How will the cost of living and energy crisis affect construction industry recruitment?

on site construction workers

Rising food pricesRising energy prices. Record levels of inflation. Businesses and households across the UK are feeling the squeeze. The pandemic, Brexit, and the war in Ukraine have created a massive cost of living and energy crisis.

But how exactly does the cost of living crisis impact construction industry recruitment? And what can firms do about it?

Let’s take a look.

How the cost of living crisis impacts construction industry recruitment

Labour shortages

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in Q1 of 2022, there were 263,000 fewer construction workers in the UK than in Q1 of 2019.

Brexit and the pandemic have led to fewer construction workers from the EU choosing to stay or venture over to the UK. And the all-around challenges facing the industry have encouraged some senior construction workers to retire early. Because of these labour shortages, construction industry recruitment is much trickier than it used to be.

Companies are finding it harder to recruit the right staff. They’re also finding that competitors — both within the construction industry and without it — are seeking to poach existing team members with the offer of better pay and benefits.

Cost of materials

We’re still dealing with the fallout of the pandemic and Brexit. During the first wave of COVID-19, materials production slowed down while demand from homeowners looking to spend their savings on home improvement projects went through the roof.

A shortage of materials caused prices to rise. And while supply is nearing normal levels in many cases, prices remain stubbornly high.

This additional cost means that construction companies have to budget carefully and may not be able to offer workers the kind of salaries they’re looking for.

Energy costs

You can’t escape the news about rising energy costs. Russia’s threat to shut down gas supply to the rest of Europe has sent prices soaring. 

Sky high energy costs are contributing to inflation and the cost of living crisis in the UK. This is affecting construction companies’ cash flow. But it’s also affecting consumer appetite for home upgrades and business capacity for major construction projects.

A slowdown in construction demand means less income and a tighter budget when deciding what salaries you can offer new hires, again affecting construction recruitment.

How can construction businesses combat these challenges and keep recruiting?

We know there are plenty of challenges facing the construction industry right now. But this doesn’t have to mean a construction recruitment freeze.

There are a couple of ways you can try to combat the various crises we’re facing — and keep recruiting talent to your team.

Tap into new talent sources

It makes sense to cast your net a little wider when there’s a labour shortage.

Don’t restrict your recruitment pipeline by only looking to people already working within the construction industry. There are people with plenty of transferrable skills working in other sectors.

Adjacent industries

Look at adjacent industries — for example, the military, IT, engineering, and manufacturing — to find a bigger and better selection of candidates for a role.

Underrepresented groups

Women make up just 14% of the UK’s construction workforce, and workers from ethnic minorities make up just 6%. This is a far cry from their representation within the working-age population. Tapping into these talent sources could help ease labour shortages.

Go green

The energy crisis is helping to speed up our transition towards greener energies and better energy efficiency. The UK government has also set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The demand for green construction will only grow over the coming decades. So, construction needs to prepare by assembling the right expertise now.

Focus on candidates with experience in environmentally friendly construction, so you have the in-house skills to deliver green building projects.

Build your employer brand

According to research conducted by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), people who don’t already work within the construction industry have misconceptions about what the sector is really like. There’s a sense that construction lacks diversity and that you can only find jobs that involve manual work.

So think about your employer brand and how you present your company across your website and at any other promotional touchpoints. Also, work to craft job descriptions that help to depict the industry in a favourable light, counteracting some of the stereotypes that put people off considering a role in the sector.

Be transparent

Candidates may feel wary about accepting a construction industry job when the sector is facing so many challenges. The best way to combat their concerns? Be transparent.

Be honest with candidates about your company’s position during these crises. Are you actively growing? Are you cutting back? Can you offer a permanent position or something temporary?

Candidates are much more likely to accept a role when they understand exactly what is and what isn’t on the table.

Offer personalised benefits

Money may be tight. But it’s not all about the salary.

Research shows that 50% of UK workers would actually accept a pay cut in return for personalised employee benefits. So think about ways to offer attractive benefits to candidates without breaking the bank.

You could offer flexible holiday options or an on-the-job mentorship programme that helps workers develop new skills.

Aim to improve workers’ work-life balance with staggered start and finish times — or the option to finish a day’s work when completed rather than having to hang around for the duration of contracted hours.

crooton is here to help you navigate these tough times

The construction industry is going through a pretty hard time right now, but with the right approach to construction recruitment, you can weather the storm and keep building your team.

Another way to meet challenges head-on? Arm yourself with the best construction recruitment insights!

Check out some other crooton posts on the topic, including our ultimate guide to construction recruitment and our look at the future of recruitment in the engineering sector. 

Or if you need some expert construction industry recruitment advice, get in touch with a member of the friendly crooton team, and we’ll be more than happy to help.