Every step the construction industry takes

is being watched, how can a business

navigate post-covid-19?

To say the construction industry has been put through its paces over the last few years would be an understatement. With the uncertainty around Brexit, high-profile safety concerns, several well-publicised insolvencies, and now, Covid-19.

Brighter skies had appeared, with the industry on the brink of experiencing major rewards from government spending. 2020 has brought with it huge optimism for new investments, such as the new National Infrastructure Strategy worth £100bn+ with the go-ahead decision on 15th April for the construction of HS2 being at the very heart of that plan. This is conjuring up a long-awaited construction evolution, and the need for a holistic, long-term approach to infrastructure.

Covid-19 has taken the reigns on timelines for the construction industry, but what is still within its control?

Employee advocacy is important, now more than ever

How a company portrays itself, not only to its employees but potential hires is vital. This was a fact before Covid-19 and it will remain the same long after, the only difference is, now candidates want to know one extra thing; ‘How did you look after your employees during the global pandemic?’

It does not matter what industry you are in; employee advocacy is at the forefront to not only retaining staff but generating high-quality talent to join your ranks. Tough decisions have had to be made but it is how employers are handling those conversations that will have the greatest impact. One thing we have heard from candidates, even those who have been made redundant or put on furlough, is that the employers who are still checking in on them and helping where they can to find them work elsewhere are creating the best reputation.

Pre Covid-19, benefits, and company incentives were taking the lead over salary as the most important aspect candidates looked for in a new role. Are we now going to see company reputation as a vital factor that could decide whether a candidate works for you or not? Regardless of what package you offer? Food for thought!

What can businesses do to handle this adjustment period?

Across the industry, there appear to be two main factors at play;

Have open discussions – The best approach with your company, clients, employees, and potential candidates are to be transparent. Have an open discussion with all those involved and agree to a way forward that is accepted by everyone without resulting in a confrontation. Covid-19 is requiring everyone to compromise where they can but taking an open and honest step forward will gain your company credibility as a trusted partner.

Plan for all outcomes – A global pandemic is not something many businesses thought would be the trigger for them to look at putting their contingency plans into action. What is the number one rule to planning; always have a Plan B. (For example, if materials are being imported from a country on lockdown, what can be your alternatives?) Similarly, if you are not in a financial position to keep on full-time staff but still have impending deadlines, can you utilise interim/temporary candidates?

For most reading this, planning seems to be changing on a week by week basis as we wait for the world to continue lifting its restrictions. Your employees are doing the same and are weighing up personal commitments and holding on to their jobs – remember that when having open conversations.

The question we have heard so many times, what will the next few months look like?

The extent of this disease’s consequences is not fully known and we can only mirror what potential normality may look like by observing how countries that are ahead of us are handling this situation. If we are to follow Italy for example, there will be delays on projects, everyday struggles to keep workforces from coming into close contact with each other, and questions over who is going to take the brunt of the costs when delays continue. Construction sites, even if organised, still operate as a mass of people, what steps can be put in place to make sure they are not at risk?

Throughout Covid-19, the government has reiterated how construction, engineering, and infrastructure will be at the forefront of high priorities to get back up and running. Will we still see the million new homes promised by Boris Johnson by 2025?

Countries that makeup Europe have announced measures to restart the construction industry. Italy has kickstarted its important construction projects and Spain is allowing employees in manufacturing and construction to return to work if they adhere to the social distancing guidelines.

We are confident that although it may take time and patience, construction sites and operations can operate safely. It will take a uniformed effort on all fronts for this to work and it is every individual’s responsibility to be accountable for their safety and actions during this time. The knock-on effect to a poorly handled phased return can not only damage a company’s figures but its reputation for the future.

 

At Chandler Harris, we have lived and worked through many challenging events in life, including several recessions. If you are looking for guidance on how to handle hiring new staff, or are ready to launch a full-scale hiring drive, do not hesitate to get in touch.

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