During this time of uncertainty and darkness, the construction, engineering and property sectors can offer a light for others to follow.

Our workforces contain many of the most resourceful and creative professionals in the country. Together, we can play our part in helping each other come through this.

Most of us can’t materially change the outcome of the pandemic we face right now, but each of us can choose how we respond to it. Across our industry and beyond, everyone is grappling with uncertainty. We’re all being forced to ask ourselves some very confronting questions in our personal and professional lives.

I think we’ll do better finding the answers if we work together rather than in isolation.

The construction, engineering and property sectors have traditionally been adversarial, with competitors vying for work and seeking unique advantages. But these are special circumstances and so, right now, that needs to change. Organisations are hurting in similar ways and many are struggling to keep the lights on. Truly, this is the time to collaborate and connect with peers.

In that regard, I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve seen from my fellow board members at the Infrastructure Association of Queensland. Together, we’ve briefed the Minister for Transport on what needs to happen to keep the industry moving collectively in the next few months. In the weeks ahead, we’ll also be advising policy makers on the longer-term issues too.

This pandemic is big and it is painful – but it will pass eventually. For many, this could be a time to plan constructively for what comes afterwards. For example, how might contracting models and risk allocation models work in future? That’s an issue that we haven’t been able to get to grips with in the past, so now could be the time to tackle it.

Hiring advice in uncertain times

While many employers are not hiring right now, others are seeking to do so. In the spirit of sharing and connecting, here’s some guidance based on my discussions with hiring managers in the past fortnight:

  • Offer certainty: Candidates are looking for certainty currently. Plan and prepare your selection process, commit to the timings and milestones, and communicate that clearly to candidates.
  • Revisit contracting models: Permanent hires can feel like a big commitment in the current climate but there are other ways to hire without carrying the same risk. For example, you might hire someone on a six-month contract and treat that as a probation period while waiting to see how the markets looks in a few weeks’ time.
  • Consider barriers: Think about what reassurances you can offer candidates. Be ready to answer questions such as: Is your hiring policy ‘last in, first out’?
  • Be realistic: People with 10-15 years’ tenure at their current employer are unlikely to leave their jobs right now. So be smart about who you’re targeting.
  • Consider upskilling: It might sound odd for a recruiter like me to say this but perhaps you don’t need to hire an external candidate. If your organisation is quiet at the moment, consider your existing workforce and who might be redeployed and/or upskilled to fill an area of need.
  • Be flexible: Employers and professionals everywhere are learning new ways of working at the moment. Before hiring, challenge your own assumptions about things like working hours and geography. For example, does your new recruit really need to live within daily commuting distance from your workplace now?
  • Plan onboarding: In this time of social distancing, think carefully about how you will onboard your new colleague. Consider each stage of your usual process and how you can adjust this in the current circumstances.

Working in recruitment, I’m in the fortunate position of knowing hundreds of talented people across the architecture, construction, engineering and property sectors. My message to anyone reading this is: I’m here to help. Even if you’re not looking to hire anyone, reach out if you’d like to speak with peers in your industry. I can connect you with people facing the same professional challenges that you are. Together, we can and we will get through this.

By Jane Lowney, Associated Director, Engineering & Infrastructure at Robert Walters

Jane is an engineer and technical recruiter. Having studied Civil & Structural Engineering she decided to pursue a career in recruitment in Ireland before relocating to Brisbane in 2012. Jane has a keen passion for the diversity & inclusion and the business benefits it can create, particularly in the engineering sector. As a service provider to the industry, Jane is keen to “give back” and is actively involved with a number of industry groups to achieve greater diversity in the sector.