Like most businesses in construction, developing our own talent has become more crucial than ever.
Not only is there a deficit in the number of professionals, the level of skill each person needs is increasing as work becomes more varied and new technology more prevalent.
Construction’s changing nature means that learning and development strategies need to be more dynamic.
It doesn’t always make sense for contractors to have an annual appraisal process in place, as this can lead to situations where the view of skills across the business is months out of date and incredibly unbalanced.
At Forrest we recently created a new framework that gives all of our people their own skills profile that line managers can update at any time.
We’re encouraging reviews to happen as frequently as possible – ideally every few weeks – to ensure line managers discuss team members’ development regularly.
It means that if things are slipping we can act quickly, and conversely if people are going above and beyond their roles they don’t need to wait a year before their efforts are rewarded. It has also helped us to develop softer skills more effectively when needed.
It makes little sense to wait months to discuss and address something that could be quickly changed through a half-day training course or a few pointers from a mentor. The new process tackles this in a far more agile way.
From a business perspective, it’s also enabled us to create a far better picture of what we have within our teams.
“We believe it makes little sense to wait months to discuss and address something that could be quickly changed through a half-day training course or a few pointers from a mentor”
Having a matrix of skills that changes on a day-to-day basis shows us where there are pockets of skill in different teams, allowing us to create micro-teams that are formed of people from different divisions. This agility gives us a flexible workforce that can be quickly adapted to deliver different projects.
We’re seeing huge growth in new-build and redevelopment projects in the private rented sector and renewable technology installations and consultancy in commercial property, which also incorporates financing options. This requires a whole host of new skills.
A lack of clarity on career prospects is a major cause of attrition in the construction industry. The new system tackles this by giving all members of staff a clearer view of how they can progress their careers in the short, medium and long term.
And it gives us a better view of who would suit our management training programme. So far this year, eight of the team have joined this three-year course, which will give them the skills to move into management roles.
Training apprentices, encouraging young people into the industry, working in the community to showcase the careers available: these things are all vital.
However, the skills gap needs a solution that both works in the future and fulfils clients’ needs today.
It’s not necessarily about training more, just training smarter.
Paul Rigby is head of people at Forrest