When we think of the construction industry, it’s hard to shake off the image of men working on a building site; we think of it as being very male dominated.  But there’s so much more to the world of building than what we see ‘on the ground’.

Despite the variety of roles in this industry which should make it an appealing place to pursue a career, construction is currently tackling a skills’ shortage and a lack of diversity.

The skills’ shortage

The construction industry generates £90bn annually and employs almost three million people but yet it is facing a critical skills’ shortage.  We all know that when a new person is hired, or someone returns to the workplace after a career break, time and money are invested to bring them up to the required level so it begs the question, why are they leaving?

In a world where priorities are changing and many people no longer “Live to work” but “Work to live”, flexible working is on the increase.  It doesn’t just apply to women either – people in general value greater balance between work and life and so the pool of talent looking for agile work is ever increasing.

Technological advances have helped people to work from home, or anywhere in fact and at any time of the day and this has helped facilitate a more fluid approach to the working day.  When it comes to the construction industry, however, in some cases, it doesn’t appear to have moved with the times nor to have considered flexible working options.

Lack of gender diversity

Data shows us that although some women are employed in the building trade, there really aren’t enough.  The Gender Pay Gap reporting figures from 2018 (which represented a snapshot from April 2017) paint a dismal picture for women in this industry, with many companies having less than 10% of women in the top quartile of earners and mean pay gaps of around 30%.

But it doesn’t have to be that way and there are great examples of gender diversity within construction.  This quotation from Concepcion Vicente encapsulates why diversity in general works in any industry – she just happens to work in construction.

“ … I also add something very important and needed which is diversity. I’m a professional born in a different country and with vast experience. This cross-cultural mix and the exchange of experiences, lessons learnt, methodologies, procedures, subcontractors, systems, even mindsets, are powerful tools that help us to improve and continuously develop to the benefit of ourselves and our industry, and move towards better results and goals for instance.”

In Kent, there is a company that is bucking the trend and embracing diversity. FM Conway has a strategy to combat the lack of gender diversity with their “people first” commitment: they are extremely proactive in the development, retention and attraction of their people.  They are a family business and they extend this reference to everyone within the organisation – they are all part of the “family”.

This successful business has worked hard on succession planning with its Conway Academy, apprenticeship scheme, work experience and it is also as a disability confident employer. Diversity is obviously a critical part of their approach and it’s fantastic to see almost 30% female representation in senior director roles sending out a fantastic inclusive message.

Blueprint for the future

Flexible working could be one of the building blocks to solving both the skills’ shortage and gender diversity.  Here’s how.

Like most industries, this one could benefit from greater flexible working options and a culture that embraces more ‘agile’ employees.  Flexible working in all its guises isn’t just for women, and in this industry with workers sometimes employed on projects away from home, it’s critical.

In order to attract talent – employees with the desired skills – a company needs to be an attractive place to work.  There are many factors that go into this, more than we can list here, but in today’s world, different working patterns that suit employees’ varied needs certainly contribute to the attraction.

By offering and, importantly, advertising flexible working the construction industry will suddenly seem much more appealing.  A step like this could make the male or female future employee with essential skills read the job ad again. A step like this could make a woman look twice at a job ad for a role in the construction industry.

How to make the change

The idea of flexible working across an organisation may seem overwhelming, but it needn’t.  It can be rolled out gradually, brick by brick. Here are three simple ideas; you can find more here.

  • Part time week – 3 full days per week, 9am-5.30pm
  • Part-time days – Reduced daily hours, 5 days a week e.g. 9am-3pm
  • Nine-day fortnight – Working full days but 9 days instead of 10 over a two-week period

And then when it’s in place, companies need to shout about it!  Several large construction firms do already offer some flexible working, but it’s not advertised well internally or in recruitment material which means that people simply aren’t aware.

Companies need to be creative to resolve their recruitment issues.  They need to find new audiences for their roles and to attract members of those audiences, companies need to consider their offering.  Flexible working is an essential part of that offering in order to attract talented diverse employees.

Ten2Two Kent & Bromley can and wants to help you with your flexible working plans.  We can provide guidance along the way about implementation and use our expertise in flexible recruitment when you need it.  We have a large community of skilled personnel who are eager, motivated and ready to work for you. Contact us today to learn more.

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