Contractors Embracing “Recession-Proven” Labor Strategy as Construction Crews Return to Work

As economic and health uncertainties continue nationally, the construction industry has, nonetheless, seen two consecutive months of gains in construction starts, with May to June non-residential building starts improving 6%.1  Even with modest growth, electrical contractors are now faced with two workforce staffing challenges related to ever-shifting COVID-19 market restrictions:

  1. Determining how many full-time workers to bring back knowing workload spikes and declines are both more severe and frequent during the crisis.
  2. Filling full-time trade positions is even more daunting as many construction workers have health concerns related to returning to job sites and/or are taking advantage of unemployment benefit extensions and increased pay.


How are contractors addressing these challenges? They are once again embracing the CORE+Flex® workforce staffing strategy utilized during the Great Recession. Similar challenges were faced then and by incorporating the easy-to-implement strategy, contractors were able to effectively sustain a balanced work-to-worker ratio through constant project starts and stops. This fortified their businesses by keeping labor costs minimized and profit margins maximized.


When it comes to staffing in times of uncertainty, it is safer and more prudent to run a leaner full-time workforce, comprised only of top craft professionals, and supplement that core craft workforce with contract skilled craftsmen on an ‘only as needed’ basis. This ‘just-in-time’ staffing tactic creates a logical core staff level, avoids costly spikes and dips, and regularly saves businesses thousands of dollars over the long term.


An even greater motivator for embracing this strategy now is the timeframe. Unlike the previous recession, construction projects during this current COVID-19 impacted economy are rebounding within months versus multiple years.


To prepare for this, electrical contractors are adopting Tradesmen International’s “CORE+Flex” workforce staffing strategy. Businesses of all sizes can work with Tradesmen’s construction labor management trained consultants who use a proprietary Labor Productivity Analysis to ascertain what volume of full-time craft employees makes sense for their businesses now and for the long-haul. In addition, they can provide guidance on identifying which specific craft employees should be brought back on after being laid off by utilizing a custom W2 analysis.


The CORE+Flex staffing strategy is exactly right for today. With governmental and healthcare expert opinions varying day-by-day on which state, or which businesses, should open or stay open, it makes sense to play it safe with non-committal, flexible staffing.


In many cases, project workloads are hard to predict week-to-week, forcing contractors to scramble to find job-ready electricians or carpenters at the last minute to send to a work site. That scramble leads to sacrifices in safety, worker skill, deadlines, or budget overruns. By adopting a stable core staffing level, supplemented by on-demand staffing, contractors actually find they can afford higher quality professionals with no sacrifice to job profitability.


When workload begins to ramp up beyond what a leaner core workforce can handle, companies avoid adding permanent payroll. Similar to the period after the 2009 recession, they’re supplementing their core workers with contract skilled craftsmen. By staying in close contact with Tradesmen International’s 180 offices, they’re able to give our local recruiters an ample four-to-six day lead time on trades needed. The result is that Tradesmen confidently – with an approximate 90 percent or better fill-rate – provides the number of contract workers requested, at the right skill level, precisely as needed. By sending electrician employees back when workload slows, clients are sustaining a more profitable, productive workforce.


Using contract skilled labor has other advantages that positively impact contractor bottom lines. Tradesmen covers all payroll, unemployment, benefits, and Workers’ Comp related costs and risks on their employees. This shelters contractors from expenditures they’d normally have to pay on short-term, full-time workers.

Tradesmen International is offering contractors across America a free consultation including a custom Labor Productivity Analysis that, using client data, enables contractors to implement a logical Core+Flex staffing strategy.


1. Dodge Data & Analytics / July 16, 2020

Tradesmen International, an Ohio-based company, has provided contract skilled labor to construction and industrial partners since 1992. Partners benefit from Tradesmen’s recruiting expertise and magnitude, having at their disposal pre-screened craftsmen in all trades, at all skill levels. The severe shortage of verifiably skilled craftsmen across North America has otherwise made this a daunting task for construction business management. In addition, Tradesmen’s business model centers on enabling partners to sustain a balance between workload and workers which traditionally helps businesses achieve exceptional profit margin gains. From a construction worker perspective, the company’s continuous relationships with multiple contractors in an area enables Tradesmen to provide craft employees improved job stability. This is possible as, prior to the current project ending, the employee is already being marketed for their next assignment via a local team of sales professionals.

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