On-Site Magazine

Construction firms need to cultivate young leaders now

By Corinne Lynds   

Skills Development skills skills shortage

It’s no secret that Canada’s construction sector is facing a skills shortage. The baby boomers are retiring, and there are fewer people entering the industry. Old news, right? Well, don’t click to the next page yet. There’s another pressing matter that you can do something about right now.

Cultivate tomorrow’s leaders, today.

“There is insufficient talent at the intermediate to mid-level, which will cause a shortage in senior leadership within the next five to 10 years,” says Hays Canada president Rowan O’Grady.

It’s increasingly difficult to find great young talent, and even more difficult to hang on to them once they’ve got a few years experience under their belts.


Samantha Massey, interim general manager at Alliance Excavating in Edmonton knows this all too well. Last year she saw a lot of employee turnover due to poaching of middle and upper management from larger construction firms. This caused added stress for remaining team members, as they scrambled to pickup the slack. “Our middle and upper management employees are sometimes overwhelmed. We miss opportunities, because we don’t have enough experienced managers to complete estimates, prequalification packages, etc. As a result, there is a lot of cross training and job sharing so that all the work can get done.”

In an effort to protect against poachers, Alliance has beefed up its compensation packages to compete with larger firms, and now also offers training/education, better working hours, more vacations, and less over-time. “Most large companies can afford to offer better packages to skilled staff. I guess our selling point would be the opportunity to influence policy since we’re a smaller business,” adds Massey.

At this point Alliance remains an outlier. Despite recognizing that they need to do more, most contractors still aren’t upping the ante. According to Hays Canada’s annual Salary Survey: 73 per cent of construction employers believe competitive salaries make them attractive to top candidates. And yet, very little action is being taken to address this issue – 71 per cent haven’t altered compensation in an effort to attract top talent.

Attracting skilled workers needs to be a key focus for the years ahead, but take a good look at the young talent you already have in place, and start training them for the future.

As O’Grady points out: There’s an experience gap in the industry. Fill this within your own organization by recognizing the potential of new hires. Mold them to fit other roles within your workforce.

This is not only a good strategy to deal with a skills shortage, but it’s great succession planning too. Many senior construction leaders are thinking about retirement. Make sure you have a plan in place to fill those roles with employees already in your organization.

Invest your time and money in the young professionals that show potential, and make sure you let them know that there are progression options. Employees who know that there is a path available to them will be motivated to stay and succeed.

Corinne Lynds / Editor



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