How to bridge the skills shortage by attracting and retaining new staff

The construction industry was quick to adapt to working within the constraints of the pandemic, and as a result, many businesses have been able to weather the last two years with minimal disruption. However, finding new recruits is still a big problem for many companies. Here, Kelly Friel from industrial tool and PPE supplier Zoro, shares some insight into how firms can attract and retain staff.

The Construction Industry Training Board has predicted in a report that the sector will reach 2019 levels of output by 2022, because recovery from the pandemic has been quicker than expected. As a result, another 217,000 new workers will be needed by 2025 to meet all the expected demand.

However, there’s a serious skills shortage in the UK at the moment, especially now that many workers have left the country due to Brexit, and this can make it very tricky to find new recruits. So, what can you do to find and keep the staff that you need, and how can firms encourage new talent to enter the sector?

Redefining perceptions of the industry

It’s important to be aware of what might be putting people off from applying to construction roles, and to take steps to redefine their view of construction as a career path. Highlighting the variety of roles available is a good starting point, as well as using your job adverts to show the excitement of the available positions. This can also be a good opportunity to show people how interesting this sector can be for people who thrive on teamwork, activity and organisation.

Many potential applicants might be unsure of what pay and progression they can expect from construction jobs, so it’s important to make this information clear too. Make sure your job adverts convey the opportunities within your roles, and don’t be afraid to hire a recruitment firm to take over your job advertising if you feel this would improve your outreach.

Outreach events will also attract recruits, so try doing seminars, workshops, and presentations at colleges, universities, and recruitment fairs for people who are interested in joining the industry. This gives you the opportunity to meet plenty of potential candidates.

Provide career development opportunities

One of the best things that you can do to keep great talent with your company long-term, is to offer ways for staff to progress, learn and develop professionally. Make it clear in your job adverts that you prioritise staff development, and that you offer opportunities to move up the ladder.

This will help you attract workers who are looking for long-term roles, meaning you can avoid the hassle and cost of rehiring frequently. It also means that you will build up a pool of people ready to move into higher level positions who already know your company processes, meaning they can really hit the ground running when they change roles.

There are various ways to encourage upskilling and professional development. You can offer training courses that would allow existing staff to take on new tasks and projects within your business, or move into managerial roles. Running internships and apprenticeships is also a great way to help young people get into the industry, and will encourage them to stay with your company in the future.

Create a positive company culture

It’s easy to get lost in the targets you’re trying to meet, and all the projects you have to finish, but it’s worth taking some time to ensure that your company culture is positive and rewards hard work. Make sure that you recognise when employees do well, whether that’s meeting their target numbers and deadlines, or bringing new ideas and methods. This will not only make people feel valued, but also give everyone an incentive to put their all into the company.

Some good ways to do this include devising company reward schemes, and performance-related bonuses. Or, you might have an award for the employee of the month, to draw attention to particularly good work.

You could even run a social media campaign to showcase your workplace culture, with behind-the-scenes videos and interviews with staff. Consider adding this sort of content to your company website too, so prospective applicants can look up your business and get an idea of the way you work prior to applying for jobs.

Build diversity and inclusion in your company

It’s well-known that the construction industry is largely male-dominated, but that has been changing over the years. Making time to reach out to not only women, but other underrepresented groups in construction, could widen your pool of candidates, and establish you as a proactive business in this area. Try volunteering to go into schools and colleges to give talks showing that women are welcome in construction, or offering apprenticeships for women to get their start in the industry.

The National Association of Women in Construction works to help women advance in the sector, and could offer advice on how to open up your company to more diverse candidates. They also run events for women in the industry, so you could even offer to talk at one and use it as an opportunity to meet possible job candidates.


Change up your recruitment methods

If you are finding it difficult to reach suitable candidates, look at your recruitment processes and see if there is anything you can change. Trying new methods often yields surprisingly good results, and if you haven’t had to hire people for a while, you might find that there are new platforms and websites that have become popular since you last took on new staff

If job websites like Indeed aren’t bringing you the calibre of people you need, try Facebook, and LinkedIn. Ask your current staff members to refer people to you, as they will know your business inside out — you could also ask their advice about where they have looked for new roles in the past.

Another option is to use a specialist recruitment firm that focuses on construction. They will be up to date with the latest developments in the sector, and may have candidates on their books that you might not find via listing websites. While you do have to allocate additional budget for this, it can be an invaluable time-saver, especially when recruiting for senior or specialist roles.

Recruiting new staff is time-consuming, and can be expensive, but these tips should help you get started on a productive hiring drive. Building your reputation as a good long-term employer, and finding ways to get the attention of people interested in construction through outreach, will help bring you the new talent you’ll need to complete all your upcoming projects.

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