Recruitment and skills: increasing competition

Planning ahead

18 January 2017

Skills shortages are increasing the competition for quality staff – but candidates should not be enticed by short-term gains, says Chris Peace

Since July, there has been a slight market slump, with some firms becoming more hesitant when recruiting, compared to 2015 and early 2016. However, despite this downturn and well-publicised skills shortages, as well as uncertainty over Brexit and the future of the single market, there is still a lot of positivity in the construction sector.

In particular, the quantity surveying and project management markets remain strong. Competition for candidates in these areas continues to be fierce due to the aforementioned skills shortages. We have seen at least a 40% increase in demand for quantity surveying and project management jobs this year, and expect demand to continue to rise.

However, the problem is that every client seems to be looking for the same thing – a quantity surveyor or project manager with around 3 years’ experience and a strong potential for business development – because of a concern with succession planning, which is high on the agenda of most organisations. As a result, this person specification is currently difficult to fulfil, and no doubt these highly sought-after candidates will have multiple offers to consider when they do become available.

Firms need to plan further ahead and start thinking longer term, ideally, planning their recruitment strategy for the next 12 months on a rolling basis. If this does not happen, it will be hard for them to find the right quality of candidate when required. It is essential that time is made for recruiting now or they run a high risk of being unable to provide for their clients.

Organisations need to be aware of the following.

  • Flexibility is vital – a ‘10 out of 10’ candidate may be particularly difficult to source, so slight expectation adjustments may need to be made to accommodate a 7/10 candidate and to focus on their development.
  • Counter-offers will be made, which slows down the recruitment process.
  • Candidates have a lot of power – they will take their time when deciding on which is the right job for them. This will most likely be well paid with good future prospects.
  • All of the above factors contribute to a prolonged recruitment process.

Companies need to start rewarding their existing staff, too, as retention is crucial. There are 3 important reasons for this.

1. If you want to ensure that productivity is kept high, you will need to keep staff happy and motivated, which will involve paying individuals their market value.

2. Headhunting will happen, so if valued members of staff are not rewarded then they could easily be attracted by opportunities elsewhere.

3. People talk, so when you are competing to hire, candidates will already know whether your company has a good reputation for looking after its staff.

The most important piece of advice I would give candidates is not to price yourself out of the market. Think about your long-term career prospects rather than just a short-term financial win. I would also recommend that everyone undertakes a twice-yearly career MOT. This will allow you to look at the options available, market conditions and earning levels among your peer group. There are always industry experts available who can offer you private and confidential advice.

In terms of the future, we will have to wait and see what the full impact of Brexit is; but from speaking with our clients, we believe the market will remain steady, particularly for quantity surveyors and project managers whose skills remain scarce. We will also see some pretty major technology advances in construction recruitment, which will be exciting, the main objectives being process improvement combined with cost savings. So: watch this space.

Chris Peace is Managing Director of Peace Recruitment

Further information

  • Related competencies include Managing people
  • This feature is taken from the RICS Construction journal (November/December 2016)