Global Insight


The changing face of construction

03 July 2017

As employment in general has undergone a massive evolution in recent years in terms of norms, practices and processes, construction has had to keep up.

Not only that, but the last decade has been one of the most challenging periods for the industry, initially with the global downturn and recession, followed by a swift upturn resulting in a skills shortage and considerable industry growth triggering a seismic shift.

Since Linesight was established in 1974, the employment landscape has transformed. Having successfully recruited 140 people for our global teams in 2016, our Recruitment and HR teams have a unique perspective on the progress that the industry is making. The face of construction is changing and here, Group Recruitment Manager, Jackie Doheny examines the core areas in which it is transforming:


1. Branching out

One of the changes that is particularly relevant for us at Linesight has been the client expectation of a broader and more diverse skillset from our employees. As Linesight Associate, Callum Faulds points out, “Clients now want and expect more than just QS or Cost Management skills from one person, and we have to broaden our skillsets to accommodate this.” As an organization, we have launched a more comprehensive suite of services in line with client expectations, but this requirement extends down to individuals, who need to diversify their skillsets and range of experience.

Developments in the construction industry, particularly relating to technology, have so far only scratched the surface, and there is an excitement about the opportunities to branch out.  For example, there is much more off-site fabrication, talk of 3D printing whole structures, new materials such as graphene (recently discovered by University of Manchester and purported to be stronger than steel), and a myriad of apps and tools that put large amounts of data literally at our fingertips.   At the same time, there is a need to ensure that all this change is managed safely, economically and with increasing visibility, right down to sub-contract level.   Project Director Elaine Sutcliffe explains, “Our clients are looking to us for advice.  We need to work out and then explain the impact and opportunities of these changes as they arise; on the potential cost in short and long-term, on the timescale, to ensure the appropriate health and safety checks are in place, and then advise on whether an alternative procurement option or form of contract is needed.  We need diverse expertise on all of these fronts in our teams. ”   


2. Career progression

Traditionally, career progression has been relatively mapped out in the construction industry, with career paths tending to almost follow a certain timeline. However, as the skills shortage prevails and the industry evolves, there has been a marked change towards more fluidity in terms of career progression. Promotions are no longer as closely correlated with years of service, and take account of aptitude more so than previously. This, in turn, means that an individual has more of an opportunity to carve out a career path for themselves and as Associate Director, Andrew Callaghan, explains, “Fundamentally, you have to gain the respect of the client team – it’s performance, not age.” 


3. Emphasis on opportunity

From an employer perspective, retention is key, and there is no doubt that a shift in recruitment practices has posed a challenge. Digital platforms, such as LinkedIn, make it easy for young professionals to get noticed, and facilitate job change in a way that did not previously exist. While the traditional priority on the candidate side would have been the package being offered by a potential employer, we are seeing a shift towards an emphasis also being placed on the opportunities for learning and advancement, challenging projects in various locations across the globe, and a supportive and encouraging culture being offered. Candidates are no longer attaching as much importance to remuneration, but are strongly motivated by the opportunities that they will have in terms of the clients that they will work with, the projects that they will work on and the team that they will be a part of

 

4. Creating leaders

Acquiring and developing leadership skills can be a challenge for graduates, but it is an essential skillset within the industry. Clients nowadays tend to be closer to projects, and so client-facing time is increasing, meaning that leadership and interaction are more important than ever. These are not skills that can be learned in a classroom, but the general consensus is that graduate programs go a huge way in overcoming this challenge, by giving young professionals responsibility, autonomy and hands-on experience. This has certainly been our experience with regards to our own graduate program.

These programs typically involve mentorship from a more senior team member, who acts as a sounding board and guides the young professional’s development. Increasing importance is being placed on getting the right dynamic between mentor and young professional, in terms of skill set, strengths/weaknesses and personality. Niall O’Connell, Assistant Cost Manager with Linesight cites this as one of the core benefits of a graduate program; “You are working on a live job from day one. You’re assigned to an experienced colleague and immediately given responsibilities, which means you quickly become part of the team”. This in itself breaks down traditional industry silos and promotes a more inclusive culture, which is important – we’re creating leaders earlier.

Whilst a good academic record is still important during our graduate program recruitment process, we firmly believe in “hiring for attitude and training for talent”.  The importance of effectively communicating with peers and clients cannot be underestimated. When we are looking at graduates or any perspective candidate, we are looking at them through the eyes of our clients and a significant part of that is how they will represent Linesight in all interactions.  


5. Diversity and inclusion

Diversity within the industry has been a hot topic in recent years, and is not isolated to construction, but is an on-going overall societal culture change. While we notice on-going improvements in diversity across our global teams in terms of ethnicities, backgrounds and so forth, one of the most publicized shortcomings is the gender imbalance, prevalent across the spectrum of construction. For example, in the UK, women make up only 11% of the industry workforce (and 12% of total UK blue-collar workforce). With changes to the UK’s Education Act in 2010 cutting funds, careers advisors are no longer present at schools, and the general consensus is that this is directly impacting female involvement in the industry. Jade Ourique, Cost Manager at Linesight, echoes this concern; “How will girls and women get a chance in the construction industry when they are simply unaware of the roles that are offered? The lack of general knowledge for roles within the industry can only be routed back to school education.”

There is little doubt that most of the markets in which we operate are still relatively male-orientated at the senior levels. Emily Campbell, Project Manager at Linesight, confirms this; “There aren’t as many women in the senior roles, but it is improving. On-site, I’m definitely noticing more women, and women are climbing the ladder.” As a female Project Manager, Emily notes that while it can be daunting going on-site into a male-orientated environment to manage the various disciplines, teams are respectful of your capabilities, regardless of gender. Ultimately, while this shift is positive, it is important that organizations truly engage and be authentic when talking about change, rather than just paying lip service to diversity and inclusion.

 

 

These changes bring a lot to the industry – a more holistic view, new perspectives and increased efficiencies. Those entering the industry face a more diverse and inclusive environment than previously; one with more opportunities than ever for personal and professional development. For organizations, the change has brought about a new set of challenges, but has also presented a unique opportunity to reflect on outdated practices, improve processes and develop distinct competitive advantages, both in the client and employer markets. Lastly, clients are exposed to more diverse teams that can offer different perspectives and ideas as well as benefitting from the resulting efficiencies. The rate of change may be measured, but all in all, there is little doubt that the changing face of construction is a positive evolution.

Be a part of the change – Linesight is currently recruiting for a number of roles across different regions. For more information on the opportunities that we have at present, please visit the Current Opportunities section on our Careers page, or email recruitment@linesight.com