365 days per year.

You can also keep workers in line by implementing randomized drug tests. Keep in mind that drug tests can easily cause workers to feel as though you don’t trust them, which may lead to resentment. So be sure to communicate clearly at the outset why you feel you must conduct testing, and what the consequences will be for those who don’t pass.

2. Missed shifts.

Every now and then, events beyond a worker’s control cause them to miss a shift—such as transportation problems or childcare issues. Occasionally, though, outright insubordination or bad behavior is the reason workers are absent. And when one employee gets away with missing a day, it can cause other workers who are doing their jobs well to feel cheated or slighted.

To combat this, give the following strategies a try:

  • Company culture starts from the top—be sure you and all your project managers are always early or on time for scheduled shifts, no exceptions.
  • Communication is critical. Let your workers know that while some events are out of their control, communication is always in their control. If an employee’s car breaks down, be sure they know to inform you as soon as it happens to build trust and solid habits.
  • If necessary, don’t be afraid to let employees go. As tough as the labor shortage has been for construction companies, sometimes the only viable solution is to dismiss wayward workers. If you let bad behavior go unchecked in your company, that behavior can easily spread.

3. Time theft.

Exaggerated hours, buddy punching, hour rounding—there are a lot of ways employees can engage in time theft. Every year, construction and field service companies that rely on an hourly workforce overpay for unworked hours. To curb this, you can of course try to keep a closer eye on all your job sites to determine if workers are on site on time. Or, you can invest in automated time tracking technology like ExakTime that utilizes GPS tracking so business owners can make sure their employees are on site when they clock in and out.

4. Employee lawsuits.

It’s one of a business owner’s worst nightmares, but it happens—so it’s important to prepare. To minimize the risk of an employee lawsuit, be 100% sure you’re staying compliant with all federal and state laws related to your industry. This is particularly important when it comes to issues like firing a worker or disputing their claims of overtime, or to workplace injuries.

Exaggerated hours, buddy punching, hour rounding—there are a lot of ways employees can engage in time theft.

One easy way to stay compliant as it relates to job site injuries is utilizing ExakTime’s compliance sign-off feature on our mobile app—which asks workers key compliance questions at clock-out and saves their answers for your records to keep you covered.

If you have any specific legal questions or just need general help, contact our partners at myHRcounsel. Their team is made up of over 50 employment law attorneys, many with long-term construction experience, who provide around-the-clock legal advice to customers. And with a guaranteed response time in under two hours, you’ll be able to get the information you need before it’s too late.

5. Misuse of equipment and materials.

Mistakes happen in any workplace, and construction job sites are no different. Occasionally, equipment will get damaged or broken by employees. While there’s no surefire way to combat this from happening, there are ways to decrease the likelihood it happens again. For instance, by regularly hosting toolbox talks or safety discussions prior to starting a project employees will be prepared for any tasks that might be trickier than more standard duties.

You can also mitigate any ripple effects the original incident might’ve caused simply by having a trusting culture where workers feel comfortable when approaching you with bad news. This will make them feel supported and unafraid to immediately fill you in if they’ve made a mistake. Lastly, you can also use project management software that provides you with cost code data to narrow down who has been using what machinery at any given time.