Construction companies wanting to retain high-performing employees must look into helping their staff develop professionally.

Speaking to Construction Week, Marcus Taylor offers this advice, noting that the benefits of implementing in-house training programmes go beyond cutting recruitments costs and the time it takes to get new employees up to speed on company and industry standards and policies.

“It [results in] significant loyalty from the team, which is a difficult goal to achieve,” he explains. “Some of the hardest candidates to attract are those who have developed within a company, year after year.”

According to the managing partner of Taylor Sterling Associates (TSA), a consultancy firm that specialises in engineering and construction recruitment, putting together sufficient manpower to meet project requirements is a hurdle that many contractors in the Middle East are facing at the moment.

He elaborates: “As much as we are hearing that projects and schedules are on track, they simply aren’t, causing a lack of workforce planning. This, coupled with the ongoing battle with costs, is going to [result in] a lot of guesswork, where companies load one position with an increasing number of responsibilities.”

Remarking that the problem is not limited to the difficulty in quickly mobilising a large workforce, he continues: “The talent pool of semi-skilled [workers] is running dry. The good news is that there are a few companies out there investing in overseas training facilities for their needs – a very shrewd move, in my view.”

Other than investing in training facilities, Taylor suggests companies work on improving their reputation in the industry in order to attract top talent. “Build a profile and use [the] media to tell your story. Not everybody wants to join a big company, but [everybody] wants to join a team of forward-thinking professionals. Talk to a public relations (PR) firm and come up with your story. It’s not too expensive, and is very effective.”

Turning his attention to the topic of industry trends in hiring and training activities, TSA’s managing partner notes that 2017 was primarily defined by a move towards recruitment partnerships, with companies “passing workforce planning to specialists rather than [...] generalists”.

“We are hoping to see recruitment partnerships develop, so projects won’t be stalled by shortages in headcount and skillset requirements,” he says.

According to Emma Seymour, human resources (HR) director for construction at Al Naboodah Group Enterprises (ANGE), the Middle East saw a number of trends in recruitment and training emerge last year – the same trends she’s expecting to observe this year. Citing artificial intelligence (AI) as an example, she tells Construction Week: “A big priority for HR is figuring out how to re-organise teams and processes to make the best use of new AI technology.”

Construction companies, she continues, are also leveraging digital platforms, and investing more into not just their people but also their brand and culture.

“The greater trend in business is the shift to service-focussed, customer-centric solutions, requiring ‘always on’ digital business models,” she explains. “This results in a flatter organisation with more dynamic roles, which means more people need to be reskilled.

“[Moreover,] HR has to deliver a compelling response to the demands of the modern employee. Company growth goes hand-in-hand with employee growth, and companies need to answer to the needs of employees at all levels to stay competitive.”