Metrics Matter part 3

Bryant Black

Director, Workforce Development
Greater Houston Partnership

​C3 Advocate,

While C3 continues to gain ground and we can see our contractor count growing along with our owner base and project total, we cannot effectively map metrics to program and are left to believe “C3 is doing good” and achieving its mission.  But the thing that keeps me up at night is the question – how can I demonstrate our progress more directly? What makes me think we can track impact and improvement on the talent pipeline? Because we aren’t the only ones solving this equation and there is help out there.

We are at the beginning of a long journey to re-orient the contracting community to the best talent management practices and make construction competitive with other industries. Our foundation is in the Craft Training Endorsement. To achieve even the lowest level of certification from C3 a company must be tracking training. The key word in all that we are going to discuss in the next two installments is tracking. We don’t want any company to stop tracking training, but we also need to track two key metrics for staffing – turnover and retention. Let me quickly clarify two words that many of us believe are the same but, are quite different: attrition and turnover. Attrition refers to a job that is vacated and not filled again. For example, if a company hires a project manager and that position becomes open due to layoff, retirement, or discharge, and the company no longer needs the same number of project managers and does not refill the position. Turnover is the churn in our system of people leaving for other positions and us replacing them each time.

There are organizations that can reactively tell us about unemployment and the changes in the labor market. The Department of Labor or workforce board(s) can look back over the last month’s numbers or even the last few decades and tell us that the shortage is there, or it might be less for a month or more for a year. What they can’t tell us is if Houston still has a problem in commercial construction. To really understand the impact, we are making we need to look at some key performance indicators for Talent Management at the company level and then at the collaboratively level.

At your company level, you should be looking to see if you have enough workforce to manage your current job demand as well as grow your business to take on new projects, scopes of work, or any other growth path you are seeking. One question you need to ask yourself consistently is, “is my workforce capacity or quality a limiting factor in my bidding or winning of bids for work?” This number tells us if the current workforce is sufficient to do what we need to generate strategic business results for the company. Next, we need those turnover rates and maybe a root cause analysis to tell us why we have the levels of turnover we do. People might leave for money, culture, skills mismatch, performance, or attendance, or possibly they found another opportunity. If the impact of turnover is limiting your ability to bid, complete, or win projects it is important to determine what pieces of that you can impact and set plans in motion to reduce turnover. When you have an idea of workforce needs coupled with your normal turnover rates you can then create a forecasted demand for the next six, 12, or even 24 months.

But how does this impact C3’s ability to demonstrate that we are impacting the industry’s talent pipeline? Good question! When contractors anonymously report individual demand for key positions that span multiple types of trade partners (laborers, foremen, helpers, etc) we can create a full picture of the need inside Houston’s commercial market. For example, if Company A knows that they have a 6-month forecast of 10 apprentice electricians, they go to the local high school that offers an electrical program. The school has only 8 students graduating this year and they all have job offers at Company B, Company C, and Company D. Had all these companies worked together to forecast the need they could have leveraged other schools to teach an electrical program or worked with one of the community colleges to create a boot camp that generates basic electrical knowledge and construction safety. Then all four companies could have been fully staffed to produce high quality and safe work throughout Houston. When we report together (keeping individual companies’ needs anonymous) we are able to create scale in our recruiting, training, and hiring practices. It puts contractor collaborations like C3 in the driver’s seat with regard to the talent pipeline. We are able to leverage key relationships with “vendors” like ISDs, community partners, and colleges to create a stronger pool of candidates that meet our collective needs. It becomes much like managing our supply of materials to ensure that we aren’t relying only on one relationship to get the job done.

I get it, collaboration like this might be risky and feel sort of hard at first. But it is what C3 was founded to do and what drives our mission forward. It is more than just a number, we have to create a community of contractors that speak the same language and have defined a base level of threshold competency that is required for common job roles. While one may call someone an apprentice, another a helper, and still another a laborer if the basic duties of the day include the same thing we can begin to create a forecast and job profile that assists our vendors in creating a solid line of people to our doors. As we begin to work together to define and articulate need we will finally be able to measure not just the gap between current labor needs and workforce but our ability to attract and retain new people to the industry. So I’m hopeful that you are ready to learn about how you can start collaborating with other contractors in our community to create some synergy propelling C3 forward. Collaboratives are being started in January of 2023 get your company to the front of the line by joining here.

And don’t miss our final installment on metrics in two weeks “But did they stay?”


Angela Robbins Taylor
C3 Executive Director

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