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Skills shortages are a huge threat to growth in construction, forcing project delays and threatening profit margins. Building and nurturing talent pools is the best way to overcome shortages and fill your recruitment pipeline for the future.

How to beat construction skills shortages with talent pooling

Tags: Candidate Experience, Recruitment Marketing

Construction is one of the UK’s biggest success stories. It employs one of the largest chunks of people (3.1 million), contributes heavily to the economy (6% of the total), and is growing fast (orders increased by 135% in 2021). 

It’s also facing a major threat – one that only recruiters can address. 

Meeting construction’s growth demand means people. Some 216,800 more people by 2025, CITB say. 

That’s a problem. Construction recruiters face dramatic and compounding skills shortages that undermine project fulfilment and threaten government targets and pledges. And push recruitment costs up, putting pressure on already-tight margins. 

Overcoming these skills shortages is the biggest challenge construction recruiters have ever faced. 

It takes a new approach to recruitment. One of proactive, forward-looking nurturing and pipeline building, instead of frantic firefighting, wage hikes, and spiralling agency reliance.

How to use talent pools effectively in construction

The pain barrier – and why you need to push past it

Moving towards relationship-led recruitment is actually pretty simple but it won’t feel simple to start with. It’s going to feel like sprinting on a treadmill for a few months, before you reach the open road.  

It’s a chicken and egg issue, because you’ll need to find time you don’t have to start implementing the right activities. But it will eventually ladder into a robust, scalable process that reliably hires great people fast.  

But if you don’t push through that pain barrier, you’ll carry on in the escalating cycle of skills shortages and firefighting. And it’ll only get harder and more time-consuming as other recruitment teams get better at this new approach and talent becomes even more scarce.

1. Build talent pools

Let’s assume you’re starting from scratch so we don’t miss any bases. If you’re not, fantastic. Skim this bit to make sure you haven’t missed any easy wins then crack on wherever’s relevant.

Segment active applicants into pools

Right now, you’ve got a stream of people coming into your ATS from live job adverts. You need to start using tags to segment those applicants into pools. (That’s Tribepad’s functionality anyway. If you’re using other talent acquisition tech there might be another mechanism.)

Standardise tagging protocol across your team, so everyone’s work is valuable for everyone else. 

At this point you’re still juggling recruitment-as-usual. That’s fine. Just add the short extra step of tagging into your normal CV screening process. This doesn’t pay off now, but it’ll be super valuable later.

Tag silver and bronze medallists  

Here’s where you keep your A-Listers who didn’t quite make the cut. For example, you could tag great video interviewees as bronze medallists, and great face-to-face final stage interviewees as silver medallists.

They’re the people you approach first next time. And yes, they might’ve gotten another job by then – but they’re also the people you should most nurture for the future. Especially in construction, those people could be back on the market quickly as projects finish.

Source passive candidates

By this point, you’re starting to see the benefit of building talent pools. With a ready-made, easy-access pool of qualified people, you’re starting to fill some roles faster – creating time for this step.

Dedicate some time to proactively source candidates from social media. Use tagging to segment these people into pools, ready for your first contact. (Remember GDPR though. You can’t actively market to them without getting explicit permission.) 

Create a constant active and passive candidate stream 

Now you’ve created time, you can cope with a higher volume of applications. How about creating an excellent job advert for each role you hire regularly for, then running those ads continuously (we call them Evergreen Roles)? 

That way you’ll have a steady stream of active candidates for the roles you regularly need people for. Now you just need to qualify them and add them into the relevant talent pools.  

Here’s where recruitment marketing activity is valuable, to create a steady stream of passive candidates

For example, you could run a campaign aimed at bringing more working parents back into the workforce. SCS JV’s ED&I Advisor Laura Roche has been doing incredible work around increasing diversity, check out her 12 hands-on ED&I tactics here). 

There can be some overlap here with nurturing (See Step C below) so you needn’t reinvent the wheel. A report benchmarking construction salaries, for example, could be valuable both to generate new leads and to nurture them.

2. Nurture talent pools

Now you’ve got an awesome asset: a heap of hyper-segmented talent pools. But your talent pools are only valuable when you turn them into engaged communities – and engagement decreases over time. 

You have to maintain engagement via talent nurturing

Don’t ghost ANYONE

We’re on a mission to #EndGhosting – and you should be too. Ghosting is a terrible candidate experience that instantly drives disengagement. 

  • 65% of applicants have been ghosted by a prospective employer
  • 94% of ghosted applicants retain negative feelings towards you 

Anyone in your talent pools who’s been ghosted is a frozen cold lead. 🥶 Don’t do that to yourself. Even if someone isn’t a fit for your role, they might be elsewhere in the business. Or they might know a friend who’d be perfect, sometime down the line. 

You’re building an army of possible leads in the future so keep your troops happy.

Reach out about highly relevant opportunities 

The highly relevant is the crucial part here. Don’t spray out jobs to your talent pools indiscriminately. Engagement is a finite resource, so use it wisely.

But if you’ve used tagging well to create highly segmented groups, you should have talent pools that align well with certain roles. People who might genuinely be interested in what you’re offering – that’s the acid test. 

Send those people some info and see if it’s worth having a chat. (Tribepad makes this super simple, with bulk email and SMS). 

Some tips:

  • Don’t send a generic job description with no context. Use personalisation tags and write like a human.
  • Invite them to reply if they’re not on the market right now, so you can remove them from your active list and stop bothering them with irrelevant content.
  • Ask them if they know anyone you should chat to, especially if you can offer a referral bonus. Give some details about who’d be a great fit. 
  • Offer some value – like a cool piece of content, or a quick update on what you’re seeing in the market if they’re interested. 
  • Prompt them to update their profile through their self-service dashboard (if you’re using Tribepad), so you know what’s relevant for them. 

Stay in touch semi-regularly with recruitment campaigns

There’s a fine line to maintaining engagement. You don’t want candidates to forget about you and slowly go cold, but also you don’t want to spray them with liquid nitrogen by constantly annoying them. 

Finding that line will take some trial and error. A good rule to start is, contact passive candidates every couple of months – and make sure only 1/3 is self-serving (like sending a job, asking for a referral, etc). 

Some ideas:

  • Send some cool content, like a report on construction salaries
  • Share an interesting article you read; ask for their thoughts*
  • Keep them informed about industry-relevant updates (like IR35)
  • Ask their opinion or run a poll on something topical (like ED&I)
  • Send them some recent interesting PR (if it genuinely is interesting…) 
  • Run a piece of proprietary research, like a salary survey 
  • Create some engaging visual content, like a video 

Read more: A recruiter’s toolkit: how to run a recruitment campaign

* Clever wording and personalisation tags can make your bulk comms feel one-to-one. 

This stuff needn’t take ages. Look for overlap with lead generation (See Step D, above) and you won’t need heaps of unique content. Tribepad has 250+ email templates to make nurturing simple, plus an easy drag-and-drop landing page builder.

Construction recruitment must prioritise future cost sustainability 

It’s the perfect storm for construction, with an aging workforce, a lack of diversity and Brexit coming together to ensure record skills shortages. And no end in sight.

The consequences could threaten firm survival, as costs become increasingly unsustainable. Average construction earnings hit 14% higher this year than the year before – the biggest increase of any sector. And four in five SME builders have hiked prices

Raising and re-raising rates isn’t a sustainable solution. Recruiters must transition towards this longer-term relationship-led approach, moving away from reactive firefighting that drives costs up further.

The right technology makes relationship-led recruitment easier. Learn more about Tribepad for construction. 

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