While the UK workforce comes to terms with this unprecedented period of adjustment, it is only to be expected that companies are reassessing which hires remain business critical. Yet, the regular working pattern of those within the construction trade has been disrupted. From all commercial property development and facilities management, to residential housing, the sector has been left with the challenge of trying to successfully mitigate the disruption. Although we must realise that whatever the industry, the one fundamental that has not changed is attracting the right talent is crucial to the long-term success of your business.

The impact on the property and construction

There was certainly a feeling across the property and construction sector that positive momentum was starting to build for the first time in years after a period of stagnation, mainly due to the uncertainty over Brexit. With a majority Government in place, buyer confidence was starting to lift, resulting in healthier project pipelines.

The pandemic dramatically halted that momentum and employers in all quarters are reacting as best they can in this unchartered new territory.

Many property and construction businesses put projects on hold, but there was still vibrancy around contracts, e.g. social housing repairs and maintenance, facilities management, which require fervent 24/7 activity. However, that brought its own challenges given the sensitivities of working in close proximity to people’s homes, some of them vulnerable. Alongside sourcing the appropriate PPE equipment which is so desperately required for frontline workers across a number of sectors, not to mention a whole host of new protocols for health and safety.

Retaining top talent

Despite the challenges in recent weeks there is light at the end of the tunnel. Business leaders remain bullish, and are eager to retain their top talent now that restrictions have lifted and sites have reopened. Those in a financially robust position will be able to ride out the down period for some months to come, underpinned by long-term projects which protect and support staffing costs, in addition to the wider supply chain. Others sit more precariously and will rely on a quick turnaround if they are going to survive. For this to happen, continued Government support in the form of an extended furlough period and much simpler access to grants and loans will urgently be required.

Many businesses in the sector have taken advantage of the Government’s furlough scheme in order to protect as many jobs as possible and avoid redundancies. It can only be a good thing given the predicted bounce in economic activity a few months down the line. Whilst the demand for schemes in the sector should remain, it may take some time for it to return to the levels we were seeing just before the crisis began.

Utilising technology to hire

Clearly, it is difficult to deliver most aspects of construction projects remotely and off-site. Although the planning, development, marketing and administration aspect of building can be carried out remotely, it stands apart from other industries due to the fact that physical labour will always be a requirement of the building projects. The recent breakthroughs we have all witnessed in remote working should bring about a cultural shift on how work can be delivered within the property and construction sector, one that still carries a very traditional perception of how to work. We are now seeing that a large majority of people are working while sat in the comfort of their own home, being engaged and attending team meetings remotely. Alongside a more engaged workforce, the hiring of new talent has also seen significant improvement through the utilisation of technology – a topic examined in our eBook Running your recruitment processes remotely: A complete guide. Having a more remote working culture could potentially open up a wider candidate pool, sourcing individuals that would have normally been out of reach. This can only be beneficial for a sector that is notoriously candidate short.

Hiring in the current climate

When it comes to hiring in the current climate, it is certainly the case that the majority of recruitment drives are being revised and reviewed on a business critical basis. However, we have seen several businesses press on with key recruitment assignments with great success, embracing remote technology at shortlisting, interviewing and the onboarding stage. This is something we haven’t seen before, aside from the high-tech sectors who have been doing things virtually and remotely for years. It also represents an opportunity to source high quality talent in a quiet market with less noise from competitors. Candidates have also found the process refreshing, convenient and engaging which leaves a lasting and positive impression leading up to start date.

So, whilst this crisis is presenting the property and construction sector with several major challenges, we will hopefully see some significant paradigm shifts in how we approach work and use technology that can only bring positive outcomes during the period of recovery.

At Michael Page, we can offer the latest market insights, including advice on how to manage remote hiring to meet increased demands. If there is any way we can support you, your team, or your business, please get in touch with your local Michael Page consultant by clicking here.