The UK construction industry is facing a serious skills shortage in both professional and practical roles, with young people, ethnic minorities and women severely underrepresented in the sector. It’s a recurring theme in the headlines of industry publications and national press, but the everyday reality is a very real challenge for businesses.
High demand and skills scarcity are putting upward pressure on wages, adding to the difficulty organisations are facing in meeting project demands and deadlines. Furthermore, complex post-pandemic work environments and Gen Z’s graduation into the workforce present even further challenges for recruiters and employers.
Organisations will need to commit to investing in their talent pipelines and professional development programs if they are to secure future growth and success. How can they do this successfully? What are the worst affected areas? How can managers identify, attract and retain talent?
Recruiting in the built environment sector is currently harder than ever. The workforce is ageing, with the numbers of existing workers retiring outstripping the numbers of younger, new recruits. Previously, this gap had been partly bridged by EU migration, but Brexit puts this under threat. The extension of the pandemic furlough scheme may still be de-incentivising some from returning to work, particularly from non-traditional sectors.
To create successful recruitment campaigns and hire quality candidates in this environment, organisations need to start with a self-assessment. This means clarifying your goals and ethos as a business and carefully considering your workplace culture. In a market where skills are in short supply, employers have to show they offer more than just salary packages.
When deciding who to target with recruitment drives, businesses within the built environment industry need to start thinking outside the box. Less-experienced graduates and school leavers and people currently working in other sectors are often overlooked by hiring managers, but may possess vital transferable skills and be a good cultural fit. These candidate pools are vital for securing the future of the industry. The built environment is also in need of a serious culture shift in order to attract and retain more women, who only currently make up 13 per cent of the workforce.
HOW TO ATTRACT NEW PEOPLE TO YOUR BUSINESS
Understanding how to identify the talent you want to recruit is the first step, but businesses must persuade applicants that they are desirable employers. Equality, diversity and inclusion, flexibility, and professional development opportunities are high priorities for today’s employees, particularly for Millennials and Generation Z.
Ensure that your organisation’s objectives, purpose, and values are clearly and consistently upheld and underscore all your talent initiatives. This is vital for attracting people who are a good fit for your company and its aims, especially in a modern job market which highly values business ethics and culture.
Studies by the World Economic Forum and the UK Chartered Institute of Building have highlighted some of the concerns employees have about working in the construction and built environment sector. Particularly prominent have been issues around gender equality in the workplace and a lack of training and development. Investing in these areas doesn’t just attract talent. Diversity in the workforce is proven to drive innovation through diversity of thought. Extensive learning and development programmes are also features of some of the industry’s most successful companies.
RETAINING TALENT IN A BURGEONING MARKET
It’s widely known that young professionals are increasingly motivated by far more than just salary. If you are going to attract and retain talent, you need strategies for encouraging healthy and sustainable work-life balances and avoiding burnout, which erodes employee morale and loyalty. There is also demand for more flexible working patterns, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, and offering this can provide strong motivation to stay with an employer rather than leave for greener pastures.
Robust frameworks and clarity for career growth should reflect the values of the organisation and allow employees, particularly those early in their careers, to clearly envision their evolution within your business in the long term. It also sets clear goals for professional development, and helps managers to monitor and assess performance and growth. Providing training and development opportunities builds loyalty and makes staff feel that they are being invested in and valued.
From one perspective, trying to recruit new talent is currently a daunting prospect in the construction and built environment sector. However, it also presents an opportunity for a crucial restructuring which could prove essential for safeguarding the future of the industry. Thinking about who to reach out to and what to offer them is clearly very important, and emphasising company ethos when advertising, as well as making job offers which allow for flexible working arrangements are both useful strategies.
However, it’s not just about the recruitment process itself, work environments across the industry need to be made more welcoming and rewarding in order to attract and keep talent in the long term. Creating a more diverse and inclusive culture, introducing measures for tackling stress, and investing in loyalty-boosting learning and development programmes are all essential if businesses want to promote the position of careers within the built environment.