How large businesses attract and retain the best surveyors

Big businesses may have more resources but recruiting the right surveyors can still be a challenge.

Standing out from the competition is key to recruiting the best people. We asked a selection of HR managers and directors for their advice on how they do this.

See recruitment in context

John O’Connor FRICS, Group Commercial and Human Capital Director, Laing O’Rourke

“We’re an industry with a real image problem. A 2016 survey from YouGov showed that just 11% of people consider the construction industry to be ‘exciting’. This all starts from schools; education undervalues construction and engineering, especially in contrast to European countries such as France. We need to challenge this image and educate the next generation of skilled workers.

“By taking a look at the wider context of the industry we’re recruiting from, we’re moving towards a new way of thinking and planning for how we’re going to recruit and retain now, and in the future.”

“We were shocked when we found that there was no Russell Group part-time higher degree apprenticeship for construction so that’s why we worked with the University of Exeter to get the first one launched. This means that we can attract a new calibre of people into our industry and business. There are huge opportunities for the government, industry, education and business to work together to show that construction is an engaging and exciting place to be.

“At Laing O’Rourke, we also sponsor schools to introduce the Class of Your Own Design, Engineering and Construction qualification into the curriculum. At one of our all-girls schools, we’re working with 25 year 11 students; they’re part of how we’re going to address the diversity problem in our industry. We’re also investing £20 million a year into training our team to make sure they’ve got the skills they need for the future.

“By taking a look at the wider context of the industry we’re recruiting from, we’re moving towards a new way of thinking and planning for how we’re going to recruit and retain now, and in the future.”

Offer variety and consistency

David Hughes, Partner, McCartneys LLP 

“We operate in rural areas, so when we advertise jobs for surveyors we often do not get many responses. This is despite the fact that we offer a good salary and a career rather than just a job. For new employees, this can mean long-term security with lots of prospects in the business, but they have to be the right person with a real passion for what we do. We don’t want people who head out of the door at 5pm when they could complete the task if they stayed 10 minutes longer.

“In our business, we need our surveyors to be able to apply their knowledge on a range of topics and for multiple purposes. As well as being attractive to recruits, this variety helps us to find out who is really ready for the role. Some new recruits we’ve had in the past couldn’t handle the different types of work because their exam-based training and lack of practical experience of dealing with projects and people hadn’t prepared them for it.

“I think we need to take a serious look at the type of education we’re giving surveyors and consider whether it is matching business needs.”

“It’s difficult to find the people with the right level of passion and enthusiasm for building surveying. As a business, we pay for everyone’s training courses, both for APC and CPD, and can offer them a good career, but if they don’t have the right attitude from the beginning, then it’s very difficult for them to progress. I think we need to take a serious look at the type of education we’re giving surveyors and consider whether it is matching business needs.”

Give people career options

Andrew Ellison FRICS, Surveyor Training Manager, White Horse Surveyors

“We’re not an organisation where people stagnate professionally or mentally. Our culture is really important as it’s key to who we are as an employer; we give employees ongoing support to make their work lives positive and enjoyable. That’s why we offer them the chance to change the direction of their careers from valuation surveying to building surveying and vice versa.

“I’m part of a team of three who deliver the training to help colleagues make this transition. We’ve already put three colleagues through it successfully, with three more currently studying. It’s a large investment for a business because they have to undertake between 50 and 100 days of training, but we’ve got a backlog of people who are waiting to do it.

“We offer them the chance to change the direction of their careers.”

“I think we are oversubscribed because people are at different stages of their careers with different ambitions, aims and objectives. Some of our colleagues who are in their forties want a change in their careers and we can accommodate and help them through that change. This benefits our business because we can grow our expertise and it keeps our team fresh and engaged.”

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