How do you attract talent to the construction industry – and hang on to it?
Like so many sectors across the UK now, the construction industry is struggling to find candidates to fill thousands of vacancies and, arguably, is finding it equally difficult to hang on to these recruits.
We know that the industry faces problems with staff turnover, which can be as high as 64 per cent for employees aged 24 or younger. Days spent on wet, muddy building sites shovelling cement or clambering up and down slippery scaffolding seems to have lost its appeal for younger people who could be working in a warm, dry environment and arguably make as much money.
That’s the perception, anyway. The reality is that the construction industry offers far more opportunities than it is given credit for. The work is varied and creative, and has good job satisfaction attached. There are numerous roles for construction professionals, all with significant skills levels, and there are always opportunities to move up the career ladder, particularly if the recruit is keen to start his or her own building company. With the right hiring process and a strong emphasis on industry knowledge, companies can attract and retain top talent in the construction sector.
The difficulty appears to lie in communicating the advantages of a career in construction. Basically, we’re very good at getting on with the job of building houses, offices and shops, and not quite as good at talking about it! If we are to attract the right people and help them to build a career that will last for a lifetime, we really need to talk up the benefits of a career in construction, including the specific skill set that is required. So let’s have a closer look at a blueprint for doing this:
1. Keep pace with salary expectations
While salary isn’t everything, in an era where inflation is outstripping wages it’s certainly not an insignificant factor. The days when a young lad might turn up on a site and earn a few quid cash in hand for a day’s labouring are long gone. Young people now have a higher sense of worth and if they’re planning to buy a house or a car, they’ll want to know how much they’re going to get – and they’re not afraid to ask. So be honest about what you’re offering, take a look at your competitors’ offer and if you can’t quite match those, think of creative ways of improving your sell. Don’t forget to emphasise salary progression too – if a recruit thinks they’ll be stuck on the same wage forever, they’ll soon vote with their feet.
2. Make career progression an important part of your package
Asking someone ‘How are you with a spade?’ won’t really cut it these days. Not least because quality candidates are looking beyond the basics, plus there is a real drive to recruit more women into the sector, who really won’t be impressed by any demonstrations of macho culture. Recruits of both sexes need to know that while they may be starting at a basic level, they won’t be there forever. You’ll need to demonstrate that you’re happy to invest in training and continual development (if you’re not already doing that) and that you’re willing to give new recruits time and support to achieve the qualifications they need.
3. Create a pleasant working environment
Yes, it might be a building site but it needn’t be squalid. Whatever the working environment, put some thought into making it pleasant, welcoming and clean. By providing good facilities, refreshments, adequate lighting, car parking space and the rest, you’ll show your employees that you care. Neglecting these gives the opposite impression! The same goes for a construction company's head office. These should be the same as any other office environment – clean, comfortable and well lit, with functioning technology and places for staff to take a break in. It really isn’t rocket science, but you might be surprised at the number of construction firms who believe these things don’t matter. Well, they do.
4. Recognise and reward talent
As we’ve said, salary isn’t everything. There are many ways to recognize and reward talent and effort, and these are almost certainly cheaper than a costly pay rise. Often, a simple ‘Well done, great work!’ can be enough to make an employee feel good about themselves. Do this regularly and you’ll soon find you have a workforce that appreciates and welcomes positive and constructive feedback. Other ways to recognise effort include regular out-of-hours staff get-togethers, team bonding sessions, recognition of work anniversaries and birthdays, options for white collar personnel to work from home, ‘Employee of the Month’ awards – anything that generates the feelgood factor among staff, helping them to realise that the grass isn’t necessarily greener elsewhere.
5. Effective communications
Communicating well with your employees is key. Right from the start, new recruits should know exactly what the firm’s objectives are and how they will fit into such objectives. Expecting employees to pick up such information second-hand is a sure-fire way to sow confusion and doubt. Be clear about what you expect from people and emphasise that as far as you are concerned, the door is always open for employees to come and chat about their ideas, concerns and ambitions. Honesty and approachability are always appreciated.
Staff recruitment and retention is one of the biggest issues the construction industry faces, and our future very much depends on attracting good employees who will go the distance. The techniques we’ve described above don’t take much implementation but will go a long way to improving the working environment for everyone in the organisation.
PPR is a recruitment company which specialises in the supply of staff to the construction industry, covering all areas of construction, house building, and infrastructure nationwide. We have supplied skilled people to almost every major infrastructure project that has taken place in London and the South East. We provide a unique and unrivalled service to both clients and candidates, focusing on working collaboratively for the benefit of everyone involved in meeting their recruitment needs. For more information contact us here or give us a call on 01895 808188.