By Marcus Taylor, managing partner of construction recruitment specialist Taylor Sterling
In any industry, it is vital to have a strong recruitment process, as it will allow you to attract the right kind of employees to match your business needs. Having a strong recruitment process can cut down the time spent interviewing, hiring and training potential candidates. Though even with an efficient recruitment process in place, it is important that businesses make room for the inevitable challenges that come with searching for the ideal candidates to make up a workforce.
One of the largest challenges being faced by the UAE’s construction industry, with regard to recruitment, is attracting the right candidates at the right price. Q4 of 2016 witnessed a spike in the overall cost of living; this has remained high while salaries being offered to new talent have remained constant. Companies in need of high-level hires are being forced to put recruitment on hold as they experience industry-wide delays in projects being awarded, as developers look to reduce their spending. This has resulted in mid-level companies with mid-level talent being awarded an increasing number of contracts, rather than the key industry players, who have previously been able to invest in high-level talent. In order to attract the best talent in the current market, companies need to be offering lucrative packages or looking outside the GCC for new talent, though foreign hires come with their own set of issues and lack in local experience.
It is in every company’s best interest to either recruit local, high achieving, mid-management talent or import talent from abroad. The market has seen a shift from experience-dominated talent to a younger more tech savvy, driven workforce. This shift has been most noticeable in recent years, as we are seeing more talent in the 30-45 age bracket being hired and being incredibly successful for aspiring companies as opposed to the heavily experienced talent in the 45-60 age bracket who were previously driving the big companies.
The regional market is currently in the midst of its transition from an emerging market into a mature one. We are seeing a greater influx of talent who are choosing to move to the region for the quality of life rather than just the high-paying salaries. This positive outlook means it will only get easier to higher talent from abroad. Nowadays, 70% of the time is being spent placing senior construction professionals. Close to 80% of those who were placed at the end of last year have not been actively looking for a move. This demonstrates that the drive to create solid, long-term foundations has already begun to surface. Construction companies who have yet to factor this into their development strategies will be faced with a serious shortage of talent if they fail to act soon and can expect to be overtaken by those investing in talent ahead of time.
Interest is beginning to build around the topic of whether competition for skilled workers is growing as the construction sector continues to recover. There is an excess of mid-skilled workers, however, there are not enough top-end, experienced workers to meet current demands. Impending global issues have also created a good opportunity for the GCC to attract new and highly skilled talent from overseas.
Shifting the focus towards the Holy Month of Ramadan, over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the market for recruitment during the holy month, and the level of productivity achieved by companies over this period. In 2015, a poll stated that during Ramadan, recruitment remained at a level of 60%, matching the rate recorded throughout the rest of the year. This huge ‘false positive’ was based on the number of job advertisements posted online and not on the actual process of sourcing, interviewing, offering and onboarding candidates. In the last twelve years, it has become very apparent that the level of productivity during the Ramadan period has been on a steady incline, year after year. 2018 has already witnessed a larger number of companies implementing strategic measures to ensure they come out of this downturn both stronger and leaner. Cost cutting and the stalling of projects has disrupted many of the growth plans of these companies, even with oil reaching $75 per barrel, for the first time in nearly half a decade.
Overall, the current state of construction industry talent is on the up and as the market continues to mature, we can expect to see a continued increase in the number of skilled potentials moving to the region. Companies in the region are being encouraged to pursue solid, long-term foundations and invest talent ahead of time.