The question of how to put together and run a high-performing construction team is as vital now as it has ever been.
With the skills shortage no closer to being solved, the fight over millennials and members of Generation Z (the distinction between the two falls in the early 2000s) will be a major battleground in the war on talent in the months and years to come.
It’s also important in light of many recent main contractor results, with underperformance on various problem jobs causing problems for more than one company.
A breakfast debate this morning, hosted by Mace, asked how the construction industry can best react to the needs and desires of these upcoming generations – and how that feeds into creating a successful construction business.
In particular, Heathrow chief people officer Paula Stannett described how, at a recent graduate recruitment event, the prospective candidates (millennials all) asked not questions about the graduate scheme and how it works – but rather how Heathrow deals with the environmental impact that is inherent in operating an airport, or whether offering 25 per cent above market rate for properties that will be compulsorily purchased is really enough compensation for the residents who live there?
These are the questions that millennials are likely to ask of their employers: challenging and searching, considerate of the social and environmental impact of their jobs, and not necessarily the ones you would expect.
These questions are also the ones you will need to be able to answer to stand a chance of winning that war for their talent.
To give another example: how many of you out there are aware of Glass Door?
This is a social media platform used by many young people, where current and former employees of companies share anonymous feedback on their employers, as well as their salaries.
Ms Stannett pointed out that many young people will use this to check out a company’s reputation – yet not many in the room this morning seemed to be aware of it.
Once you have these people in your business, the challenge shifts to become more about facilitating effective collaboration and communication, and identifying and nurturing leadership skills early – again, probably something it is fair to say that construction has not traditionally done enough of.
Another panel member, Claire Glacking, who is head of industrial practice at executive-level recruiter Odgers Berndtson, noted that really successful companies tend not to look within the sector they operate in for new leaders, as they will already feel they have the best leaders in that particular sector.
Instead, they look to other industries. How many major construction companies have gone outside the sector to recruit CEOs and other senior managers in recent years?
Not many, which should provide some food for thought.
In all, the message was that forward-thinking companies need to start putting in place the right environment to foster high-performing teams.
The alternative is that they are left behind, not just in comparison to their peers, but also in comparison to companies from other sectors, too.
In the news
Interserve chief executive Adrian Ringrose said in a call to analysts today that the business’ construction arm would focus on margin over volume, after it posted operating losses of £3.1m for the year ending 31 December 2016.
Bowmer & Kirkland has signed a contract to build a £50m office development on the troubled site of a former Odeon cinema in Manchester.
Northern correspondent & data editor Charlie Schouten takes a look at some of the numbers that matter this week, as GDP, skills and housing starts all struggle.