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How To Find Skilled Builders In A Skill Shortage

find skilled labour

If you want to attract the best people, you need to offer them BIG opportunities, not just big salaries

Demand for housing is growing. But growth presents a very real challenge as noted in the Hays Quarterly Report (2016 Q1) that predicts that skilled foremen will continue to be in short supply throughout this year.

Now, everyone in the industry knows that skilled foremen are critical to a building company’s ability to manage more building projects. So how do you attract skilled foremen to your company when they are in short supply?

The law of supply and demand says, “Offer the highest salary! Great foreman will go where the money is highest.” Simple really! If you want to attract great foremen, just offer great rates in your adverts. If only it were that easy.

To attract the best people, you need to offer them a complete package that recognises their skills and offers them further development opportunities

So, how can you find skilled staff and ensure that you are attracting the best people to your building business?

1 Create BIG Opportunities 

When Steve Hansen became head coach of the All Blacks (in 2012), he started casting the vision of wining the rugby world cup again in 2015. Not just winning the cup, but winning it again. No one had ever achieved back-to-back wins – it was a history making opportunity. Now I suspect his vision attracted great players to join him in the quest! [And in case you missed it, they succeeded!]

Create big opportunities

Big visions attract great players

The thing is, if you want worthy people to apply for roles in your company, then you need to offer them “worthy” opportunities, not just “big” salaries. Put yourself in the applicants boots by asking the following questions:

  • What is the career progression?
  • Where are the opportunities for advancement?
  • Do you offer training?
  • What challenging jobs are coming up?

The best people – who will add the most value to your company – are more likely to apply for jobs that offer them the best opportunities.

2 Tell your company’s story

The Hays report noted that candidates are not just interested in higher salaries or career pathways but also in the company itself. Although they may not say so in as many words, they want to know who you are, what you have done and how you have managed your business. Just as people buy from people, so great employees want to join a company with a respected history.

So tell them the story of your company. If you are a young company, or if your focus is renovations, or if you have 20 years experience in the area then let your prospective employees know.

3 Highlight your building businesses culture

Experienced tradesmen are in high demand so there’s no need for them to stay in one company. Keen to elevate themselves to more senior roles, the culture of the company is important. Few people stay in a situation that’s a poor fit.

What's the culture in your building business?

What’s the culture in your building business?

One builder I know highlights the fact that all his trade staff are mad about outdoor pursuits. They don’t work weekends because that’s when they’re going hard-out at cycling, running, skiing etc. So a candidate wanting weekend work is out of luck!

So tell prospective employees about your workplace culture. Tell them what it’s like to work in your company? If you’re not sure, then ask your current staff. They will know! What do you stand for? What are your non-negotiables? What’s common about your team?

4 Showcase your uniqueness

Isolate your areas of speciality. Being all things to all people often ends up with your being nothing to anybody. So promote your strengths:

  • What is your company really good at?
  • What do you do really well that sets you apart from just any other company?
  • What is it about your company that makes you proud?

Great employees want their efforts to achieve more than just a pay packet. They want to have significance. And more often than not, that significance will be found in your uniqueness – what it is that you do really well about which they too can feel good.

A company I work with challenges its builders to volunteer for community projects overseas and contributes to the costs.

5 Look further afield

Now it’s obvious that some of your prospective candidates will be down the road at Bob’s Building Business. But in a tight market you can’t simply engage in poaching from your building colleagues. So you may have to cast your net in unfamiliar waters.

Experienced tradesmen are in high demand, so they don’t need to stay with a company that doesn’t suit them

The Hays survey found that there was much interest from candidates in Germany, France, the UK and Canada. So be open to candidates from abroad because most of the best local candidates will already be in jobs. Recruiting overseas does take longer and has some challenges, but these are not insurmountable.

6 Get beyond builders job titles

Building apprentice

Could some of your best talent be right in front of you?

Finally, avoid merely focusing on job titles. Rather detail the tasks that need doing and look for the people who have the talent to do what needs to be done. You might be surprised at where your next leader comes from. For example, you may find that some of your best talent is right there in a young apprentice – just waiting to be offered an opportunity to prove his ability.


The way we recruit staff is changing, and it’s now visible in the trades sector. To keep up through change we need to adapt. The question is, “how adept are you”?

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to recruiting skilled labour?  Love to hear your comments in the comment section below.


One Response to How To Find Skilled Builders In A Skill Shortage

  1. Robert Schleusener August 17, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    I am a carpenter / builder (55) I have supervised larger projects in the past. What stops me now is I just don’t want to work 6 days a week.
    Is it time to start job sharing (for us grand dads)? I know others in my age and status bracket and say the same, “There are better things to do with my Saturday’s.

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