Back Is the construction sector losing its appeal?

Date: 24 February 2015

It’s no secret that the construction sector in New Zealand is powering ahead with projects of all sizes. But when taking a closer look, there is work to be done to maintain the momentum.
The Christchurch rebuild, Auckland’s housing shortage and New Zealand Transport Agency projects such as the Waterview Connection and Transmission Gully have resulted in increased awareness of the sector, but interestingly, the industry has become less appealing to job seekers.

This year’s Randstad Award research found the overall industry attractiveness has decreased over the past three years, from 26% in 2012 to 22% in 2014. The drop in attractiveness means competition for top employees is high, making it harder than ever to attract top talent while also retaining high performers.

To overcome these challenges, companies must work harder to stand out from the crowd by showcasing their unique selling points – in other words, their company’s employee value proposition (EVP). Employers also need to listen to their current employees and fulfil their needs where they’re able to do so.

Successful companies are never satisfied and continually ask themselves and their customers what makes their products or services great and where improvements can be made. Employees should be treated with the same curiosity and be regularly surveyed on their working environment and drivers.

Employers will then be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their EVP and address its shortcomings. They should foster open communication in the workplace so employees feel their opinion is important. Employees should be comfortable approaching internal challenges head-on and making suggestions for improvement.

The Randstad Award research shows that a competitive salary with employee benefits remains the most important factor when it comes to choosing an employer in New Zealand. The number of people identifying this criteria as crucial has also risen, with 69% of employees now saying it is one of their top five most important criteria when choosing an employer, while only 54% thought so in 2012.

Career progression opportunities are also important for employees, with 35% of respondents putting this in their top five most important criteria, compared to 32% in 2013. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure employees feel like they are getting something meaningful out of their work, and investing in the development of staff is a great way to do this.

Offer training and development opportunities and allow people to upskill and take on new projects. It’s crucial to make sure employees are developed in areas that benefit both employee and employer, so rather than telling employees what to do, let them come up with ideas for further development too.

Looking around, it is easy to see that men are more attracted to the construction and engineering industry. With retention and recruitment getting trickier in this sector, companies will benefit from a focus on increasing the number of women in their workforce. By not doing so, firms are instantly halving the number of potential employees from the outset.

Kiwis work hard and play hard so a good work-life balance is crucial. The Randstad Award research, however, showed that only 17% of respondents believed firms within the construction and engineering sector offer this to their employees, and only 18% believed companies within the sector have a pleasant working environment.

Poor communication with colleagues and a lack of support to meet deadlines are key hindrances to work-life-balance – something that is easily fixed. Create environments where colleagues can get to know each other and build relationships. Whether it’s a breakfast onsite before work starts, or a team-building day offsite, it’s important to make time for employees’ wellbeing, as when colleagues feel a closer connection, they are more willing to support each other in times of need.

When searching for the best possible talent, it’s important to ensure the company is perceived positively. Aligning EVPs with market demands is an easy way to achieve this.

It’s essential that these EVP messages are communicated across a variety of platforms to reach as many people as possible. Include them on job advertisements and descriptions, the company website, social media platforms, and communicate consistently on all internal communication channels.

It’s as easy as showcasing the company’s culture by including photos of company activities or work events on the company website. Also ensure that all messaging includes referrals to job security and positive, inclusive work environments. It is, however, important to only promote what can be delivered.

Finally, remember that all employees are also brand ambassadors. Employee referrals are one of the strongest talent pipelines for any organisation, so make sure they are positive about their workplace so it is promoted externally.

Take the time to sit down with employees and discuss the company’s culture, values and HR strategy so they have a 360-degree understanding of where they work and feel included in the processes.

- Paul Robinson 

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