Employment - Workforce planning

By: Robyn Webb

A theme in the construction sector is the importance of workforce planning to ensure the right people and skills are in place to deliver for current and future projects. Border closure has affected the sourcing of skilled candidates. HR and operations managers speak of halted hiring conversations with offshore candidates for specialised technical roles.

Another consideration is the expiry of temporary resident visas of skilled immigrant workers. Therefore things need to be done differently, with less reliance on people from overseas.

On a positive note, returning Kiwis could balance the shortage of skilled immigrants. Some may offer the expertise and offshore experience to immediately contribute, depending on their skills and aspirations. Another possibility is retaining experienced, older workers; many are keen to work beyond traditional retirement age. They can mentor new employees while also learning from them in such areas as the application of new technology.

Also in the market are individuals who lost their jobs due to Covid-19’s impact on projects and subsequent employee downsizing. For some, there is frustration that their visa status prevents them from working for another company. On the other hand, there are skilled Kiwis currently seeking work who are available for companies resourcing “shovel ready” or other active projects.

But are the required skills readily available? And how competitive is the internal market?  One company describes advertising for a commercial project manager and receiving very minimal applications from within New Zealand. Their short-term approach is to re-organise and look internally for people who can take on more responsibility. With increased pressure on the leadership team and being mindful of best practice, this is not sustainable long-term, so there is a need to think outside the box.

In tandem with the focus on immediate resourcing, upskilling and training can future-proof the workforce and enhance a business’s competitive edge.  The Ministry of Social Developments (MSD) Apprenticeship Support Programme is providing funding assistance.

A recommendation from one construction company HR manager is to talk with MSD, as there may be flexibility in how you partner with them to help your business create meaningful opportunities for young Kiwis to complete their apprenticeships and be ready for jobs in the recovery phase.

Cadet schemes provide valuable experience during the final university year. Return on investment comes from the growth and commitment of those cadets as they progress through the organisation.   

Looking after your people is equally important for non-professionals. When you need staff, you will benefit from being recognised as a good employer – providing a place where people enjoy coming to work. When times are tough – even when retrenching staff – treating people with dignity and respect goes a long way to enhancing your reputation and leaving the door wide open for those people to return in better times. You can’t deliver your projects without them.

Robyn Webb, Pohlen Partners


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