Recruiting top talent in the construction industry is tough at the best of times, but the shortage of skilled professionals is creating a counter-offer culture that can set key recruitment searches back months.
Property and Construction recruitment specialist Anthony Kaye, of Alderpoint Partners, has seen a surge in counter offers over the last 12 months, with one in three candidates reporting they are being offered an increase in salary from their current employers when they break the news they are moving to a new company.
He says: “Counter offers are one of the biggest barriers developers are facing in hiring people at the moment. It is a candidate-driven industry, and wages are being inflated across the board because developers are keen to keep talent and are willing to match, or even increase on offers.”
The roots of the problem are based in the exodus of talent after the 2007 recession. The construction industry was hit harder than most, with highly skilled surveyors, land managers, civil engineers and sales people leaving permanently to take up roles in different industries.
Compounding this is the lack of training in interview techniques and a failure to address the change into a candidate-short market. Kaye says: “We’ve found there is a big issue with hiring managers having no interview training, which has led to some of our clients asking us to help train their managers in this area and, in some cases, sit in on interviews.”
With a poor pipeline of graduates coming into the industry, coupled with a push to counter the housing shortage crisis in the UK, companies are more likely to try to retain quality employees. So, it’s not just about structuring the interview to ask the right questions, it is also knowing how to sell the new job by ensuring candidates see the positives in a career move.
Kaye explains that a good recruiter needs to help the client do the best sales job they can, by targeting candidates’ real motives and desires for their next role. He says: “During the interview and selection process with the candidates, before they get to the client, we delve deep to find out the key drivers that will turn the candidates head.
“It could be they want flexible working, or a company that will invest in their development and training. Whatever it is, we strongly advise hiring managers to tell recruiters they need to know this before the interview process begins, as it’s vital to help managers focus their sales pitch on what really motivates the candidate’s decision on whether to take the new role and, importantly, stick with that decision in the face of a counter offer.”
He also recommends that clients try to stay close to the candidate during their notice period. He says, “If possible, meet with the candidate and even order which laptop, phone, or car they want, to make them part of the company before they’ve started”.
“Their current employer will likely pull on a candidate’s heart strings to persuade them to stay. So it’s important that the hiring company build a strong relationship with the candidate to help reduce this feeling of guilt in leaving a long standing employer.”
In his experience, an offer of a salary increase can be a first move for current employers to induce candidates to stay, but there are some strong non-salary motivators to move into a new role.
Flexible working hours
The top question candidates ask is whether the role offers flexible working hours. They want to be given the responsibility of managing their own time and diary. It is more appealing to people to work a set number of hours over a week, but with the freedom for them to dictate those hours so they can pick their kids up on a Friday, or take a day off without giving too much notice.
Gone are the days where people were willing to commute to remote industrial parks for a higher salary. It is now the companies with smart, high-quality offices in easier to reach locations, that are attracting key talent. Candidates are also looking for more inclusive working environments, where there are greater opportunities for networking and social events.
Another key issue is the attraction of modern management methods. Even with a salary increase, traditional office cultures with a dictatorial management style that are being passed over in favor of more professional environments where candidates feel their opinions are valued. In this area smaller developers can compete against larger companies where employees can feel like just another cog in the machine.
There may not be a promotion opportunity for candidates in their current company, so this is often an important reason why they would reject a counter offer. However, promotion is not the only career motivator.
Cross-training and learning more about the development life-cycle of a business is a key incentive for candidates. Offering courses and seminars outside the candidate’s immediate skill set is something Anthony is seeing more of as a desirable addition to employment packages.
Anthony advises to look beyond just the salary, as it’s not always the number one driver. On top of flexible working hours, he has seen an increase in packages that include family health insurance, more holiday time and flexible holidays, incentives at work, summer and winter balls, and gym memberships.
Whilst not all these are necessarily going to combat candidates taking a counter offer, Anthony’s experience shows that a counter offer is not always a long-term solution. For employers it may be cheaper than finding a replacement for key talent, but even if a candidate accepts a counter offer and stays with their current employer, statistics show that within six months they will be back on the market looking for a new job.
“The recruiter and the company need to make sure they highlight the original reasons for wanting to move when considering a counter offer,” says Anthony. “It’s easy for candidates to say they aren’t motivated by money until they get offered another 10K to stay where they are. Usually there are serious underlying reasons for considering a move.”