The midstate’s largest general contractor, Kinsley Construction Inc., employs nearly 1,200 people, but the company faces the same challenge as its smaller peers: employee retention.
Younger workers today — often more transient and collaborative than previous generations — want to know what their career pathway will look like if they stick around, said Jon Kinsley, president and COO of the York Township-based company.
That means they want to see a plan for educational opportunities at a company and learn whether executive growth plans will create opportunities for promotion.
But as work returns to pre-recession levels for many construction companies, human resources departments have yet to fully catch up with recruitment.
Many construction workers left the industry for other jobs during the downturn and a big wave of older workers will be leaving the workforce over the next five years, which could exacerbate the problem.
But Kinsley and other contractors are confident they will fill needed positions. Apprenticeship programs have been on the rise and many construction companies have invested in more internal training, said G. David Sload, vice president of education and workforce development for the Keystone Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.
However, what might bring it all together is a new position — talent development manager — that Kinsley is adding to supplement its HR and build a stronger team. The company finished 2015 with $432.7 million in revenue to lead all regionally based contractors.
“This position is about identifying people who are rising stars and help them move up in the company,” said Steve Brooks, president of Virginia-based Potomac Associates, a consultant helping Kinsley create the talent-development job.
Brooks, who works with a lot of construction firms across the country, said many growing companies are looking at ways to rebrand themselves and better appeal to millennials. Some of that effort is being driven by fear of another recession, he said, which would likely slow the pace of projects.
The rebranding often entails generating new positions and new names for existing positions. For example, an estimator might be called a pre-construction specialist.
“The younger generation needs more of an identity and connection,” he said.
Not all companies, especially smaller firms with fewer resources, will follow the trend, Brooks added.
Top construction companies
Kinsley Construction Inc.; $432.7 million
Wohlsen Construction Co.; $313.19 million
Quandel Enterprises Inc.; $274.82 million
Wagman Inc.; $211.51 million
Lobar Inc.; $174.49 million
R.S. Mowery & Sons Inc.; $137.39 million
Warfel Construction Co.; $131.1 million
Eichelberger Construction Inc.; $120.02 million
Benchmark Construction Co. Inc.; $102.41 million
Conewago Enterprises Inc.; $95.6 million
“There is no question that larger companies have a greater ability to maintain the culture,” Sload said. “But the bigger you are, the bigger challenges you have.”
Finding enough talented people to manage a $20 million job at a big company might be just as hard as finding people for a $1 million job at a smaller company.
A Range of work
However, a common misconception is that big companies like Kinsley handle only big projects when the truth is they work on many smaller jobs throughout the year.
Road construction accounts for 15 or 20 percent of what Kinsley does, but most people assume that’s all they do because of their large fleet of red trucks, which are often found on highways.
Kinsley’s average building project is $2 million to $3 million, officials said.
Bigger jobs for Kinsley include apartment projects in Baltimore. It also is building retail centers in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia areas.
In addition, distribution centers remain a stable source of revenue for Kinsley. Last year, the company opened an office in Herndon, Va., to expand its reach in the Mid-Atlantic and tackle more of these industrial projects.
From that office, Kinsley is currently overseeing the largest project in its history. German-based discount grocery chain Lidl, which is planning stores in York County, is building a regional headquarters and a $125 million distribution center in Spotsylvania County, Va.
Kinsley trucks and signs are a fixture on the job site, but company officials declined to talk specifics about the Lidl project, due to a confidentiality agreement.
A spokesman for Lidl, which is investing more than $200 million in its Virginia operations, confirmed the partnership.
Kinsley is managing several other projects from that new regional hub, including construction of a few retail stores, condominium upgrades and an office renovation to separate the operations of eBay and PayPal.