Spotlight on creative recruitment

When asked to name an industry renowned for its innovation in people policies, not everyone would mention the construction sector.

But in an attempt to persuade more school leavers, especially young women, to consider a career in construction, Construction Skills, the skills sector council for the industry, has taken some highly original approaches.

A television advertising campaign showing how women have contributed to construction on iconic buildings has just been launched. This follows a poster campaign last year which saw advertisements for jobs in construction placed in the changing rooms of popular women’s fashion stores, such as Miss Selfridges and New Look.

Also last year, Construction Skills organised a mass text-ing of 18 year olds the day after their A-level results, urging them to consider a career in the sector.

The sector faces a skills shortage and has traditionally suffered from stereotyping, so recruitment manager Paul Sykes believes the industry needs fresh tactics to attract the next generation of staff.

“We have found that using traditional communication channels alone does not enable us to reach the young people we are eager to attract,” he says.

Other initiatives include a marketing drive using an online video game and 1m grant scheme for undergraduates, endorsed by construction firms such as Amec Group, Balfour Beatty and Persimmon, to pay for their studies and to provide them with work experience.

Savvy HR and recruitment professionals recognise that it pays to do more than just place a job advertisement in the local newspaper.

In Birmingham, for example, companies such as Parcelforce and the Royal Mail have been working with recruitment agency UK Premier Consulting to attract more workers from ethnic backgrounds.

UK Premier’s approach involves taking potential employers into the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, holding job fairs at temples and community halls, and offering bi-lingual services and cultural advice.

“Some companies have fantastic diversity policies, but you can’t promote diversity just by sitting in your office,” says Kully Cour, managing director at UK Premier Consulting.

She says many young people in ethnic minority communities do not apply for jobs with blue-chip organisations because they think their application will not be considered. By proactively targeting these communities, companies send out a message that they are eager to attract workers from diverse backgrounds.

“Sometimes, simple job ads are not enough. You have to get out and meet the people,” says Cour.

However, at industry body the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, director of external relationships Tom Hadley says coming up with an exciting new approach to recruitment is the easy bit. It’s no good persuading women to consider construction or Sikhs and Bangladeshis to apply for work at a warehouse if, when they arrive at their place of work, they are faced by prejudice and discrimination, Hadley says.

“Over the long term, the best way to attract workers is to show that the reality of the workplace lives up to what’s promised on the advertisement,” he explains.

According to Hadley, if recruitment campaigns are based on spin, people will soon find out.

“Any type of recruitment drive will soon fall down if the feedback from within the sector is negative,” he says.

The talent challenge

Companies will have to become increasingly creative with their recruitment strategies as skills shortages intensify.

The annual Talent Pulse survey by consultancy Deloitte found that:

  • Three-quarters of global organisations expect to experience a shortage of talent in the next three to five years.
  • More than half (54%) believe talent issues have an impact on the overall productivity and efficiency of the organisation.
  • Forty per cent said that a lack of good people affects a firm’s ability to innovate.

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