Four key considerations to retain top talent

27 July 2017 | By Richard Gelder

Richard Gelder, director of Hays Construction & Property, outlines the key findings of recent research which reveals what motivates employees to stay or leave their companies.

Despite a fickle 12 months with a number of changes across the political and economic landscape, positively the construction industry has remained resilient, and for many it is business as usual. 

However, skills shortages remain, and competition for talent is fierce. To tackle this, firms need to ensure they have solid recruitment strategies in place so they can access the skills needed to meet business demands, whether this be building a strong pipeline of talent or adapting to organisational growth.

Effective talent attraction and retention strategies, enabling you to be viewed as an employer of choice, to keep valued professionals should be a priority. However, it’s important to explore the best methods to secure construction talent. 

Our latest research, the Hays What Workers Want Report, explores four key areas of importance for construction professionals and identifying the factors affecting their decision to stay in a job, or accept a new role elsewhere.

What we found is that while pay influences 49% of an employee’s decision to move roles, more than half (51%) is focused on the other factors of culture, career progression and benefits.

So while employers must still offer a competitive salary, they also need to be mindful of the other aspects influencing construction professional’s decisions:

1. Pay

Pay remains the upmost importance for construction professionals, and at 49% it was rated slightly higher than the overall average for other professions at 45.5%. This isn’t surprising, as more than half (54%) of construction staff reported not being satisfied with their current pay packets, according to our latest salary guide.

Interestingly, 57% of construction professionals find bonuses motivating, higher than the UK average at 54%. Although bonus payments are not prevalent in the industry, employers should note the motivation it offers to employees, as 71% said they favoured a combination of fixed pay with a small performance-related bonus.

It is not all about the money, however. Nearly three-fifths (58%) would be willing to take a pay cut if a new job opportunity offered everything else that was important, such as ideal benefits, career progression and location. Of these, 46% would take a reduction in salary of up to 10%.

2. Culture

Rated as the second most important aspect when making the decision to stay in a role, or accept a new job, culture is vital to encourage career progression as it encompasses areas such as work-life balance, employee happiness and positive working environments.

Less than half of construction workers rated their work-life balance as good or excellent, compared to 51% UK wide, and as a result more than a third (41%) said they would be tempted to move jobs in a bid to improve it.

In addition, more than a third (34%) said the main benefit of improving work-life balance would be less stress, and improved overall wellbeing, reflected in the fact that two-thirds would be attracted to work for an organisation which restricts out-of-hours working such as checking emails and taking calls.

For construction employers, defining your culture can often seem like a daunting task, compared to other industries that tend to operate in an office-based, nine-to-five workplace.

However, culture is not defined by a workplace environment and instead should be cultivated from elements including leadership and management, practices, communication and missions and values.

Simple aspects such as providing employees with recognition and respect, and rewarding hard work, are really key.

What it is like to work for a company, and what is expected of employees should therefore be a key part of the interview process to attract talented professionals in a skill-short market.

Employers need to work harder to express and highlight their workplace culture, to set themselves apart from competitors. 78% of employers said they discussed culture during an interview, but this is at odds with employees, as only 62% said culture was discussed. 

3. Career progression

Our research found that ambition is high among construction professionals, as 87% said they consider themselves to be ambitious, which is close to 10% higher than the UK average (78%). 23% also expressed a desire to reach board level, and a further 42% said they would want to reach senior management positions during their career.

To meet their ambitions, employees said that they wanted paid-for third party training (73%), on-the-job training (61%), in-house training (46%) and mentors (37%) to help them develop highly in demand skills.

Organisations should facilitate training for ambitious individuals, not only as a retention tool, but also to fill skills gaps as they emerge.

4. Benefits

Despite benefits being rated as the lowest priority for employees looking to stay in their jobs or accept a new one, employees do expect a base level as standard. Employers should also be aware that some benefits do have a direct correlation to work-life balance and culture, such as flexible working and annual leave allowances. 

Other benefits policies, however, were often purposefully looked for by professionals considering a new employer, with 52% of professionals always considering the training and development policies in place and 47% always considering health and wellbeing packages.

Offer a complete package, but remember communication is key

Employees want to know exactly what employers can offer them, and be empowered to make selections that can best suit them. Professionals are aware of their worth in the market, so more effective communication from employers is needed, especially to differentiate from competition during the interview process.

A combination of culture, career progression initiatives, and benefits is key to securing top talent, alongside offering a good salary package.

Ensuring this is well communicated, not only throughout the recruitment process, but throughout an employee’s career will be key towards helping keep staff engaged long-term, thus reducing turnover and productivity in a fast-paced market.


Let's see, the last Architectural practice I worked at (for over 4 years) I was on contract and not an employee, belittled as 'freelance' as a result by the person who did HR, was paid the same as I had earned in 2006 at another practice and was told I wouldn't get paid more as I was only doing 36 hours a week (while studying a masters degree part time!), was also overlooked for running jobs, where other people got credit for work I did, and was increasingly belittled by the new partner, who herself only became such on a retiring partners coat-tails.

Any surprise I left?

Oh, and one of my ex-colleagues left after he was forced to complain about bullying, after complaints about his work performance were invented by the same new Partner, part of a process to get him out.

If that sounds over the top, another ex-colleague was fired via a sham process, as he revealed he a transvestite, which another partner objected to. They didn't get away with it of course, it resulted in a legal settlement when he started the process of taking them to court.

It's difficult to understand that when I started there it seemed an OK place....

All up though, having worked for years in the UK, and seen the above type of thing happen before (once in the NHS where bullying is endemic), I have to really wonder why it is so hard to find a decent workplace?

Charles, 4 August 2017

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