People talk about employer of choice all the time, but what does that mean in the construction industry? Does your employer insist you work on Saturday’s? If so – why?
The short answer is that it means different things for different roles. So, an employer of choice for a Contract Administrator or an Estimator would be very different from a Site Manager or a Site Supervisor.
For site staff, if they don’t have to work weekends, that’s a massive lift, and unions are pushing for a five-day work week on bigger jobs, so if that could be introduced into the business, they’d certainly be an employer of choice for Site Supervisors.
For office-based people, it might be about the flexibility of doing part days from home or a hybrid work environment of one day or more from home and the rest from the office if necessary.
So what’s actually happening out there?
Before COVID, in the bigger companies where a lot of the project staff are all site-based, we were getting a lot of CA’s who no longer wanted to be CA’s because they were working Saturday’s, and sometimes also Sunday’s. They were doing 12 to 14 hour days during the week, and then maybe extra on the weekend, and that’s because they felt either there was not enough staff on the project or it involved a really difficult client. The time frames were so tight when they had to procure trades or procure materials to keep in line with the program. Basically, the hours were asking a lot of them, and we’ve had people saying straight out to us that they won’t consider moving jobs because currently they were doing 40-45 hours a week and felt they were on decent pay. So, even if the other job paid more, they weren’t interested.
For example, we had one intermediate CA who was on $120K, and our client’s job was paying $140K to $145K, and they said the extra hours meant it wasn’t worth the extra money to them. We are seeing this more and more, an attitude from employers that work comes first above everything else. There is a gap between what the employer and the employee expect from the work environment, which can also be generational. For example, depending on how advanced you are in your career, an employer of choice might mean extra holidays – an extra week or similar, or additional perks such as toll road reimbursements or paid parking.
It could also mean more than this. We have PM’s wanting to go into design management roles because switching roles can mean working fewer hours. We’ve found that hours are one of the biggest reasons for consideration when looking for an employer of choice, followed closely by work flexibility. The term employer of choice is so broad, as it can mean so many different things to different people, so it all must be tailored as people are at different stages in their life.
For a sub-30-year-old who is unmarried and with no kids, an employer of choice might mean work/life balance and not doing 60 hours per week. Then for people who have a young family and a big mortgage, it might just be about more money and that they need to make this work for their family.
Top 5 – What constitutes an employer of choice from the employee’s perspective?
- The number one thing we run across is issues around hours.
- After that, the next thing we run across more than anything else is the resourcing of projects – they must be well resourced, and that flows hand in hand with expectations around hours. So, if employees feel that there’s not enough staff on a project, they feel like they must pick up the slack, which means having to do more hours.
- The third thing that we find is important is that there is support from management. We’re finding candidates are after management that won’t just say, “hey, it’s your project and you figure it all out and fix all the problems”, because even though these roles pay well to problem-solve, there’s many that like to know that if they do run into a problem, particularly earlier in their career, and it’s a problem that they don’t know how to sort out, that management will have their back, in terms of management offering solutions, whilst not micromanaging. For older guys, it’s once they’ve made a decision that management won’t cut their legs out from under them, and also that management adheres to the company’s policies such as what the terms are for paid parental leave, what the policies are for expense reimbursements, and so on.
- Another big consideration for candidates is whether management will cover business expenses for example: tolls, fuel, mobile, a new laptop – all those little expenses that can add up. They want management to actively say that they will reimburse those costs. We’re hearing more and more that many businesses will try and push business costs onto employees. So, if an employee used to only drive from home to their office in the city but is now expected to go to the Sunshine Coast every day – that’s a business cost, and quite often, they don’t do it.
- Then we have the matter of retention. One of the other big things that gets promised a lot of times but not delivered is promotions actually occurring and pay reviews actually happening. There’s a number of companies that consistently lose staff because their cadets won’t be given the CA title once they finish uni straight away, as a way of keeping their pay down. So, employers of choice proactively do their performance reviews and don’t drag it out for a couple of years or longer, where they don’t need to be reminded by their employees all the time that it needs to occur. Instead, it should be a proactive, positive meeting set by the employer where they constructively want to develop the person and reward them when they progress and add more value to the business.
From the candidate’s perspective, it’s good to look for fair, open, and honest businesses. Where they let people know what their expectations are, and if they say they’re going to do something, they will follow it through. And one of the ways of doing this is to look closely at your contract for all those stipulations, and if there are any that are not in your contract, speak to your hiring manager and ask them about it, get an answer, and then confirm it in an email with them.
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