Staying power: 30 years in construction recruitment
Sarah Harvey, Director of Harvey Lawrence, has just celebrated her 30th anniversary in construction recruitment. Here she reflects on her time in the industry! When I took my first construction recruitment job in 1989, I would never have imagined I would still be in the industry 30 years later. Thriving for three decades in this role is rare, as it’s such a tough, competitive environment to work in. My time in construction recruitment has given me a unique insight on the industry as a whole, and I wanted to discuss the evolution I’ve seen and the changes I still want to see. As we approach the end of an uncertain year, we’re hoping 2020 will be reinvigorated through political clarity. For construction talent, be it permanent or temporary staff, if you do a good job and add value, you win through. Construction An Improved Landscape The industry has undergone a major image transformation over the last 30 years and has emerged as more professional and respectable. The industry we know today is process-led, policy-driven and digitalised. The culture of the late 1980s has been largely overhauled, and as a result, we all work in a more positive sector. Whilst policy is a must in order to mitigate risk, there is a feeling that policy can be more of a tick-box exercise with the clear exception of health and safety. We have seen a complete behavioural overhaul of health and safety, and rightly so. The standards have skyrocketed, meaning workers are happier, more productive and significantly safer in their roles. Equally, 30 years ago, there was no such thing as having records and plans stored digitally. Advancements in technology have enabled plans to be viewed in 3D, making it more efficient to plan and develop construction projects. The concept of construction management software has also revolutionised the industry. It allows different parties to collaborate on projects with more ease, which means they can make necessary changes much faster. We also talk about equality, diversity and inclusion, and wanting to attract more women into construction. Fortunately, how the industry treats its stakeholders is worlds apart from where we were in the late 80s. Industry leaders who are stuck in their old ways still exist, but thankfully, they are now few and far between. They need to be as they actively deter females from the industry and cause good staff members to look for better prospects elsewhere. Where We Need to Build a Better Industry Culturally, the industry has improved, but there are issues that still need to be resolved. I think the way parties interact with each other has remained largely unchanged with confrontation still rife. Because of this, the industry loses talent that doesn’t cope well in harsh cultures. Being overly tough just isn’t the right approach for today’s talent. The industry has been very slow to adjust here, despite claiming otherwise. Staff retention hasn’t improved massively over the years, but if we adapted the same zero tolerance approach to poor management as we do to health and safety, workers will be more inclined to stay in their roles. People often tell us they feel like they’re in a straight-jacket, unable to offer ideas or honest feedback for fear of it putting a black mark against their name. Similarly, there are widespread comments that people feel like their appraisals are rushed and merely part of box-ticking process. Whilst policy is key to compliance and risk mitigation, there needs to be a greater level of sincerity around policies. We have to take them more seriously instead of using them to simply satisfy legislative criteria. I can still remember how fondly professionals spoke about their careers in the late 80s and 90s. Despite how far the construction industry has advanced, it doesn’t feel like workers these days have the same sense of team spirit and respect for each other. There seems to be a worrying sense of disillusionment with how they’re treated, with company politics and what many consider to be overkill on process. Talented professionals feel stifled and that their roles are now less skilled with the growth of automation processes. I knew many site engineers, site managers, quantity surveyors and the like who are now senior industry leaders. It seems the generation of yesteryear had a real appetite to progress, but these workers are now within a few years of retirement. As a general observation, I think those who have come through the industry in the last ten to fifteen years don’t have the same desires. This is concerning as it poses a potential problem for sourcing future leaders and begs the question as to why people don’t want these roles. It’s highly unlikely they don’t want an increase in salary, bonuses and kudos. It’s more than likely they don’t want to deal with the complicated processes, backstage politics and blame culture that many perceive comes with career progression. Towards the end of the 80s, late payment was rife. We still hear about poor payment issues today, which is leading to the same business failures we saw three decades ago. Payment has improved on the whole, but I feel it may have regressed in 2019. We talk about fair treatment and timely payment, but there are still behaviours that fly in the face of these principles. Recruitment: The Success and Failures of the Industry The recruitment industry has also evolved a great deal during my three decades in the business. When I first started out, recruitment was completely paper-based, and sales offices were smoke-filled dens of relentless, high-pressure sales activity. The role was purely phone–based and job boards were unheard of. The way in which jobseekers look for new roles now has certainly changed. Over the last few years, I have witnessed the rise of job boards, applicant tracking systems, portals and social media — LinkedIn in particular. Previously, advertising was mostly confined to industry magazines, and anyone looking for a different job would need to look at adverts while on their tea-break. In this digital age, I feel as though the sector has lost its perspective of what it means to be good at recruitment. I was taught recruitment from first principles, which means building up a profile of a person’s experience and aspirations through detailed face-to-face discussions. We built trust with clients this way, as they knew we were doing our due diligence rather than just lifting profiles from social media or job boards. Today, this latter approach has sadly become all too common, and I feel it has created an inherent distrust of clients towards agencies. There is no denying that technology is very much part of modern recruitment. I talk to many clients who are frustrated that they haven’t filled their roles when all they’ve done is placed an advert online. You don’t achieve the right results working like that, which is why we need more credible, connected recruiters who understand the industry and the people they are looking to find roles for. Relationships are still key; they always have been and always will be. However, the skill of being able to make good judgement decisions based on knowledge and due diligence has been hugely diminished. Technology should improve efficiency and enhance recruitment outcomes, but I think, unlike in construction, it has had an adverse effect, leading to a poorer service in general. 30 Years On — Achievements and Lessons I’m proud to have survived 30 years in construction recruitment, and that I have stuck it out through three recessions. I’m also proud to have led two start-up recruitment businesses, one for a major player and one being my own, which has been a success for the last 18 years and counting. I have retained many of my clients throughout my working life, and Harvey Lawrence’s repeat business levels with clients is currently running at 83%. You can only achieve results like that through hard work and adapting to an evolving industry. Honesty has set my business apart, which goes a long way in explaining how we have formed so many lasting relationships with clients. In 18 years, we have only had one legal dispute, and we believe that our transparency is the reason why our clients put their trust in us. Experience has taught me to keep my feet on the ground as I have seen first-hand how quickly things can change. This is partly why we are totally self-funded with a strong credit rating. My industry longevity has taught me to be prudent and cautious. I underestimated how difficult managing a business could be at times. I didn’t factor in economic or legislative changes well enough, but I managed to get my head around the learning curve, which has led to my company thriving. Both the construction and recruitment industries have seen positive changes over the 30 years, and I’m sure it will continue to improve. It will be interesting to see how culture and collaboration between parties will make strides towards ending conflict in the workplace. It seems that the industry still has some work to do in creating a more conciliatory culture, one which is motivational for staff and the supply chain. However, the future looks bright, and as long as the industry is willing to adapt, we should achieve better results for all stakeholders involved. Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us now to discuss your recruitment needs.
Face Fit Testing for our clients
Here at Harvey Lawrence, we have been providing a face fit testing service for our clients in order to maximise protection against harmful airborne substances. Harvey Lawrence director Gary Harvey explains more: “We have carried out face fit tests for clients and candidates throughout the Midlands, North West and beyond both on site and our own premises. We ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for each individual we deal with.” We provide a qualitative testing service, used for disposable and half face masks. The individual is required to wear a hood over the head and shoulders while the tester sprays a bitter solution into the hood. The wearer is required to carry out a series of exercises to determine whether the mask’s seal provides suitable protection. Recent research has shown that around 50% of RPE used does not offer the wearer the level of protection advertised. Why not? Because it doesn’t fit correctly. Estimates suggest that thousands die annually as a result of exposure to hazardous materials during their working lives. This annual loss can be combatted by the correct selection, fitting and use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Test requirements: No smoking, drinking, eating or chewing gum for 15 minutes before the test, as this could affect the results. No beards or stubble where the mask seals because this affects the fit (some goatee beards are ok, but it depends where the mask sits on the wearer; there may also be an issue with longer sideburns) A test must be done for each different type of mask Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us now to discuss your recruitment needs.
Commonwealth Games - What will Birmingham 2022 mean for the city?
Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief David Grevemberg states Birmingham has "little room for error" as it prepares to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Birmingham now has just three years to complete a range of projects before staging one of the world’s biggest sporting events. The South African city of Durban was initially selected to host the 2022 Games. However, it was stripped of the event after failing to meet key obligations. "With this accelerated timeframe there becomes little room for error, which has its risks, but it also has its benefits," Grevemberg told BBC Sport. "You're not constantly planning and reinventing, you actually have to get on the ground and start making things happen.” Construction has already begun on the Commonwealth Games Village site in Perry Barr – which will provide a ‘home away from home’ for around 6,500 athletes and officials arriving to the Midlands in the summer of 2022. Commitments secured by Birmingham City Council, mean the lead contractor on the residential element of the athletes’ village will provide: The development of on-site training and engagement facility and a related £1.28million package of training 1,000 pre-employment training places, giving those involved the skills and industry accreditation to work on construction sites 50 existing apprenticeships working on site via the project’s supply chain The creation of 400 jobs, including 50 new apprenticeships and 30 paid summer interns An overall total of 22,000 person weeks of training and employment opportunities (for the 2022 Games) against a benchmark for a project of this size of 18,000 person weeks. Earlier this year, despite protests from the Save Londonderry Lane Playing Fields group, Sandwell Council approved the building of a new £60 million aquatic centre in Smethwick. Councillor Maria Crompton, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for safer communities, is looking forward to seeing the development take shape. In an interview with the Express & Star, she said: "This is an exciting time for Sandwell and our residents. We want this new facility to really inspire people young and old to get involved in new sports and leisure activities, become more active and live healthier lifestyles. “The centre will also leave an amazing legacy for Sandwell and will provide access to top-class sporting facilities for local people beyond the Commonwealth Games in 2022.” Harvey Lawrence director Sarah Harvey anticipates the potential impact such an event will have: “The 2022 Commonwealth Games combined with the HS2 project will firmly place Birmingham in the spotlight as a global city. Will the area get the long-awaited boost it needs to rival Manchester? Time will tell.” With large-scale projects comes the demand for diligent and professional staff across a range of disciplines. Harvey Lawrence boasts a wealth of experience in providing first class staffing solutions, as Sarah explains: “We have a strong Midlands office, supplying a whole range of staff to main contractors in the area. Our service offering spans both white and blue-collar staffing solutions. Our team are very familiar with the area and have a long-standing knowledge of the market. We’re really excited to get involved with helping companies in their hunt for the best construction talent.” DID YOU KNOW? The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place from 27 July to 7 August – twenty years after the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games and ten years on from the London 2012 Olympics The total cost of the 11-day event is a whopping £778m! It will be the biggest sporting and cultural event ever held in Birmingham, featuring thousands of world-class athletes, over a million spectators and an estimated global TV audience of 1.5 billion Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, shared his thoughts on how significant the event will be for the area: “This is a huge investment in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands to ensure the Commonwealth Games leaves a legacy far beyond 2022. “Investment in the region is already being unlocked thanks to the Games, with improvements to public transport and the regeneration of Perry Barr well underway. We expect the wider benefits of hosting the Games, including the economic and tourism boost, to last long into the future.” For more news, useful information and the latest job openings, follow our social channels! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us now to discuss all your recruitment needs.
Harvey Lawrence: Doing the job properly
CASE STUDY: Here we look at Irodion Rachiotis, a highly accomplished international Project Director with more than 20 years’ experience. Upon his return to Manchester he applied for numerous agency advertisements without success. What makes Harvey Lawrence different? Read on to find out… Irodion returned to England after more than 10 years in the Middle East, having most recently worked in Bahrain managing up to 4000 employees. After applying for one of our advertised roles, Irodion immediately caught our attention. UK-based construction companies can sometimes be reluctant to offer contracts to applicants who have recently returned from long stints working overseas – even those with a work history as impressive as Irodion’s! Instead of being the stereotypical CV pushers that many assume of the recruitment industry, we delivered a personally tailored experience. Following a successful face-to-face interview, we placed Irodion on his first temporary contract within a matter of days. Needless to say, he impressed! We placed him on two further temporary contracts following great feedback, before finding him a permanent position at an internationally renowned construction company. Here, Irodion explains how Harvey Lawrence are #DoingTheJobProperly: “I highly recommend Harvey Lawrence. I have had a highly positive experience. After relocating back to the UK, they worked tirelessly to find me initially temporary positions, then a permanent position with a large international construction company. They were the only agency who truly worked to find me excellent positions. They contacted me regularly and updated me on the progress of my applications. Through all my dealings with them they demonstrated professionalism and an individualised service to help me enter the UK market again. Thank you, Harvey Lawrence!”