Staffing crisis in construction sector

Construction companies face escalating costs as the struggle to recruit skilled staff worsens.

As recruitment of skilled site staff becomes increasingly expensive, some construction firms are beginning to hire workers directly. (Valeriano Handum
As recruitment of skilled site staff becomes increasingly expensive, some construction firms are beginning to hire workers directly. (Valeriano Handum

Construction companies are facing escalating costs as the struggle to recruit skilled staff worsens.

"When you really need to fill certain positions you can't think about the cost," said Matilda Bsaibes, personnel manager, Amana Contracting.

"Last year, we were looking for a communications manager, and when we were unable to find anyone, we paid a headhunter around $22,000 to get someone. We paid it because we are really in need of very professional, very specific people who we couldn't get through normal recruitment."

The high rates of commission charged by recruitment agencies has led to a growing trend among construction companies to develop their own human resources (HR) departments dedicated to staff recruitment.

"Recruitment agencies are very expensive, they will take a minimum of a month's salary and this is increasing. Now it is at least 12 to 15% of the annual gross salary. Some agencies take up to 18%, but that's far too high in my opinion. It's a lot of money," said Mariam Azmy, HR director of construction company, ASGC.

"Many companies are starting to focus on their own recruitment of staff and the importance of having a HR department is growing. In our HR department we have a director, a manager, two senior HR officers and a receptionist. It's expensive to maintain, but in the long run it's reducing our costs."

But according Julie Faris, country manager of construction recruitment firm Hill McGlynn & Associates, agency fees are justified.

"A standard agency fee would be 15% of a salary package," she said. "People think that's a lot of money but if you look at how much time and effort the company spends on looking for the right person, you can't put a price on that."

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