macdonald and company
macdonald and company

Hire Construction Managers, Overcome the Skills Shortage

Posting date: 15 April 2019
Author: Tim Stranks

How to Hire Construction Professionals 

A 2018 review of official and other data by the Financial Times confirmed that the construction sector is suffering when it comes to finding skilled employees. No surprise to companies looking to hire construction managers. So, what are construction companies doing to attract people with the skills they need? Is there anything that you could be doing better? How is your company tackling the skills shortage in construction? The UK Employer Skills Survey found that the construction sector has the most vacancies based in skills shortages. It also has the third highest rate of hard-to-fill jobs. In response to this skills shortage, it’s likely that your company may have increased salaries for new hires. 

The 2019 RICS and Macdonald & Company Rewards and Attitudes Survey found that salaries in the construction sector increased by 5.6% in 2018, to an average of £54,000.
Do higher salaries lead to easier hiring?
Do they improve staff retention?
The survey would suggest that the answer to the first question is yes. When asked about factors they weigh up when considering a job move, salary was cited as the most important. The answer to the second question is "No" with 37% of respondents say they are likely or very likely to move jobs within 12 months.

Why is there a skills shortage in construction?

There has always been a skills shortage in construction. Good, highly skilled, and highly experienced construction managers are hard to find. It has become more difficult to fill such vacancies since 2014. The Global Financial Crisis and ensuing recession hit the industry hard. Younger workers quit construction. Older employees are now approaching retirement. Youngsters have been shunning the sector. The result is a shortage in skilled staff that could take years to close.

This shortage is made worse by a lack of technical and soft skills needed. Technology is changing rapidly, customer expectations are changing, new building methods are being introduced. There is an increasing need for managers with sharp interpersonal skills and the ability to encourage and improve teamwork through good leadership tactics.

Existing construction managers are under pressure and have little time to improve their skill sets. This leads to fewer people currently in the industry acquiring the skills for the industry to move forward. It’s the ultimate catch 22.

Skills shortage acceptance

Accepting the skills shortage in construction as the reason you can’t hire a construction manager, surveyor or project manager may be stopping you from hiring successfully. It creates a negative mindset from the outset. Let’s put it this way: if your procurement manager said that work on a development had to stop because they couldn’t get the materials to continue, would you be satisfied? Or would you expect
them to go and source the materials needed from elsewhere? The procurement manager’s job is to find the best materials at the right price and best quality. Recruiting is procurement. The difference is that you are searching for employees instead of materials.

Make sure your job spec matches reality

If your procurement manager says that materials just aren’t available, and that there is nothing on the market that fits requirements, you have two choices. The first is to accept the finding and close the development. The second is to rethink the design and reshape the specs for your materials accordingly.

Searching for people that simply aren’t available is a pointless, time-consuming and expensive exercise. If your job specs aren’t realistic, then your candidate search won’t bear the fruit you expect it to. What is needed is a shift in your expectations. Instead of looking for a complete package of skills, seek out talent that you can up-skill. Decide what skill-sets are most important to you.

In our article “How to hire the best building surveyors in the UK”, we discussed how to develop a meaningful job description.
The key is to consider what qualities you need in the position to help your business progress. These role-specific competencies will match purpose and requirements, and help you determine which skills, qualifications, knowledge and other characteristics you are seeking in a candidate. Such competencies include:

  • Relevant qualifications
  • Relevant experience
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Passion for the role
  • Commitment to the company
You will then be able to build a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Consider, too, which must-haves are skills that could be learned or developed in the role. A little flexibility, combined with greater willingness to develop people in a role, will encourage more professionals to apply for the position available. A realistic job spec is essential to your hiring process in a market in which there is a skills shortage.

Why don’t people want to work for you?

Here’s one of the elephants in the room. If your job spec isn’t unrealistic but you still cannot recruit – in a market in which more than a third of professionals are open to a move – then it may be time to turn your focus inward. You must ask yourself why people don’t want to join your company.

What do the best candidates want?

If your hiring strategy relies on paying higher salaries than your competitors to attract the best people, you will probably be roadblocked by the skills shortage or suffer higher-than-average employee turnover. Today, the best employees want much more than a higher salary to tempt them to move jobs. People move to progress their career. One of the primary reasons people move jobs is to progress their career. As an example, there are several ways in which a construction manager might achieve this, such as moving:
  • To manage a bigger team
  • To a role in a different sector – industrial instead of residential, for example
  • For promotion
  • Into a job in a different geography
In each of the above cases (and there are many more than can be cited), the construction manager who wants a move is unlikely to have all the skills identified by a hiring company as essential. This is where the list of must-haves and nice-to-haves is so useful. By introducing some flexibility into a skills list, talented professionals (who would otherwise consider themselves to be underqualified) are encouraged to apply; for example, managers who are currently leading a team of eight rather than the team of two dozen staff they will manage in the role you need filled. There is a big difference between advertising for a manager with experience of managing a multi-faceted team and a manager with experience of managing a team of more than 20 employees. The question that you must answer is, could the candidate be developed to lead a larger team than the one they are responsible for in their current role?

People move to work in a company with good culture
Professionals move to escape toxic cultures and work at a company in which employees are happier. Again, there are some big clues from the RICS and Macdonald & Company Rewards and Attitudes Survey as to why professionals become disillusioned with their current roles and what they are seeking from a new employer.

People want to feel valued in their roles and be recognised for the work they do. Research has shown that compensation is a ‘hygiene factor’ of work. While a below par salary will dissatisfy an employee, a high salary is not the deciding factor when people decide to  remain in a job or move to another job.

The best people are attracted to a new position because it offers the potential for greater job satisfaction – this might be provided by more responsibility, the opportunity for promotion, and to work in an environment in which they can benefit from training and development opportunities.

In addition, professionals wish to work in teams in which their work is recognised by their managers and the board. A positive management style, with line managers recognising performance, is considered by almost two-thirds of professionals as having a positive impact on their productivity. Companies that respect their employees’ personal time score highly with today’s employees who desire a better work/life balance. Why move to a company that invades home lives with expectations for their employees to work weekends, during annual leave, and out of hours? In short, while a higher salary may create interest in a role, it is unlikely to be enough to tempt someone to leave their current role. If it is, you need to ask if this is the best person for the job, or if they would be likely to move as soon as another higher paying role becomes available.

Does your hiring process ignore the professionals you want?

Hiring of people is a commodity. What do we mean by this? Many companies and agencies have automated at least a part of their hiring process. They search CVs by keywords and specific requirements. When candidate searches are handled in such a rigid manner, you eliminate flexibility. You remove the human element – the ability to delve deeper into a person’s career history. Automated systems can distinguish between employees who have remained with their current employer for more than three years and those who left after two. 

They can’t interrogate and understand the reasons behind an employee moving from one job to another or what will make them attract them to their next role. Automated systems can recognise qualifications and help with some elements of the hiring process, but they cannot recognise the personal qualities that are needed to deliver team performance. 

To hire the most talented people, recruitment processes must remain human. This starts with consideration of the specific skills and qualities that a role requires, and continues through crafting the job description that attracts the type of employee you want, reviewing CVs, and interviewing professionals.

Strategize to eliminate your skills shortage

If you Google the term ‘skills shortage’, you’ll find you get more than 70 million results. The term ‘skills shortage in construction’ will deliver more than 25 million. It’s easy to become demoralised with the idea that it will be impossible to find talented people. Forget about the skills shortage. Hire talent. There are many talented professionals in the market with the essential skills you need. How do you find them? Here’s a summary:

  • Be prepared to compromise on the skills required
  • Know those skills that are non-negotiable and those "nice-to-haves"
  • Be more flexible, and consider professionals who you can up skill
  • Look for transferable skills that offer you & your team unique benefits
  • Offer competitive salaries
  • Develop an engaging organisational culture that gives you a competitive advantage
  • Hire talented individuals with the commitment to reach their potential

You can tell yourself that good people are hard to find, but they aren't – not if you spec your jobs realistically and pay the market rate.
If you design sensible job descriptions, hire a little more flexibly, pay competitive salaries and ensure you maintain a healthy organisational culture, the skills shortage that undoubtedly exists won’t trouble you. Because you’ll be hiring the best talent for the Construction jobs you need filled. Let Macdonald & Company help you find the talent you need. Finding and hiring highly skilled talent is not an easy process. If you make a poor appointment it can disrupt teams and harm your company.

As specialist recruiters in the real estate and built environment, and the RICS preferred recruiter, Macdonald & Company brings a unique set of skills, experience and market knowledge to the table. We help construction companies find the skilled talent they need with the skills they require. We’ll help you source more candidates in a shorter space of time, helping you keep your business on track to achieve its goals. For a confidential conversation about the roles you need filled, contact the construction recruitment team today.

A picture of the Mac & Co team



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