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Wave of construction worker turnover expected for 2018


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December 6, 2017 by Jillian Morgan

Road construction workers work together to quickly shovel asphalt into a loaders bucket on a road renewal project.

Business owners will face an employee retention crisis in the new year, warns Hays Canada.

The recruiting agency’s eighth annual salary guide, released on Nov. 30, paints an unfavourable picture of the Canadian labour force – overworked and underpaid as a result of contingent staff hires and negligible pay raises – despite a year of growth for businesses across the country.

For the construction industry, a skills shortage and aging workforce present other challenges, said Soley Soucie, Eastern Canada division director at Hays.

“You’ve got a combination of not a lot of people coming up through the ranks as well as the retirement conundrum happening,” said Soucie.

A skills shortage in Canada, reported by three quarters of survey respondents, has resulted in stressed staff and increased inefficiencies, errors or accidents. Failure to keep up with demands and expectations at a corporate level, and offer readjustments to secure new talent, risk stretched budgets and impacted morale for construction businesses, said Soucie.

The solution? Staff succession planning – information most businesses already have, said Soucie. Construction businesses need to plan for the up-and-comers who shadow and learn from top staff in order to better prepare for departures.

In a hot market with abundance of opportunity, skilled workers have limited tolerance for job dissatisfaction. Hays found 90 per cent of survey respondents would jump at a more competitive job offer.

For construction businesses, it’s common to lose labour prematurely. When projects near completion, most employees look for other opportunities. Soucie recommends open communication of the company’s strategic plans, and of projects coming down the pipeline.

“If you win a project and you don’t have the people to deliver on the project, or if you’re in the middle of a project and you lose somebody, what happens?” said Soucie. “When they find a candidate that meets the skills of the project, [the business needs] to make sure that they’re willing to move fast to hire.”

To avoid a revolving door of workers, businesses need to engage employees early on in their career.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time in Canada, and while salary is definitely important, it’s not the only thing that motivates people,” said Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada. “On-the-job training tops the list of what people want and employers who make this type of investment build smart, stable teams while potentially inspiring loyalty.”

Candidates want the opportunity to grow a career in construction, said Soucie. Capitalizing on those individuals will improve retention rates.

Business confidence is at pre-recession levels, according to the survey. And more than one third of respondents plan to hire permanent staff in the coming year. The survey also found that many businesses are amenable to workplace changes that will prevent staff churn, such as the ability to work from home, additional training and improvements to company culture.

 


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