According to the latest figures from the CPA (Construction Products Association), construction output is due to grow by some 4.9% by the end of 2015, driven by a 10% rise in commercial construction.
But as fast as the sector is growing, the number of good quality candidates happy to be employed full time on a salary is shrinking. The industry is experiencing an explosion in the self employed, from quantity surveyors to directors. If you can afford to take the risk and step away from salary security, then you can command up to £450 a day – good money if you can get it five days a week. And it’s not just a ‘one man band’ scenario – we’re seeing freelancers teaming up into ‘two or more man bands’ so they can offer more flexibility to employers in terms of availability, covering for holidays and sickness.
There’s no reason to believe this trend is going to go away. The on-demand ‘gig economy’ is going mainstream. That means the pool of people in the construction industry who don’t want or can’t afford to be self employed is becoming increasingly smaller. Which is why we are having to focus our efforts more than ever before on penetrating the ‘passive’ market – settled candidates who perhaps haven’t even thought they might want to make a move from one employer to another. Recruitment strategies need to be in place for middle management upwards if you are going to attract the dwindling pool of good candidates for whom self employment is not attractive. You need to think about your brand proposition and what will make you stand out as an employer of choice.
Why? Because freelancers have downsides as well as upsides. On the plus side, when times are lean, you can turn the tap on and off without the on cost of having them on the payroll as well as acquire individuals with niche skill sets. On the downside, you don’t have the same degree of commitment and there is an increasing reliability on non disclosure agreements as the contract workforce moves from one big project to another, often having been exposed to confidential information and strategies.
Successful players in the industry, as in any industry, always need some degree of consistency and reliability. Client relationships are built on trust and customers still want to see a steady face at the helm of any job or organisation, regardless of how many sub contractors you are using below the surface.
The ‘gig economy’ is here to stay – but there will always be someone who wants workplace security. It’s finding them that will be the challenge.