11 May by Alan Jarque


A recent Survey in Building magazine found that three quarters of consultants providing engineering, surveying and architecture services to the construction sector were predicting a skills shortage over the next year. 

In the same survey 45% of employees indicated that they expected to move jobs within the next 12 months.

Similar trends are also evidenced in a more focussed Environmental Consultancy survey, undertaken by Environment Analyst, which reported that 47% of firms were looking to increase their headcount. 


So how does this relate to the everyday experience of our consultants at Allen & York, who provide recruitment services to many of these organisations? 


Well, we are certainly seeing an increased demand for new recruits within the Property and Construction sector, getting us back on the road to pre-financial crash levels.  However, there is a distinct air of caution coming from employers when it comes to making hiring decisions, with many clients reticent to take anyone who isn’t a perfect match for the job. 

It is arguable that due to the potential skills shortage that those companies waiting for the perfect candidate will be overtaken by those who are more flexible in their approach.  Many of our clients have already set out their hiring intentions for the year and assuming that this is based on sound management information and a full order book, then we would suggest that the procrastinators are walking right into a resourcing headache. 

Paul Gosling, MD UK & Europe at Allen &York, comments; “the Property & Construction industry is on the upturn, but it is early days and market confidence has to grow to enable more fluidity within the jobs market.  Many clients are keen to recruit and grow their teams, however there is a lack of urgency, and therefore many will only look to interview and make offers when there is an exact match.  This means that there is less movement in the market than we saw in the mid 2000’s when the general level of market confidence was high and talent was being brought in and developed.”

The candidates in shortest supply, according to the Building Survey, are those with two to five years’ experience, reflecting a lack of graduate recruitment by engineers during the downturn. However, candidate availability and willingness to move is also remarkably high, with 45% of employees expecting to move this year and 65% in the next 2 years.  This pool of talent is bubbling under the surface and as yet, we at Allen & York have not seen this translate into a rush of candidate movement.  However, one could argue, that now is the time to take advantage of the growing employee desire to move and future employers should review their candidate attraction strategies to entice talent from this niche sector.  

One of these enticements is salary.  The survey indicates that although salaries for the year to March increased by 1.96%, this was below the rate of inflation, making people worse off in their current jobs.  This links to our observations at Allen & York, whereby companies are working hard to retain valued staff; 

“We are seeing a significant increase in the number of counter-offers being made across the board.  The rise in counter offers (the current employer offering an increased salary to retain a key member of staff) is indicative of salaries being set to post-recession levels. Here our experiences tie in again with the survey in that there has been a clear reluctance to release the shackles on salary with small pay rises for existing staff and a great reluctance to offer high salaries to attract new staff.  Our reading of this, based on experience and conversations is that there will only be so long that the lid can be left on this.” Paul Gosling. 

The salary cycle is a reasonably clear one:  companies enter a growth period and start recruiting, candidates are happy to move as they haven’t had salary rises for a while and initially will move for similar salaries to their current levels, after a while those organisations which have been a paying below par salaries start to lose more of their talent so raise salaries for key employers who are looking to leave (counter offering), this salary rise feeds down to other employees and so general salary levels rise again.  This creates a more stable environment for candidates and employers alike. 

Our conclusions are that we are certainly seeing an increase in Property & Construction job vacancies, with the marketing beginning to buzz again.  However, there remain pockets of caution and employers will more than likely need to see a few more quarters of growth before things really start to fly.