A direct labour force – is this the change construction needs to secure its future?

Direct labour force skills EF Blog

Traditionally the construction industry has relied heavily on contract labourers, many of them immigrants and workers from the EU. Now with the turmoil that is Brexit, it’s shining a spotlight on labour sources. If the UK institutes more stringent immigration laws then many existing contract workers may face deportation and not be allowed to continue to work in the UK.

It’s bad enough for the workers affected, but the industry is also going to take a hard knock, losing many skilled and hardworking contractors. With the loss of EU contractors, it’s going to widen the existing skills gap, especially as local UK contract workers seem to be hard to come by. Is there an alternative?

Related article: Skills – are things about to get worse? 

Investing in a direct labour force

One of the primary reasons many large construction firms use contract workers is that it’s believed to be more financially viable, only contracting the workers when needed and not having to worry about shifting workers from one site to another. However, the costs are not always an accurate calculation. It’s become the accepted norm that project delays happen, and to try make up time construction firms often end up having to pull in more workers or pay more overtime to reduce the delay. So there isn’t always the intended financial benefit. However, that’s not the strongest motivator for investing in a direct work force.

About more than money

It’s a well-known fact that money alone no longer secures the best talent in the industry. Employees on all levels of an organization are looking for something more – even if they are contractors. They’re looking for opportunity, learning, career development and recognition for their efforts.

In an industry where collaboration is key, working to develop strong teams can make a huge impact on productivity. Let’s consider some of the additional benefits of developing a direct labour force:

Training and development – learning can be targeted to develop skills needed for specific projects. Learning can be continual, building on experience as workers progress from one project to another.

Improved productivity – with existing skills and knowledge of co-workers, companies can reduce the onboarding time for new projects and ramp up productivity from the start.

Greater employee engagement – Employees that are given recognition and responsibility, have a stake in the success of the project – and this makes them more engaged. Furthermore, enabling them with the same team to work with, people they know and respect for their expertise makes working together easier.

In an industry that is slow to change, could this be an option, even if Brexit is the push factor?

Related article: What skills are needed to drive digital transformation in construction?