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The current government plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes by 2020 is under threat. This is no secret.

At Housing 2017 last June, Charlie Sherer, Chief Operating Officer at Willmott Partnership Homes, referred to the industry skills crisis as “the single biggest obstacle to us meeting our housing targets.” Building Careers UK issued a survey at the same conference that quoted 91% of participants as agreeing they can see the skills crisis within their industry, but yet over half of participants ‘weren’t sure’ what was to be done about it. That was June 2017 – do we have an answer 12 months later?

This “ticking time bomb” is not an unsolvable problem, as complex as the crisis is. The issues of aging workforce, lack of investment into training and lack of interest in the industry as an attractive career come out on top as reasons for the skills shortage, and work is being done to solve these issues. Just last week Housing Minister Anne Milton announced a £22m funding boost into the sector for training and development through the Construction Skills Fund. The crucial next step is for the industry itself to get involved, by making changes starting at the core of their own organisations.

Better offerings to candidates can not only diversify and intensify the kinds of talent coming through the door but also impact retention rates of staff in the long term. Building Careers UK Director Debbie King encourages decision makers to reflect on who they look to hire and why:

“Consider how you assess candidates – is it with a traditional panel interview? A group assessment day? Psychometric testing? What do these processes show you about your potential hire?”
“Do you embed people into your team from the get go, focusing on personality and culture requirements? Do you consider how today’s talent views their own worth, past a salary and opportunity to progress?”

Benefits from car allowances and gym memberships, to flexible working and company culture cause staff to turn their heads at a new job. Implementing an atmosphere that promotes aspects such as work/life balance and prioritising physical and mental health can be just one way of increasing retention and engagement rates across your team as well as productivity.

When attracting candidates, Group Chief Executive of Halton Housing Nick Atkin has seen the success in going outside the norm when hiring talent;

“We’ve found that understanding and addressing a candidate’s individual needs can go a long way to secure a great team member and keep them engaged in our ethos.. We’ve adopted agile working throughout our organisation and we are able to provide flexibility and reassurance – it’s about getting the job done at a time that suits the employee best.”

Initiatives that think outside the box are key to bringing the right people on board in this market. The skills problem won’t be solved by one perfect candidate who ticks every box, but rather by businesses reflecting on their needs and adapting to the candidates of today- in the long term creating a fairer and more diverse workforce, with skills and values beyond simple tick boxes.

Debbie King adds; “It’s so important to be a part of this conversation and then part of the change– we can all make an impact on the skills shortage in our own organisations. Whether it’s helping to attract young people, investing in development and training, or reframing your mindset on incoming candidates, the start of the solution to the skills crisis is already in front of us, and it can impact your organisation as soon as you embrace change.”

Building Careers UK’s experts have been engaged on the frontline of the housing sector recruitment for the best part of two decades. We can evaluate where your business fits amongst others as an employer of choice, and how your offering can adapt to fit today’s talent. 
With a dedicated team of experienced recruiters, Building Careers UK is well placed to understand your project requirements and address your staffing needs.

For more information on next steps for embracing change in your workforce, contact Debbie King at Building Careers UK on 0151 230 1690.


First published for Northern Housing Magazine, Summer 2018.

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