A COVID Cover Up

A COVID Cover Up

Make sure you hang onto the people you have in your business today as they are a critical asset you cannot afford to lose.

– David Esler

As I sit and write this article, half of the Australian population is now back in lockdown and the construction industry in Sydney and South Australia is on hold. I think that COVID is having some interesting effects on us in the construction industry. Some that we may not be entirely aware of.

In my previous article, ‘Chasing Diamonds’, June 2021, I discussed the difficulty in finding talented staff and also how hard it is to retain them. In stark contrast to last year, when we went into lockdown and businesses were laying off staff due to an uncertain future, many of my clients are now of the opinion that, ‘she’ll be right mate’ – it’s just another small speed hump in the cycle of life (as we know it today). If we take a snapshot at this point in time, unemployment is at 4.9 per cent; the lowest level it has been at in a decade, and construction employment has grown just under 8 per cent over the last 12 months. Any wonder that we are having trouble finding staff. To add to that, new home construction is at a six year high and looks to have a pipeline through to 2023.

To add a little more spice to the recipe, in the Hays salary guide 2021/22, employers are looking to increase full time staff by 47 per cent, from where I am not quite sure, and 64 per cent of businesses are already finding that they have skills shortages and cannot find the skilled staff that they require. To top it off, just under 70 per cent of businesses are intending to increase salaries over the next 12 months. Wow, we thought we had it tough coming out of the GFC. So, what’s my point? Make sure you hang onto the people you have in your business today, as they are a critical asset you cannot afford to lose. Here are some ideas that you may want to consider as part of your people management plan moving forward:


Some of the comments I received from readers from my last article around providing ‘benefits and perks’ and staff retention has just re-enforced my view that you must be different to other businesses if you are to have a successful staff retention strategy. For many in our industry, they will not see this article or be aware of the difficulties that we are facing, so they have no reason to change and will continue to lose staff. Some of you will read this article and say, ‘My business is not like that! I have great staff retention,’ and that’s fine. But it will be the individuals that learn from what we are sharing and plan to acknowledge the importance of their staff further; become more engaged with their employees and are prepared to strive to continue to deliver first-class working environments, that will be successful.

All I can ask is that you genuinely think about your personal engagement practices, your staff, your business and how you can make a change and be different.


What do I mean by engagement? Consider the following; high performing, happy and content staff are actually twice as productive as any disgruntled or unengaged staff and the cost to replace these top performers is somewhere between half to double their annual salaries. Isn’t it about time that we, as managers, spent more time firstly selecting and then putting our energy into retaining these people?

Now, would you like to increase your operating revenue and margin by 19 per cent in the next 12 to 18 months? I would.

Tower Perrin-ISR, one of the world’s premier employee research and consulting firms, conducted what it refers to as one of the most extensive Employee Engagement studies ever. In ISR’s own words, the findings were ‘striking’. Companies that put a significant amount of effort into employee engagement and retention enjoyed growth in operating revenue and a margin of over 19 per cent. Now that’s impressive; and it’s just by doing some of the simple things well. So, what are some of the simple things?

In a recent Forbes article on employee engagement, they listed four simple steps to ensure that staff are engaged:

  1. Ensure everyone is in the right role.
  2. Provide training and development pathways.
  3. Ensure they are doing meaningful work that has a clear outcome.
  4. Check in often, both personally and professionally.


And finally, it is clear to me that when we employ staff, no matter what their role, we expect that they know what they are doing and that they are competent. My research is showing that this is not the case. Whilst we go through a rigorous recruitment process, the people we bring into our business will not know how ‘you’ do things. And I can assure you that everyone does things differently, so please train, train, train.

Just to cap off what we have been discussing, if you are recruiting, either through a professional recruiter or directly yourself, be open to bringing in new or semi-skilled talent from other sectors and taking the time to mentor and train them. Everyone wants someone who can hit the ground running and deliver results or outcomes immediately. Unfortunately, this is unsustainable. In our business, we have a motto; ‘Recruit for Attitude’ and ‘Train for Experience’, and I would encourage you to do the same.


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