Site salaries soar in battle to retain staff
Cost of living and rampant construction markets elsewhere leave firms short of employees
Contractors are being forced to raise salaries and housing allowances as an increasing number of staff flee the region due to the escalating cost of living.
With growing competition for a limited talent pool, salaries for professionals in the construction industry have gone up 12.8% on average over the last year, according to figures from Gulf Talent. At the same time, companies are ploughing money into devising new ways of attracting and retaining staff.
“We are being more proactive in respect of how we resource skilled labour and how we train them up, as well as how we deal with the immediate problem,” said Jane Carter, human resources director, Al Futtaim Carillion.
“One of the problems is due to the fact that construction companies across the world stopped offering training in the mid-to-late 1980s, not anticipating the growth of construction worldwide, and now they have been left in the cold – so the only way forward is to deal with it at all levels.”
Al Futtaim Carillion has stepped up its search for younger talent in India through University ‘milk rounds’ and is also looking towards recruiting from new markets in Asia and Europe.
“We participate in salary surveys so we can understand what is being paid elsewhere, and we try to keep a rational, focused approach on salary increases,” added Carter. “You need to make sure your awards structure is competitive to the market and that you have the resource pool available for when people do move.”
The recruitment of semi-skilled and unskilled construction labourers has also become more difficult, according to Gulf Talent. This is partly due to an increase in construction in traditional recruitment markets such as India, but also negative publicity surrounding non-payment of wages and poor living conditions.
And some companies say the struggle to find good quality accommodation for staff at reasonable rent is not only forcing them to increase housing allowances, but is also having a serious impact on productivity and overall company performance.
“This situation is extremely difficult – it is almost touching on a human rights issue,” said Freddy Lama, managing director, Nova Electromechanical.
“We have to move workers around from location to location because of the cost of rent. This means shifting them further away from the city to industrial areas, which are also being hit by increasing costs, and this can be very dramatic for them. So instead of having two people in a room, we have to squeeze three people in.
“And this is not limited to unskilled and semi-skilled people, it affects people higher up, such as engineers.”