Importance of hiring the right talent
Attracting and keeping the right talent nowadays has become more important than ever, especially in the competitive sector of construction.
According to Grant Gibson, regional business manager of construction at Randstad MENA, the GCC, as with all markets across the globe, has been negatively affected by the oil price. Therefore, the deciding factors for construction professionals looking for new employment have shifted with the negative changes in the market. “What was once a candidate, driven marketplace, where candidates would pursue the best salaries and benefits packages, is now an employer, driven market place where security, longevity, and growth are the main trigger points for candidates,” he says.
There have been numerous main contractors within the construction industry that have been late with or struggled to make payroll in some extreme cases. More and more contractors are struggling to remain competitive with their bids and tenders, and therefore their ability to secure awards has directly affected the employees of those contractors, he explains. “We are seeing great candidates being let go from notable contractors, simply a casualty of the business leaning down their cost, as a reaction to lack of income from projects.
“Talented candidates in the market are now attracted by businesses that can offer a secure position, with a strong order book and a clear long-term career trajectory. The market is now flooded with candidates that have been through this situation across the GCC. However, it is extremely important that construction businesses remain extremely vigilant, that they are screening prospective talent appropriately by reference checking, and making sure that cultural fit is suitable.”
As a recruitment provider, Randstad frequently sees that employers value communication skills, diverse skill sets and adaptability. “They ask us to emphasise on the commercial strengths of the candidate and their knowledge of all the departments within the construction project.”
“Hiring staff has changed through the years,” says Tom Loseby, director of real estate and construction at Charterhouse Middle East. “Ten years ago, interviews were more about structured questions and testing. Nowadays, we still tend to interview with some structure, but perhaps focusing more on long-term cultural fit, personal ambitions, and practical questions.”
Claire Donnelly, senior consultant at MHC, warns: “Companies need to be more rigorous in their recruitment process and procedure, changing their recruitment criteria to make better hiring decisions.
“Companies should have additional steps into their recruitment process to ensure they are making sensible recruitment decisions against set company criteria identified through job scorecards.”
She adds: “The biggest asset any company has is their people — having an engaged and aligned team will only lead to company success through both hard and successful times.
Creating the right company culture is vital in attracting and retaining talent, says Michael Gilmore, managing partner of real estate, property and construction at Cooper Fitch.
Cooper Fitch is a recruitment, HR services and Executive search leading based in the Gulf since 1997.
Gilmore says: “Give employees the free reign to propose new ideas and new ways of working and the results will show for themselves. An investment into people’s development will reduce staff turnover and in return reduce cost in hiring and retaining new people.”
Investment in human resources is something that not a lot of companies engage in within the Middle East, he states. “It is a critical department used to build high-performance teams. Employee engagement surveys are a good way of assessing the current team moral and how involved employees are within a company.”
In the GCC construction industry, where workforces are typically very diverse in terms of nationalities, cultures and skill-sets, it is vital that the employer has a “finger on the pulse” of their business from an employee engagement perspective, says Gibson. Keeping employees challenged, he adds, is mainly to do with offering training and development, and asking them to put it into practice. The appraisal and review process will address this. Furthermore, occasional social events and incentives offered during work time keeps staff feeling valued and, more importantly, motivated.
It is critical to give employees room to breathe and develop their own set of skills and strengths, under the guidance of experienced leadership, Loseby advises. “Engage with your employees and work together on plans to improve skill-sets. It is up to the leadership team to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their individual team members and assist them in harnessing and promoting these attributes rather than pigeonholing them.”
Gilmore suggests empowering employees by letting them sit at the table with senior management, and allowing them to have a say — without any hierarchy. Communication, Gilmore says, is the key. “Frequent communication to the employees from top management — be it the managing director or HR director — to reassure employees, would work well. This can be done in the form of a newsletter, formal email or by addressing them in public.”
One thing in particular that employers in the Middle East forget is to appreciate their staff, Loseby points out. “Everyone wants to receive recognition for their hard work and saying a simple ‘job well done’ costs nothing but goes a long way in retention of staff.”
Gibson says that he frequently encounters employees who are afraid about the health of the company, as gossip builds momentum in the business, likely due to the fact that there has been no intervention or communication from their management. “The workforce begins to worry when there are no new projects coming in and they begin looking at the market,” he adds. “Transparency is key, and employees will react positively to such communications, even if their role could be at risk.”
Organisational health and alignment have become increasingly important during times of economic pressure, Donnelly argues. “Being able to understand how people function in their environment and how they will make decisions, gives leaders a way to effectively choose the best way to communicate clearly to their teams.”
She explains that a “company’s message should be timely, clear and honest — they need to communicate in a straightforward way the short-, medium-, and long-term plans for the company to reassure and stop any rumoured inaccurate information spreading and causing issues where none are required”.
“In this dynamic and volatile environment, we operate within companies, who need to establish a competitive advantage by attaining a reputation as a great place to work. They can stand out by applying for and winning awards such as Great Places to Work or Top Employer Awards,” Gilmore advises.
In the current market, a happy, productive workforce is a major asset, according to Gibson. “Success can be determined by the smallest of margins, therefore, it is important that you have the talent in the right places as one decision can have a huge impact on the business.”
He concludes: “There is a lot of pressure for construction companies to deliver, and this would not be possible without a team that is willing to go the extra mile to get the job complete.”