One of the hottest topics in preconstruction for the past couple of years has been bringing on new talent. Labor shortages have impacted industries everywhere, including construction, but estimating teams have been hit especially hard. We all know that most new graduates want to head to the field, not the office.
As we’ve talked about in a few other articles, a big part of the problem is the overall perception of estimating. A lot of people believe that the role boils down to being nothing more than a human calculator, not realizing the many opportunities to learn and stretch skills like data analysis, problem-solving, and creative thinking.
So how do we make precon sexy/glamorous/interesting/all of the above to brand-new estimators? It’s not as hard as you might think. We’ve come up with six ways to help new talent actually see what an incredible career preconstruction can be.
Advertise the tools you use.
Consider introducing hybrid schedules/flextime.
Make sure you have a training plan in place.
Emphasize opportunities for continuing growth in areas like creative problem-solving and data visualization and analysis.
Encourage additional career development with workshops, networking events, and conferences.
Make sure your head’s in the right place, too – recognize when you’re undervaluing/underselling the work that you do, even subconsciously.
1. Advertise the tools you use
Many companies either aren’t using up-to-date estimating tools, or they aren’t advertising them to potential new hires loudly enough. Technology (and its many uses) are one of the biggest differentiators for preconstruction. Not only does it enable estimators to fully maximize their capabilities, but it also lets them really push the limits of their imagination, particularly when it comes to overcoming difficult projects and other challenges.
But too often, companies may forget to mention these assets in hiring conversations. Our research shows that estimators, especially new ones, are much more likely to stay with companies who invest in quality software (which you can read more about here).Don’t be afraid to be proactive and let candidates know what they can expect to work with if they move forward with your team – and if your toolkit is bare-bones, give some serious thought to prioritizing a few upgrades.
The beautiful thing about preconstruction is that it’s one of the few roles within the world of construction that can be easily set up for remote work. While a fully remote schedule may not be the best fit for your team, offering a hybrid schedule – or even just 1-2 days of telework – can mean the difference between an acceptance or a rejection. And, in an industry notorious for being slow to change, it’ll likely set you head and shoulders above just about everyone else your candidates are talking to.
3. Make sure you have a training plan in place.
Another area that can quickly scare a fresh graduate off is a disorganized workplace and a clear lack of guidance. It’s already difficult to succeed when you don’t even know what’s expected of you, and it’s basically impossible when every estimator seems to have their own unique way of estimating a project.
So, before you even start to think of setting up camp at college job fairs, sit down and document your processes. Find areas where you could tighten (or maybe even eliminate) workflows. Make sure all of your relevant data is stored in an easy-to-access platform that any employee can find and figure out what a new hire should know in their first 30 days. Some companies also add initiatives like weekly check-ins and mentorship programs to ensure success.
4. Emphasize opportunities for continuing growth in areas like creative problem-solving and data visualization and analysis.
The best asset that someone can bring to an estimator tool? Their brain! There’s a true art to estimating, an art that can’t simply be automated in the way that more tedious tasks are. When you have tools in place to do things like execute takeoff on multiple drawings and guarantee accurate data, then you can start focusing on higher-level activities, like project pursuit, data visualization, and template building.
In many preconstruction teams, it’s not uncommon to see estimators grow into specialties. You may have someone who’s a whiz at building out PowerBI dashboards. Someone else might excel at trendspotting and developing workflows to speed up certain types of projects. These kinds of opportunities are exactly what new estimators want to hear, even more than the flashy software you have available. There’s nothing more exciting than to be told that you’ll be actively encouraged to pursue what you’re passionate about in your career.
5. Encourage additional career development with workshops, networking events, and conferences.
Preconstruction has often been stereotyped as isolating and limited, especially when compared to the field. But now more than ever, there are so many ways to connect with other estimators both within and without your company.
However, potential candidates and new hires aren’t going to know that if you aren’t making them aware of the virtual and in-person additional development they can pursue. You can further sweeten the deal by making room in your budget for some of your team members to attend conferences and workshops.
And if you’re really serious about continuing education and strengthening relationships across the industry, make it a part of your team members’ quarterly goals. Job seekers want to know that you value your employees, and this is an excellent way to do so.
6. Make sure your head’s in the right place, too – recognize when you’re undervaluing/underselling the work that you do, even subconsciously.
Finally, don’t forget that your perspective of preconstruction will affect the perception of those you’re trying to hire. If you don’t believe that the work you’re doing is meaningful, that estimators have some of the most powerful impacts on a project’s lifecycle, you can’t expect someone brand-new to the industry to believe that either.
All too often, preconstruction is seen as an afterthought – “just something we gotta do.” Estimating efforts are usually rolled into the cost of a total project, rather than being priced out separately, and the impact that a good estimate has on an entire project is often downplayed if not completely overlooked.
So don’t let that be you. Get loud and excited about your team’s wins. Share them with your entire company. Help people understand the powerful impact preconstruction can have on building better. In order to attract new hires who want to be in estimating, you and your team should already be contagiously enthusiastic about your estimating efforts.
Which of these steps can you try today?
We hope these tips have given you a glimpse into reframing preconstruction from boring and dusty to fresh and interesting. Of course, some of the things we’ve suggested are easier to implement than others. Tell us which ones you’re planning to try at email@example.com.
Melissa Mullen was born with a book in her hand, or so she’s been told. Since then, her love of reading has grown into a love of writing. She has been published in TEXO’s IN FOCUS Magazine and has ghostwritten several other industry articles for DCD Magazine. If she’s not putting pen to paper, you can find her bouldering with friends or hopping on a plane in search of the best coffee shop in the U.S.