Like many industries, construction was hit hard during the pandemic. Numerous construction projects, even major developments, were deemed non-essential, which brought construction to a halt. Even companies with projects that were able to continue faced various challenges, such as labour shortages, temporary shut-downs due to exposure and supply chain disruptions. The accumulation of all these factors led to a loss of 6.5 million construction jobs across the globe and a drop in the GDP of more than $60 billion.

With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, global forecasts predict a bright future for the construction industry. While numerous variables, such as additional shutdowns, can impact these figures, global forecasts predict that construction output levels will surpass 2019 rates by the end of 2021. In fact, global forecasts anticipate the construction industry will see a growth rate of 5.2% in 2021.

The bad news is that many industries, including the construction sector, are facing immense labour shortages, with millions of jobs throughout the world left vacant. This problem is proving to be quite costly for many construction companies. In the United States alone, 35% of businesses in the construction industry reveal that they have had to turn jobs down due to the labour shortage. Additionally, studies in the UK show that businesses from all industries have spent over £6.6 billion trying to close the widening skills gap.

For construction companies to remain competitive in a post-pandemic market, it’s critical that they take steps now to improve their recruitment practices to ensure they can hire and retain the high-quality workers they need.

Our teams at Randstad understand the immense pressure facing employers in the construction industry. We have created a list of hiring tips to help construction employers develop robust recruitment strategies that will help them build a workforce for the future.

A photo of a man working in the construction sector
A photo of a man working in the construction sector

1. offer competitive salaries and benefits

According to our Randstad Employer Brand Research, workers have once again ranked competitive salaries as the number one factor they consider when looking for new job options. To remain relevant in today’s highly competitive job market, employers must take the time to reevaluate their current compensation packages and determine how these offerings align with their competition. Here are some tips to help you assess your company’s current compensation packages.

conduct market research

The COVID-19 pandemic has also altered salaries across industries and regions. Despite it may  seem like the worst time to consider raising wages, failing to take this step can significantly impact your company’s ability to hire top talent. The good news is that when done right, you can actually realise a cost savings by increasing salaries, due to lower turnover rates and reduced overtime.

If your company has not conducted market research recently to determine how its current salary offerings align with its competitors, now is the time to do so. This step can help you determine the optimal salary range your company should offer to remain competitive in today’s busy job market. Additionally, our team at Randstad can help you with this process by providing valuable insights and data to help your company determine the right salary range for each position..

offer reliable healthcare benefits

Today’s employees also want healthcare benefits they can depend on to take care of themselves and their families. This factor is especially true for workers living in areas that don’t offer government-run healthcare options. Other benefits, such as telehealth and mental health services, are also important to today’s workers.

provide safe working conditions

It’s not surprising that employees today are concerned about working conditions. Prior to the pandemic, construction workers' primary concern was safety on the job, and they expected their employer to follow all safety protocols. While job site safety is still a concern, today’s candidates also want to work for companies that take COVID-19 seriously by providing appropriate personal protective equipment, clear screening and testing procedures and extra precautions, such as handwashing stations and physical distancing, when possible.

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hiring tips for the construction industry.

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2. understand the shift in employees’ expectations

Construction employers can greatly improve their hiring outcomes by better understanding what today’s candidates want. First, it’s important to know that candidates’ needs and expectations have shifted since the pandemic. Secondly, the massive labour shortage has created a highly competitive job market, which makes it more important than ever for employers to find ways to match these new employee expectations, such as:

work-life balance

The pandemic brought to light just how important a healthy work-life balance is for employees as well as just how difficult it can be to maintain this balance. Due to the stresses of 2020, candidates are looking for some type of flexibility in the workplace, even in the construction industry.

While the very nature of construction work being hands-on, remote work options are limited to office and other off site workers. There are, however, other options employers can consider, such as staggered work schedules, part-time work options and additional paid time off. It’s important for employers to think outside the box and find ways to help their workers maintain this desired work-life balance.

job security

As millions of construction workers found themselves facing reduced hours, layoffs or terminations, job security became a major concern. Workers simply don’t want to face another year like 2020, where on top of the stresses related to a global pandemic, they also have to deal with financial worries. Instead, many workers are looking for stable jobs.

Fortunately for construction employers, the outlook for the industry looks bright. However, not all companies have been able to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, but there are strong indicators that the construction market will continue to grow in the upcoming years. Employers should offer some level of transparency to both current workers and prospective candidates to show the stability of the company.

career advancement

Another thing candidates are looking for is jobs with the potential for career advancement. While most companies are willing to promote within, not all of them provide a clear and visible career development program. The problem is that today’s candidates are quite savvy, and up to 75% of them research the company before even applying for a job. 

If these candidates cannot see that your company prioritises career advancement, they may not even apply to the position. For example, if your company offers an apprenticeship program in conjunction with a local trades school, be sure to advertise this in your job postings and career page. 

There are some steps you can take to ensure your career development program gets noticed:

  • establish a comprehensive career development program, such as a mentorship or apprenticeship that is applicable for all levels within the company 
  • focus on marketing the company’s training program to both current and prospective employees by mentioning it in company newsletters, employee portals, job postings and social media
  • use employee testimonials to discuss training opportunities within the company
A photo of a man wearing a safety vest working in the construction sector
A photo of a man wearing a safety vest working in the construction sector

3. build a strong employer brand

There’s no denying that the construction industry has been battling an image program for years. In fact, a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders reveals that out of the more than 2,000 Americans (aged 18 to 25) surveyed only 3% stated an interest in a career in the construction industry.  This image problem isn’t isolated to the United States - a similar survey of young adults in the UK (aged 16 to 18), showed that only 7% expresses an interest in construction work. It’s vital for construction companies across the globe to focus on strengthening their employer brand in an effort to change the mindsets of these younger workers. [There are several steps your company can take right now to start building or revamping your employer brand.

assess the state of your current employer brand

Even if your company doesn’t have a set employer brand strategy in place, there’s no doubt that it already has a reputation as an employer. Without a strategy in place, however, your company are at the mercy of what current and former employees, who may or may not be happy working there, decide to post online.

Before you can take any action in rebuilding your employer brand image, you must first take an honest look at the state of your current brand. This involves reading online reviews, conducting exit interviews, organising employee surveys and holding interviews with key players in the company. The combination of this data should give you a clear look at how employees and potential candidates view your company as an employer and provide insights as to where your company may need to make improvements.

develop your employer value proposition

Once you’ve assessed the current status of your company’s employer brand, it’s time to create a unique EVP (Employer Value Proposition). Branding expert, Richard Mosely, states that an EVP “conveys what employees can expect from an employer and what is expected of them in return” and “provides current and future employees with clear reasons to choose and stay with an employer.”

A strong EVP can help to differentiate your company as an employer from your competition and can be a powerful tool in the recruitment process. Once in place, the company’s EVP can serve as the basis for all employer branding strategies, which ensures a level of consistency.

focus on employee engagement

According to recent research, employee engagement can lower absenteeism, reduce turnover, result in fewer safety violations, improve quality and ultimately provide greater profits. If you needed one more reason to prioritise employee engagement, here it is — it can help strengthen your employer brand.

The reality is that employee engagement should begin during the recruitment process. Fortunately, today’s innovative HR technology can help to automate some recruitment tasks, such as sending out automated emails at various stages in the hiring process and enable candidates to schedule interviews online. HR technology can also help to streamline the hiring and onboarding process to provide a better candidate experience.

Employee engagement can become more difficult when dealing with a large workforce. Workforce management solutions, however, can help with this process. For example, our Randstad Inhouse Services includes an experienced onsite consultant who can handle communications between management and the workers. This service allows employers to enhance employee engagement throughout the company, without taking time out of their busy schedules.

4. narrow the skills gap

The skills shortage in the construction industry was a major challenge for employers well before the pandemic hit. In fact, in 2018 it was reported that only three cities in the entire world, including Houston, USA; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Muscat, Oman, reported a surplus of skilled construction workers. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only helped to widen this gap. With demand in the industry expected to increase, companies must take effective steps now to narrow the skills gap.

conduct a skills assessment

The first step to closing the skills gap is to obtain a better understanding of the specific skill sets needed in your company both for today and for the future of work. It’s vital for construction companies to take the time to conduct a comprehensive skills assessment as soon as possible.

Start by evaluating each position within the company and identify critical skills needed for each position. It’s helpful to interview current managers and frontline workers to ensure you obtain an accurate view of the scope of the job. Employers must also differentiate critical skills from skills that can be learnt on the job. Considering today’s looming skills shortage, this step is imperative to helping employers prepare their workforce for the future of work.

adjust job descriptions accordingly

Once this assessment is complete, employers can use this information to update job descriptions to include critical skills needed for each role within the company. These job descriptions, in turn, can be used to create detailed job postings that list the specific skill sets needed for the job. Moreover, it’s equally important to include relevant keywords within the company’s job postings. 

invest in upskilling and reskilling

With 35% of American construction companies already starting to turn down work due to the skill shortage, employers can no longer rely solely on hiring qualified workers to close the skills gap. Instead, construction employers should take additional steps to bring these vital skills into the workplace by investing in both upskilling and reskilling programs.

Upskilling is a vertical training program that enables workers to advance their careers within the company, whereas reskilling is a horizontal training program that ensures workers obtain the skills necessary to remain relevant in their current job or another job on the same level. Once you've conducted an in-house skills assessment, you can appropriately target specific skill sets and centre your training around those that will best support horizontal and vertical advancement for employees.

For a step-by-step guide to hiring in the construction industry, download our construction industry hiring checklist today.

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about the author
Alex Carson
Alex Carson

alex carson

randstad general manager professionals victoria

Alex Carson has been part of the Randstad business for the last 14 years. Having initially joined the Randstad UK business in 2007 after graduating, after 7 successful years he relocated with his wife to Melbourne and joined the Australian business. Over the journey, Alex has recruited and managed teams across a diverse range of sectors and disciplines including both public and private sector clients.

In his current position as General Manager in Victoria, Alex is responsible for Randstad's Victorian Professional businesses that incorporate our Construction, Property and Engineering, Public Sector that includes both Local, Federal and State Government, Banking and Financial Services, Accounting and Finance as well as our Manufacturing, Operations, Transport and Logistics Business across Victoria.