// PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Building a Strong Construction Team: Tips for Successful Recruiting with Gaelle Blake Transcript

Greg Wilkes (00:01):

The construction industry can be a tough business to crack, from cash flow problems, struggling to find skilled labour and not making enough money for your efforts, leaves many business owners feeling frustrated and burnt out. But when you get the business strategy right, it’s an industry that can be highly satisfying and financially rewarding. I’m here to give you the resources to be able to create a construction business that gives you more time, more freedom, and more money. This is the Develop Your Construction Business podcast, and I’m your host Greg Wilkes.

Greg Wilkes (00:42):

In this week’s episode, we are talking about the subject of recruitment. We know how difficult it can be when you’re trying to scale your company to find and attract the best talent to your business, especially because there seems to be an ever shrinking pool of candidates out there. We’ve brought a special guest on today, Gaelle Blake. Gail is the head of UK construction and property appointments for Hays Recruitment. She runs a huge team of individuals who are looking to try and help businesses scale across the UK and Ireland. Gaelle is going to dive into a few subjects that are really going to help you with your recruitment strategy. We’re going to talk about your purpose and how you can instil a fresh purpose to your business. If you’re ever feeling a little bit fed up and you don’t know why you’re doing this, we’re going to discuss that. But also, how you can inject that purpose and passion into your employees. We’re going to talk about the benefits of getting young people into the industry and how you can potentially do that. We’re also going to talk about your recruitment plan. How far out in advance should you be planning to bring people on board? So lots of subjects that we’re going to discuss today! This is really going to help you if you are trying to scale and you want to know the best way of doing it. Gail is going to help us discuss that subject. I hope you enjoy the episode.

 

Greg Wilkes (02:02):

Gaelle, I really appreciate you taking the time to come on the show today. Great to have you on and I know you are extremely busy in your career, so thanks for taking a bit of time out to talk to us.

 

Gaelle Blake (02:12):

No problem. Really, really looking forward to this.

 

Greg Wilkes (02:15):

Yes, it’s going to be good. Gaelle, maybe you could introduce who you are, what your current role is and the company that you work for?

 

Gaelle Blake (02:25):

I’m Gaelle Blake. I look after construction of property for Hays, who are the biggest specialist recruiter in the UK and Ireland within the construction and property field. I started with Hays straight after uni, (dare I say this in 1999) and I started recruiting civil and structural engineers. I went straight in at the bottom basically, literally as a fresh grad with no experience and didn’t know anything about construction and property, and I just fell in love with the industry, like absolutely! Within, I’d say nine months, I was one of those saddos that wouldn’t be able to walk past the site without checking the site board to see who’s the architect, who’s the engineer? I’d be walking and then stopping at every site. It kind of just gets you, doesn’t it as an industry? There’s just something about it. You then suddenly find yourself reading, I would find myself in my own time reading things like “New South Engineer” and “Construction Years” and I’m like, “Wow, I’ve changed!” <laugh> I think it’s the people, the people just get to you. It gets to you and you’re actually doing something with purpose. I think that’s the big thing I love about it. I don’t think we talk about that enough, but it’s with purpose what we do as an industry and I love that.

 

Greg Wilkes (03:51):

It is. It’s interesting you say that about the people too because when I was about 18/19, I wanted a career change, and funny enough, I actually got into IT recruitment. I wanted to try something for a few months. I’d obviously gone from working on site with my Dad since when I was 16. I was about 18, 19 (doing the IT recruitment) and I really missed the people. I missed the banter on site and the construction environment and I couldn’t handle dealing with computers, working in computer recruitment. It taught me some incredible things about sales etc. But yes you’re right. There is something about people in construction. I think too, what’s interesting, you say about a bit of a purpose because there is a purpose isn’t there with construction and what you’re achieving.

 

Gaelle Blake (04:36):

Well that’s what I love about it, is to me, the people I work with (therefore me as part of the ecosystem) we build actual people’s homes. We actually build hospitals, we build schools, we build cinemas, but we also build bridges that allows people to go from A to B. When you get on a road, that’s us. When you turn on the tap in the morning, clear water comes out, that’s us. When you pull the plug, the dirty water gets drained away, well that’s us too. Whether you are cycling, whether you are running, whether you are getting in your car, whether you’re in a bus lane, whether you are getting on a train, all of that is us. I feel as an industry sometimes we don’t talk about the actual socioeconomic impact we have. We’re not here to build a microchip for people. We’re here to build their homes and it matters. Everything you read about shows that the way now we are designing buildings is with the thought of the occupants, and how they will use that building, whether it’s to improve their health…. You hear this about hospitals now, hospital rooms with a beautiful view, the people inside get better quicker. To me, I need an industry that has purpose and it’s so clear to me, so clear, what construction and property does for society. I think that’s why I’ve stuck with it for 23 years now because I can walk around the skyline of London genuinely and say, “I put people on that project”. I look at things like the Shard and I go, “I know the people that designed that.” That is to me, I’ll never lose that. I’ll never lose that love for it.

 

Greg Wilkes (06:23):

<laugh>. Yes, I think that’s brilliant. You’re talking like a proper builder because we are always driving around going, “Oh I built that” or “I put that wall up” <laugh>. It’s just what we do. I think you’ve touched on something really important, for those listening, because sometimes we can get a little bit tired of the industry, maybe if things aren’t going the right way for us in business, especially as business owners, it can be a challenge sometimes and you can fall out of love with your business and the industry. I really think you’ve touched on a valuable point there about just remembering the value and the impact that you really are having on people’s lives. I think if you can keep tying it back to that, it can stir that hunger in you again, can’t it? That purpose of why I’m doing this.

 

Gaelle Blake (07:06):

Absolutely. It doesn’t have to be the big shard. It can be small things, like my son’s little infant school was shut the other day, because they had an electric failures. It means if you can’t have the fire alarm working (even though it was in the daylight, there was no problem, they didn’t need the lights on, it wasn’t cold) but they could not run the school because the fire alarm wasn’t working. Therefore we had to send them home. That would’ve taken someone literally minutes to fix. To me as a parent, to my son as a child and someone who wanted to be educated, that made what that person did and they might have fixed it in five minutes, made a massive difference to him and to us. I think it’s never lost on me. If you’ve got a hospital, you’re trying to run it and there’s there’s water pouring through the ceiling, it might take a plumber seconds to fix it. But to the people who run that ward, it makes a massive difference. It’s never lost on me and like I said, I keep reminding myself of it every day that I’m making that difference and I’m part of an ecosystem that really makes that difference and it’s why I love what I do. <laugh>

 

Greg Wilkes (08:15):

That’s brilliant, that’s great! I can hear the passion in your voice there again. That’s fantastic. You’ve obviously been with Hays a while, you started at the bottom, but you’ve worked your way up. Whats your current role in the business now? I know you’ manage quite a big team, don’t you?

 

Gaelle Blake (08:28):

Yes, so there’s just under 360 people in Hays dedicated to construction property. That’s everything from architects. We follow the design process basically. You go from the architects to civil structural engineers, you’re building services, all the way through your health and safety onto site. Then we’ve got a construction business that deals with everything on site, right from the top to the bottom. Then all the way through to the maintenance of a building that’s already in existence, your property management side, your maintenance of existing buildings. We literally do from start to finish. What construction looks like, is what we do. We divide it the three pillars, if you design your build and then you maintain. We’re across the UK, we look after Ireland as well. Hayes as a company is global. They would have offices in most continents, quite a big business in Australia and New Zealand and Asia as well. I only look after the UK and Ireland business. That’s my bit.

 

Greg Wilkes (09:26):

Okay, excellent. If you’ve been there a while, you would’ve seen changes in the construction industry. Particularly, we often hear that there isn’t the right applicants out there. There there’s a shortage of trades people (I’m currently in Australia and we hear this in Australia too) there’s a real shortage of applicants or good trades people or skilled labour out there. Have you noticed a big impact in the industry recently? Are you seeing things changing across the board?

 

Gaelle Blake (09:55):

I think there’s two parts to this. I think there is a long-term structural issue, and then I think there’s been a short-term exacerbation. So if I can answer it in two parts: I think the long-term structural issue is (there was a really good graph actually in ‘The Economist’ I can send it to you if you wanted to share it out) It’s very simple. What they did was they just took a load of people in further education, and all they did was they looked at (this was in 2015, so this is seven years ago) they looked at all the people in any sort of further education after 16. Then they looked at the demand/what they were studying. What was the industry that had the biggest gap between the demand for them and the people doing it? Construction and Engineering <laugh>. It’s a very simple graph and it looks at the marketing, it looks at various bits. I’ll send it to you because it’s so visual and it’s so clear to me. Now those people, if they for example, were studying or doing whatever in 2015, these would be people with maybe four or five years experience by now in the world of work. If they’re not choosing to study any form of (by the way, this could be BTECS, NVQs, or degrees if they want to be an engineer and architect) what we’re saying is at no level there is not enough people either studying or doing any sort of education for what the demand is. There’s a long-term structural problem. I think it is to do with how it’s possibly perceived as an industry. I’m very passionate about changing perceptions about it, because I care so much, and I’m in a position to fortunately where I can change and try to change people’s opinions of it. That’s something I’m trying to work on. That’s of the big structural issues.

 

Gaelle Blake (11:42):

The other big structural issue is (dare I say this) an aging demographic. There was a baby boom population, which we all know sociologically that happened post second world war. Therefore, particularly we see this in experienced people now, who are coming into their late fifties, early sixties, who naturally, because there’s a big boom in population want to retire soon. Then what I’ve just described in terms of the choices people are now making in education, there’s not enough people coming in to compensate for the second thing I’m saying. The first thing exacerbates the second, which is not enough people choosing it – lots of people getting ready for retirement. That is the structural issue.

 

Gaelle Blake (12:26):

There has then been a short-term issue, which is twofold. One is Brexit. So Brexit, there has been really interesting research on this that’s shown that 1.2 million people left the UK in Brexit, or who are EU workers. Of those (this is the estimation) 750,000 worked in construction. And quite a lot of the them in hospitality. We as an industry lost a lot of very experienced, very dedicated, very diligent people. They have gone and not come back. That has exacerbated a long-term structural issue with a short-term. The second part of the short term is what’s changing, what we’ve been reading about what’s been going on in the UK in terms of the labour market. What has happened also is that a lot of people have been choosing to be economically inactive, which means particularly people over the age of 50, they’re not claiming unemployment, but they are choosing not to work. The reason they’re doing that is because their house value’s gone up, higher pensions, and they’re looking for more flexible working. As an industry in construction, we are not necessarily the best at thinking “let’s offer flexible working”. I’m not just talking about working from home, I’m talking flexible hours. There’s things I think as an industry we need to do to make this more attractive, to solve almost both of those big problems. It really comes back down to “okay, what are we going to do as an industry to attract people, to make them think this is a great place to work.” That’s an area I’m passionate about.

 

Greg Wilkes (14:04):

Yes, I think you’ve made some really valid points there. One thing I’ve noticed while I’ve been over here in Australia, is that trades are more (what are the words?) they’re more respected over here than what they are potentially in the uk. When people leave school, it’s a career that people will look to do and it’s a great career. They’ll have earn really good money (which you would in the UK as well) but there’s a different view of it over here. It’s viewed the same as, a tradey would be viewed very similar to an architect. It’s like a professional trade qualification. Where do you think it’s going wrong in the UK with the perception? What do you think needs to be done to change that perception of children actually thinking, “Yes, this could be a good career for me”.

 

Gaelle Blake (14:50):

It’s about us making it more attractive as an industry. I think that, there is not enough people talking about…. I feel like I’m a personal ambassador. I’ve got three sons, so I’ve got quite a lot of traffic of people coming in out of my house because they’re everything from seven to to fourteen, so quite a lot of their friends are around. I feel like as soon as any of them say to me that they’re quite like DT or Lego or building stuff, I’m straight to, “Oh my goodness, if would you like to <laugh>, let me tell all the things you could do and how amazing it would be. You’d never be out of work!” I think that we naturally, when when a child shows interest in, whether its building things or being very practical and or even being design led, or very good at maths and quite sciencey, we go straight into, let’s push you into technology. Let’s take you down the tech route. I think as a country, I think we’ve done quite well economically by pushing the financial services sector. I remember, my husband works for an investment bank in London, and they used to say they were very interested in anyone from an engineering/construction management background to come and work for investment banks, because they had the mathematical ability but they also were deeply practical. They wouldn’t just get lost in all the maths, they’d be coming up with good answers. I think what happens is, kids that have shown interest have been advised to go into financial services or go and work in tech. As soon as people think, they’re (the children) are really good at science or maths or really good at envisaging and building stuff, they’ve been nicked from other industries that maybe have a better story. I don’t know if our story’s good enough. We talk a lot about muddy boots and it being cold on site, and maybe again we need to embrace, well, do you have to work those hours? If you’re struggling, do you really? Or could we make it a little bit better?

 

Gaelle Blake (16:59):

I’m quite a innovative, “let’s think a different way person”. I know that it’s done well so far to have the industry running this way, but could there be a better way or could we just do it a different way because the definition of insanity is carry on doing something and expect a different result. I care too much about the industry. I want it to be the number one choice for people. I want them to go, “This is the place to come”. So why don’t we just think a bit creatively about it? It’s probably my suggestion.

 

Greg Wilkes (17:27):

Yes, a hundred percent. Obviously we look to the top for that to start, with government etc. But at the same time, businesses themselves can lead the way in this, can’t they, thinking creatively and making it more attractive. With a shortage of labour that’s out there, it’s important that businesses make themselves look attractive to try and secure that talent. What sort of tips /are there any particular tips you think companies should be exploring to try and secure workers now? What’s working well so that you’re not looking like that dinosaur company that isn’t moving and adapting with times?

 

Gaelle Blake (18:07):

Absolutely, and it’s being that, it’s being really open minded. The people that I see doing really well with recruiting a really diverse team, is I see them really being innovative and challenging and asking, do we need to work these hours? or could this person be able to work from home one day a week? or do they really have to have done this? We get kids to make lots of choices at 14, 15, 16 that defines where they’re going. I interviewed the head of Sizewell Zoo, Sarah Williamson, an amazing woman. She didn’t even choose maths in her A Levels first time round. She worked for her dad on site and then she went back as a mature student and then got a first (degree) and all sorts. It is also just not pigeon holing kids too early and still attracting and being open-minded about people. I think taking on apprentices, giving people work experience, because when they come in they’ll see the difference they can make. You’re not just sitting there making a microchip, you’re building someone’s house or you’re making a difference to somebody. I think if they can experience it, often they get the buzz from it. I think the biggest thing I would say is, get out there to your local community. Do try and take on young people and it will not be lost on them. Even if they get to come in for a week or two’s work experience, you’d be amazed how much they’ll appreciate it.

 

Gaelle Blake (19:37):

The other thing I would say is, education is expensive now. Sponsoring young people to do whatever qualifications they’ve had (obviously with the caveat they’ve come and work for you afterwards,) I think that’s a given. I think kids understand that. Given the cost now of further education, I think anything you can do to support them through; going to college or helping them out, cost of living, anything you can do….Kindness is not lost on people is what I would say. I think that’s something we can do as an industry is to make people feel at home. We need people to feel at home with us. We want them to choose us. Does that make sense? It feels like a beauty contest and we want to win it!

 

Greg Wilkes (20:21):

<Laugh>

 

Gaelle Blake (20:24):

It has purpose. I think Gen Z are really into purpose. We’ve got the best purpose of all (I think outside of doctors!) we’ve probably got that (and excluding teachers) we’ve probably got that third in the best purpose <laugh>, We should make more of it. “Come over here, we’ve got lots of purpose here”

 

Greg Wilkes (20:39):

A hundred percent. You touched on a real practical point there too, about the cost of going to university. Some people are coming out of uni with so much debt, they haven’t got a job lined up. Whereas, we could be doing so much more. An example is my nephew. I took him on as an apprentice surveyor. He came on with me as an apprentice surveyor at 16/17. He was young. By the time he’s 23, he’s now chartered. Whereas some of his friends are coming out of uni with a qualification with no experience. But he’s got all of it and he still did a day release to uni anyway, he still has his degree. But what a better a start to life than going straight down the uni path and maybe not thinking of working in construction and getting a qualification behind you.

 

Gaelle Blake (21:31):

Absolutely. That’s why I think it’s such an amazing industry. Whenever my poor son’s friends that come around and I’m constantly going, what about this? It’s exactly what I say to them. I say, you can travel the world with it. That’s what I always say to them. It’s a skill. It’s a skill. That’s something to be really proud of. You asked me a question earlier saying ‘how do we change people’s perceptions of it?’ I think it’s the respect of the skill. I think also again, it comes back to purpose. I keep saying it, but I think it’s skill with a purpose. It’s the why, and the why is, we build communities. Not just metaphorically, we build communities. I think the more, as an industry, we start to push ourselves out there and say ‘okay, we are building things that matter here’ (like schools etc). I think that’s when you can say ‘So it has purpose. Do you not want a job with purpose?’ That would tune in with the younger generation. They’re looking for things that are different (I mean, I don’t feel like I’m that old, but I’m definitely Gen X!) and the reality is, each generation looks at something slightly different. This is a generation which I really respect, they’ve got tons of values and tons of purpose. We’ve got retrofit coming our way, right? We’ve got to make the entirety of the world net carbon zero. Who’s leading the way? It’s the construction property industry. It’s not going to be glamorous, but we’re going to be doing it. Changing one boiler at a time. If you’ve got kids that have got purpose and want purpose, what’s more important than saving the planet? But again, I don’t know if it’s often put that way to them. I’m trying to do that. I think it’s so amazing. Whenever I see plumber’s being retrained as heat source pump engineers, I think “you’re saving the planet mate”. Full respect to you.

 

Greg Wilkes (23:23):

Yes, you’re right Gaelle. It’s a shame there’s not more of you out there that are promoting that message. It does start with us, doesn’t it? I think you’ve given some real insight there for those that might be looking to take an apprentice on and/or maybe their children, the parents are looking at what career path could my children take? I think there’s some valuable insights you’ve given there that will get people just thinking a little bit. Thanks for that.

 

Greg Wilkes (23:44):

I wanted to touch on Hays itself as a company and obviously the people listening to this podcast, they’re trying to grow businesses between one and five million pounds. Would Hays to them feel like a big company that is too big for them? You spoke earlier about putting people on the shard and things like that. The people that are listening to this, that’s too big for them. But where would Hayes fit in with them as a recruitment company?

 

Gaelle Blake (24:14):

Our biggest client base are SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises) We have grown up being the recruiter to the client base that you’re talking about. We are so grateful to them and we love working with them. I think that the way in which we interact with them and the way that we’ve been built to work with them, has been that local presence. We’ve got just under a hundred offices in the UK and then again in Ireland less, but the reality is, it means we’ve got someone quite local. As you know, and we said this right at the start of the show, it’s a people led business. The reason that helps when we are local is, we can come out and meet people and get a feel for their companies and what they’re trying to achieve. As much as virtually is great and it serves its purpose, to me, that personal touch, that being able to come and experience an organisation and feel…Sitting in a site office, you get a feel for a site straight away. Straight away, you get a feel for the vibe of it. It’s not something you can experience on Teams or Zoom. You have to be there and feel it. Then if you feel it, and sit there with them and understand what they’re trying to achieve and understand their client portfolio, you then are able to better match the type of person that will love working for a company like that.

 

Greg Wilkes (25:42):

Yes, that’s interesting.

 

Gaelle Blake (25:43):

People love feeling part of a team. Some people don’t! But our job is to get to know that company, to get a feel for who’s going to thrive there? What type of person do they need to thrive? Does that make sense? You are constantly doing this matching. The culture of the company is like a mist. You can’t put it in a bottle. All you can you do is feel it, you can feel culture. And so, very quickly you go and meet a client, sit there and have a cup of tea with them and chat. I’ve got my own high (I’m not wearing it today) but I’ve got my own high vis, my own hat, my own steel cap boots and you just feel it. You feel it straight away. You can go, “Right, this is what they’re all about. This is what they’re trying to do. Hang on a second. Met somebody six months ago that said they’d love to move if they could find someone that did this” or “liked that”. Then you go, “Right, that’s that person. We need to make sure these two people meet and I think they’ll really enjoy it.” I think, we’re a business that’s built on that local presence and it never stopped being that. That’s the bit that I love. I love doing that.

 

Greg Wilkes (26:53):

Yes, that’s fantastic. That is a very different approach. I like that approach, and it’s more of a partnering approach, you’re trying to partner with them and help them build that business. Whereas in my mind, I’ve dealt with construction recruitment agencies before (not Hays) but it’s more pick up the phone, “I need this person, can you find me this applicant?” There’s no relationship there at all. It’s just “Let’s fill a seat and here’s a load of CVs and what do you think?” What you are explaining sounds nice <laugh>. It sounds like the way it should be done, which is great.

 

Gaelle Blake (27:28):

We still are able to do that by the way. If somebody wants a real transactional service and say “Right, get me these people”, what I would say is, in the nicest way I say to your listeners, you’ll pay us the same amount whether we’ve come to meet you or not. We’d much prefer to come and meet you, simply because it’s better for you if the person sticks. That’s the truth of it. For you on site, the continuity that you need. These are very good trades people, they are professional people, they’ll get on. But my point is, that the stress (as you know) as a business owner, the length of time it takes them to get on, if there’s any problems, if they don’t do it quite the way you need it to do. All that stress in the back of your head and your wellbeing is all going to be preoccupied. It’s almost like your brain will be whizzing worrying about it. So we can do it transactionally. You can call us up and we’ll go, “Okay, we’ll get these people over to you.” But I think it’s better for you as well, if you say ” Yes, he or she has come down, has met me, you’ve seen what we’re talking about, gone on site, understood the site dynamic. They get it now, they get what I’m going to need” and then it just helps us. The biggest thing we’re trying to do is get someone to stay. The longer they stay, the better it is for you, but also the better for us too. I think we all benefit from long term, I’d say.

 

Greg Wilkes (28:53):

A hundred percent. Without doubt, the cost of going through hires and retraining it is ridiculous, isn’t it? I think your approach is brilliant. Thinking about the practicalities of that: if someone’s not used an agency before and you come out and you assess, you have a chat and talk about their goals etc. Let’s imagine now they say, “Yes, right, can you help me find me a project manager to come and start?” How does that work from the practical side for you? Are you helping prepare job adverts or are you matching someone that you’ve already got on your database? What does the practical side look like generally?

 

Gaelle Blake (29:27):

It really does depend on what the project is, where they’re at, where is it geographically and all those things. What we are constantly doing is, huge amounts of talent acquisition in the sense of constantly, not just the advertising but building relationships. As much our clients in constriction and properties, the organisations we work with, are very people focused, so are the applicants. The applicant also has a career that they want, aspirations that they have, and that by the way is not based on level. Everyone at every level has something they care about. What we look at is what we call ‘The Move Motivator.’ What’s of interest to them? A good trades person, let’s be honest, is probably in work. What we’re probably trying to do is get them to come to this project. You are constantly having to manouver people around, but what you need to do is understand what is it that that person’s looking for in their career so that you can then match them. They might be looking, for example, a site that’s closer to home because then they’re not traveling as much. That’s got a knock on effect in terms of cash, it’s also got a knock on effect in terms of their wellbeing. They’re looking to do that. You’re constantly listening to them as to what they’re wanting and the client and what they’re wanting. We are doing a huge amount of that all the time. All the time. We don’t wait (in the nicest way) for you to call me and say “Gaelle, I need six plasterers tomorrow.” We’ll already be talking to the plasterers before you’ve asked us. That’s our job to do that. We are constantly doing those things to understand where they are, what they’re doing, who they’re working for. There’s very few people that’s without work at the moment in construction. It’s constantly, where are they, who’s looking to move, whose contract’s coming to an end, what site’s coming to an end, where can we move people? We will do that anyway, regardless of this. We’ll constantly be doing those advertising and all the different things that we need to do, so that when someone turns around to us and says, “Right, I need somebody now” we have already proactively done the work. There are some times where they might need a load of people and we simply don’t have the proactive and that’s where we need to do it on top of that. But all the advertising, all the talent acquisition, all the relationship building is done proactively.

 

Greg Wilkes (31:36):

Yes, fantastic.

 

Gaelle Blake (31:37):

Because we need to.

 

Greg Wilkes (31:39):

I can imagine. It’s constant isn’t it? It’s constantly moving. Well, thinking again of the practical side of things. Let’s imagine now we’ve asked you to go and find us this project manager and you’ve sent us some CVS over and you say, “Right, we believe these are perfect matches for you” From, again, a practical side with someone who may not have recruited a big role like that before and it might be their first time, what should they be looking for (I know you’ll be giving them guidance on the CVS that you’re sending over) but any practical tips on things they should be looking out for, any red flags or what would would you be your top tips when analysing CVs?

 

Gaelle Blake (32:18):

I would say that your CV is the summary of experience that you have. Bear in mind on the job, depending on the job, do you need them to sign off? Do you need them to supervise other people? Depending on the job, look for those key words. Almost decide as an employer, what is essential and what is desirable? What are your non-negotiables that you’re think “They have to have this because I need them to do this, I need them to do that. I need to have experience.” Let’s be honest, there are practical sides to this industry. If you need them to be chartered because they need to sign something off, that’s a non-negotiable because that’s for your insurance. You need that to happen. I think you’ve got to make a list in your own head of what is essential. Then there is the desirable, what will I negotiate on? “I’d like this, but it’s not essential.” I think in the industry, Glenigans did some research in January (at the time of this podcast is eight weeks old) that said the forty two thousand vacancies in construction alone. Right now, unfilled. Ricks did this massive survey less than four weeks ago where they asked ‘What is your number one problem that’s holding things back at the moment?’ It wasn’t shortage of materials, even though we know there’s a material problem. It wasn’t projects. What was number one? Labour was number one everyone. I think there’s an element of, as an employer, if you can be one of those ones that understands the parameters that you are operating in and saying “Yes, I’m going to choose them” But the really smart employer will say, “They’re going to need to choose me.”

 

Gaelle Blake (33:52):

The clever employer, so speaking to your audience now, the clever employer would think, “Yes, they’ve got all the practical stuff I need. When I’m going to meet them, I’m going to sell this to them.” They’re the ones that are doing brilliantly. The ones that do the old-fashioned interview where they come across “I am the employer and you are the person I’m interviewing” and it’s quite old-fashioned and it’s almost ‘Will you pass my test?’ They’re not going to do as well as the one that goes, “Right Greg, what is it you’re trying to achieve? Where do you want to go? This is where I want to go. How can we do this in a way that you get the career that you need, the environment you feel safe in, you thrive? Also let me share with you the goals I’ve got and let’s see how you can also help us to reach the organisational goals we’ve got.” I think the ones that treat it as a real partnership that say we respect your career, we’ve also got organisational goals, how can these dovetail together? Straight away you’re going to stand out as an employer and you’re going to get the cream, simply because you’ve treated them as a person.

 

Greg Wilkes (34:59):

Yes, I think that is so valuable and some really good advice there. Going back to what you said originally, when you meet a company and you start understanding their company culture etc, are you coaching a company when you try and make that match between the CV and the applicant and the company? Are you coaching the company or the director of the company whose doing the interviews on how they should be selling themselves as a business and what the person might be looking for?

 

Gaelle Blake (35:27):

Absolutely. A hundred percent. That’s our job to do that. Often this is what we are saying, this person has got another couple of interviews. Let’s be really honest, with 42,000 unfilled jobs, the number one reason that organisations said they’ve got a problem is a shortage of people. Everyone’s competing. In our lingo, it’s called ‘Employer Value Proposition.’ It sounds very posh, but what it really means is, how are you different to your competitors? Greg, with your company, you probably knew or know what is different about you in comparison to your real close competitors. You would’ve felt instinctively, they’re really good at this (if you’re being really unbiased) but I’m definitely better at that. That’s what you to get across in the interview, because they will be comparing you with the others. What is unique about you? What is it about you that’s different? If you can get that across quickly. If they are going on an interview with people that are very similar to you, then they’ll have understood very quickly from you what made you different. I think understanding yourself, and it can be really practical things that you don’t even pay much attention to. Maybe (I’m making this up now) but every Thursday you do a doughnut run and it’s something you really enjoy doing and you do it every week and it’s really important and you all sit down, you all have a cup of tea, you’ll have a doughnut, you have a chat about something. Even small things that gives them an insight into your community and the culture, that you would just take for granted because that’s what we’ve always done, that makes them feel at home. I think the more you can make them feel safe and at home and that they’ll thrive with you…People think money is the number one reason (for happiness at work) it isn’t. If people feel happy, they’ll stay. I’m not saying money, you can’t underpay them, but it’s a lot more than money, these days now that people look for.

 

Greg Wilkes (37:24):

Yes. Obviously the environment’s got to be right, the money’s got to be right as well, but that that might not be the, the main thing. What about people’s career progression and are you coaching companies on where this person wants to go and how they might fulfil that career progression need?

 

Gaelle Blake (37:43):

Yes, I mean any good recruitment consultant will tell you what this person wants to do and where they want to go. If they’re not saying it to you, ask them. Also ask the person in the interview, “what do you want do? where you want to go?” If you don’t paint a story and the story is so important, if you don’t paint the story in the interview of “‘I’ve heard you Greg, I’ve understood where you want to go, let me show you how our story will go together.” They’re like, “I’ll go to the one that’s explained it better to me, that shows that you’ve listened and took my career seriously and and you can explain to me how your company’s going to let me do that thing.” I think that it’s so important that you absolutely do career progression. Isn’t that the person you want? Let’s think about it. Someone comes in and they are really hungry for a career. That’s your best candidate. Of course you want to have that conversation with them. But I think also, don’t just make it about their career, make it about their personal development, because it’s not always just about that. We have to teach them resilience, the resilience that it’s not always going to go right on site, you know that as well as I do. It doesn’t always go right. Sometimes some of the things they’ll learn is how to handle crisis or things that don’t go right. Say “we’re going to go through some stuff together. It’s not always going to be that it’ll go the way you want it to go, but I will be there to help and support and develop you.” I think as long as you caveat it, it’s not all going to be moonlight and roses all the time, but I’ve got your back. That’s what people want. People look for a lot of safety at work. Does that make sense?

 

Greg Wilkes (39:25):

Yes a hundred percent. I think people can see the honesty and transparency of business owners, can’t they? They know if things are being done and they get a feel for it. I think that honesty is really important as you’re doing the interviews.

 

Greg Wilkes  (39:41):

Let’s imagine then, you’ve managed to find a candidate for us. We’ve found that project manager that we wanted. In the back of my mind, if I was paying an agency fee, I’ll be thinking, “Right, I’ve got to pay a fee out now for this person. But what if they last a month and they’re off?”

 

Gaelle Blake (39:58):

You get your money back. There is a rebate. If it’s temporary or contract, you pay weekly. We charge you once a month but we pay the contract with the temp once a week, if that makes sense. Effectively we will pay them, then we’ll charge you once a month for the bill. If it’s a permanent employee, then we give you a rebate period spread over several months. Effectively, the longer they stay with you, obviously the less money you get back. But, absolutely the majority of it you get back, if they’ve left within the first month. What we’re always trying to do though, is to avoid that, both for you and for them. It’s hugely disruptive to you. The first four weeks, the first two weeks really, you are putting the most amount of effort into them. And you haven’t yet (in the nicest way) haven’t got a lot out of them yet. You’ve put a lot in, they haven’t given you a lot back yet. As time goes on, that changes. The whole point of the interview process is to avoid that situation so that, as you just said before, red flags or anything like that have been avoided. You’ve recognised that you’ve had a chance to talk through any concerns that you have and so that it avoids that situation.

 

Gaelle Blake (41:10):

Certainly ourselves and I would expect good recruiters would always offer that. We’re also just human beings. At the end of the day, you think someone’s going to be somewhere and their just not. That’s ok. They didn’t quite fit into your culture. It could be them leaving, but it’s also you going, “It’s not right” and that’s okay too. We would offer either a free replacement or on a sliding scale of the money back, and then start looking again for somebody else to come in and join basically. There’s a stage where, you have to also think, “Was there something I could have done differently?” I think as long as everyone’s reflecting on it, then normally the next person that goes in would be the right fit. If that makes sense.

 

Greg Wilkes (42:00):

Yes, and thanks for clarifying that because again, there there might be some that haven’t used an agency and they don’t quite know how that works. That takes a little bit of pressure off and that could be a barrier to them making the phone call in the first place. I think it’s good just to clear that up.

 

Greg Wilkes (42:14):

That all sounds pretty good. If we were now looking for someone, how far in advance do you think companies should be planning this out, this recruitment strategy? I know you are going to get phone calls and someone says, “All right, can you get me someone for Monday?” But generally speaking and if we’re thinking of long-term hires, how far in advance would you encourage companies to plan?

 

Gaelle Blake (42:40):

That is a really good question because workforce planning is something that is, I think as an industry, starting to change. I think we used to be as an industry quite last minute, and I think now actually a lot more people (because the project’s and the way it’s running,) we realise it’s much better to plan in advance if you’re looking for somebody permanently, given the context of less people unfilled vacancies. Remember also the UK’s got 30 million people in work at the moment, which is the highest payroll employees that the UK’s ever had. We’ve also got the lowest unemployment which is 3.7%. The context is, there’s not many people available, they’re already working for somebody else. If you came to me tomorrow and said, “Gaelle, I need a project manager permanently”, the reality for you Greg, would be is they’re working for something else right now. There’ll be people constantly that for whatever reason want to move on, that’s fine, that we are talking to. Now in reality, by the time we’ve started to talk to them on your behalf, we’ve come to meet you, understood what it is you want, started to talk to the pool of candidates that we have, gone out there, advertised etc. You’re going to want to meet them. If it’s permanent, you’re going to meet them. I would say most people meet them two times at least. So you’ve got to arrange that. They’re obviously at work, you are obviously busy, we’re trying to get the diaries to coordinate. Then you’re going to get the offer letter out, you’re going to haggle over the bits and bobs in there, terms and conditions. Then of course, they’ll hand they’re notice in. Let’s be really blunt here, most good people will be counter offered. Let’s be absolutely honest here, and I’d rather be honest with you and with your listeners so that they understand what will probably happen. You would do it, right, if it was your employee that’s handing their notice in, you’d be like, “Oh my goodness, hang on, let me see if I can try and match it.” You would. So, there is a whole amount of work that goes into then making sure that they wouldn’t accept it or what you can do to sell so you avoid that problem when it comes around. The contracts have got to go out, they’ve got to read the contracts, sign it off, and then they have to work four weeks notice. From start to finish you’re looking at a 12 week cycle and it really does take about 12 weeks to have someone to come in and join you, because in reality someone will be in work. The person you want is working for your competitor, is the reality. It’s the length of time for them to be sure that you are the right person for them, for you to be sure and those two things. I would say a minimum a 12 weeks.

 

Gaelle Blake  (45:03):

If it was a contract person, shorter timeframes. But again, you know, a good site manager, even if they’re on contracts, they like to see projects through and they’re not going be jumping ship. You’re going to need to give a good run of I would say, a good four weeks. The longer you give us, the better quality of candidate will find, does that make sense? Temporary or permanent. Then we’re not against the clock, “Oh my goodness, I’ve got to get someone in. This is the best we can find you today.” With workforce planning, the longer you give us, the better you’ll get, is is normally how it works.

 

Greg Wilkes (45:42):

Yes, I think that’s really good advice because it’s like any anyone recruiting, sometimes you do leave it to the last minute. Without a doubt, I think in this industry more than ever now, we’ve got a plan, haven’t we? We’ve got to plan for it with the shortage of candidates out there. I think that’s valuable.

 

Greg Wilkes (45:57):

One last thing I wanted to briefly touch on, again you were talking about company culture and you can assess the culture of a business. One thing that’s really important, I know that you spoke about this on the pre-show, something you’re passionate about is, is having diversity in the workplace. Why should companies be thinking about that? Would that be a conversation they would have with you and the benefits that a diverse candidate could bring to the business?

 

Gaelle Blake (46:24):

Yes, there’s two parts to. There’s a deeply commercial side to it and there’s a value side to it. I think the deeply commercial side to having a diverse workforce is every piece of kind of business data that you look at (and Harvard Business Review have done loads of work on this, McKinsey have done loads of work on it) is that you get better outcomes with a diverse team, whether it’s of gender, sexuality, differently abled people, people from different ethnic migrant minorities. People just think different ways. When you’re problem solving, and let’s be honest, we’re a problem solving industry and we’ve got the biggest problem facing the planet, which is how do we reduce net carbon zero (most of which is, is created during the construction process) we need different ways of thinking. The worst thing for us is everyone thinking the same way. The best thing for us is everyone thinking differently. So just hard, cold, commercial <laugh> side, is that a more diverse range of people will think in a different way and therefore you’ll get better outcomes. Commercial outcomes. That’s not “Gaelle Blake says” that’s research from Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, Accenture. You name them all, they’ll say that to you. There’s a real commercial hard nosed, actually this is a good thing to do. There’s also then, the purpose and value set. We know, because we track the data and again, there’s been a lot of research in this, in that people will stay along with an organisation where they feel they can be their true selves. The true self isn’t fitting in a certain box of a certain pigmentation of skin, a certain gender, whatever. The more that you can show that you’ve got different people in your community at work, the more people will feel I can be accepted for who I am and I’m not worrying about pretending to be something that I’m not. I can just focus on working really hard for Greg, fixing the problems for him, and I’m not then having to deal with almost not being really myself at work. I think, in the advice that I would give is, is truly think about not just saying that you are diverse, but really taking maybe a bit of the gamble, a bit of a risk if you’ve never taken someone on from a certain gender pool etc and remember that they’re someone else’s kid. We’re all someone’s kid. How would we want our kids to be treated? We’d want them to just be regarded as who they are and the talents they’ll bring. That doesn’t come in the same looking box every time. <laugh> It can look different, they can dress differently. They can have a different life outside of work to yours. That’s okay. Can they come and help you in a different way? I think once you’ve can see what diversity can bring, then the commercial outcomes, but also the joy that it can bring to an organisation that different cultures, different backgrounds, whatever it can be, can bring that most organisations just don’t look back. They love it. I’m passionate about it. We’re a sponsor of the Women in Construction and Engineering Award. It isn’t just about gender. I’ve done a lot of work with it to support the Building Equalities network, which is LGBTQ plus onsite. People just feel like it can be the true selves. There’s a really good movement called ‘hashtag love construction.’ If none of your listeners have heard of it, go and put it into any social media field. This is not owned by us. This is something that’s called ‘Love Construction’. It’s about positive imagery of diversity on site and elsewhere. If you have got two assistant site managers that are women or someone who’s openly out or who somebody who’s differently abled, just literally hashtag anything you’re doing. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, just put ‘hashtag love construction’ and it’s positive movement, the change in construction. This isn’t owned by me, but I love it. I think the more we can see “Oh, people that look like me or act like me or love the people I love, they’re all like me on site. Maybe I’ll be accepted on site and maybe that’s okay to be me.” I just they’re just someone else’s kid. That’s it. They’re someone else’s kid. How would you want your kid to be treated? That’s it.

 

Greg Wilkes (50:33):

Yes., that’s brilliant. Gaelle, it’s been so nice to speak to someone that’s so passionate about construction. You can see it oozing out of you and it’s really nice and it’s just such a positive podcast to have with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show today. I know my listeners would’ve got a ton of value from that. If someone wanted to reach out to Hayes and talk to someone about their recruitment plans and strategies, what’s the best way of them doing that?

 

Gaelle Blake (50:59):

Hays is hays.co.uk or hayes.ie if they’re in Ireland. Then there’s the rule across the world, if they just type in ‘Hays’ their local country. And then me personally, I’m Gaelle Blake G-A-E-L-L-E, and I’m on LinkedIn if anyone wants to follow me there. I post loads of things, I share quite openly. I’m quite a big content producer. So all the things that I talk about, giving people top tips on how to recruit or how to find themselves a job. Some of your listeners might be themselves thinking, “Actually I’d like to find a job myself. I want to move. I’m not fulfilled, I’m not happy.” I do provide lots of content and ideas so they can follow me. Hopefully that’ll give us a few ideas.

 

Greg Wilkes (51:39):

That’s awesome. Well thanks again Gaelle. We really appreciate it and I wish you all the best.

 

Gaelle Blake (51:43):

Thank you. Cheers.

 

Greg Wilkes (51:54):

If you’d like to work with me to fast track your construction business growth, then reach out on www.developcoaching.co.uk.

Greg Wilkes (00:01):

The construction industry can be a tough business to crack, from cash flow problems, struggling to find skilled labour and not making enough money for your efforts, leaves many business owners feeling frustrated and burnt out. But when you get the business strategy right, it’s an industry that can be highly satisfying and financially rewarding. I’m here to give you the resources to be able to create a construction business that gives you more time, more freedom, and more money. This is the Develop Your Construction Business podcast, and I’m your host Greg Wilkes.

Greg Wilkes (00:42):

In this week’s episode, we are talking about the subject of recruitment. We know how difficult it can be when you’re trying to scale your company to find and attract the best talent to your business, especially because there seems to be an ever shrinking pool of candidates out there. We’ve brought a special guest on today, Gaelle Blake. Gail is the head of UK construction and property appointments for Hays Recruitment. She runs a huge team of individuals who are looking to try and help businesses scale across the UK and Ireland. Gaelle is going to dive into a few subjects that are really going to help you with your recruitment strategy. We’re going to talk about your purpose and how you can instil a fresh purpose to your business. If you’re ever feeling a little bit fed up and you don’t know why you’re doing this, we’re going to discuss that. But also, how you can inject that purpose and passion into your employees. We’re going to talk about the benefits of getting young people into the industry and how you can potentially do that. We’re also going to talk about your recruitment plan. How far out in advance should you be planning to bring people on board? So lots of subjects that we’re going to discuss today! This is really going to help you if you are trying to scale and you want to know the best way of doing it. Gail is going to help us discuss that subject. I hope you enjoy the episode.

 

Greg Wilkes (02:02):

Gaelle, I really appreciate you taking the time to come on the show today. Great to have you on and I know you are extremely busy in your career, so thanks for taking a bit of time out to talk to us.

 

Gaelle Blake (02:12):

No problem. Really, really looking forward to this.

 

Greg Wilkes (02:15):

Yes, it’s going to be good. Gaelle, maybe you could introduce who you are, what your current role is and the company that you work for?

 

Gaelle Blake (02:25):

I’m Gaelle Blake. I look after construction of property for Hays, who are the biggest specialist recruiter in the UK and Ireland within the construction and property field. I started with Hays straight after uni, (dare I say this in 1999) and I started recruiting civil and structural engineers. I went straight in at the bottom basically, literally as a fresh grad with no experience and didn’t know anything about construction and property, and I just fell in love with the industry, like absolutely! Within, I’d say nine months, I was one of those saddos that wouldn’t be able to walk past the site without checking the site board to see who’s the architect, who’s the engineer? I’d be walking and then stopping at every site. It kind of just gets you, doesn’t it as an industry? There’s just something about it. You then suddenly find yourself reading, I would find myself in my own time reading things like “New South Engineer” and “Construction Years” and I’m like, “Wow, I’ve changed!” <laugh> I think it’s the people, the people just get to you. It gets to you and you’re actually doing something with purpose. I think that’s the big thing I love about it. I don’t think we talk about that enough, but it’s with purpose what we do as an industry and I love that.

 

Greg Wilkes (03:51):

It is. It’s interesting you say that about the people too because when I was about 18/19, I wanted a career change, and funny enough, I actually got into IT recruitment. I wanted to try something for a few months. I’d obviously gone from working on site with my Dad since when I was 16. I was about 18, 19 (doing the IT recruitment) and I really missed the people. I missed the banter on site and the construction environment and I couldn’t handle dealing with computers, working in computer recruitment. It taught me some incredible things about sales etc. But yes you’re right. There is something about people in construction. I think too, what’s interesting, you say about a bit of a purpose because there is a purpose isn’t there with construction and what you’re achieving.

 

Gaelle Blake (04:36):

Well that’s what I love about it, is to me, the people I work with (therefore me as part of the ecosystem) we build actual people’s homes. We actually build hospitals, we build schools, we build cinemas, but we also build bridges that allows people to go from A to B. When you get on a road, that’s us. When you turn on the tap in the morning, clear water comes out, that’s us. When you pull the plug, the dirty water gets drained away, well that’s us too. Whether you are cycling, whether you are running, whether you are getting in your car, whether you’re in a bus lane, whether you are getting on a train, all of that is us. I feel as an industry sometimes we don’t talk about the actual socioeconomic impact we have. We’re not here to build a microchip for people. We’re here to build their homes and it matters. Everything you read about shows that the way now we are designing buildings is with the thought of the occupants, and how they will use that building, whether it’s to improve their health…. You hear this about hospitals now, hospital rooms with a beautiful view, the people inside get better quicker. To me, I need an industry that has purpose and it’s so clear to me, so clear, what construction and property does for society. I think that’s why I’ve stuck with it for 23 years now because I can walk around the skyline of London genuinely and say, “I put people on that project”. I look at things like the Shard and I go, “I know the people that designed that.” That is to me, I’ll never lose that. I’ll never lose that love for it.

 

Greg Wilkes (06:23):

<laugh>. Yes, I think that’s brilliant. You’re talking like a proper builder because we are always driving around going, “Oh I built that” or “I put that wall up” <laugh>. It’s just what we do. I think you’ve touched on something really important, for those listening, because sometimes we can get a little bit tired of the industry, maybe if things aren’t going the right way for us in business, especially as business owners, it can be a challenge sometimes and you can fall out of love with your business and the industry. I really think you’ve touched on a valuable point there about just remembering the value and the impact that you really are having on people’s lives. I think if you can keep tying it back to that, it can stir that hunger in you again, can’t it? That purpose of why I’m doing this.

 

Gaelle Blake (07:06):

Absolutely. It doesn’t have to be the big shard. It can be small things, like my son’s little infant school was shut the other day, because they had an electric failures. It means if you can’t have the fire alarm working (even though it was in the daylight, there was no problem, they didn’t need the lights on, it wasn’t cold) but they could not run the school because the fire alarm wasn’t working. Therefore we had to send them home. That would’ve taken someone literally minutes to fix. To me as a parent, to my son as a child and someone who wanted to be educated, that made what that person did and they might have fixed it in five minutes, made a massive difference to him and to us. I think it’s never lost on me. If you’ve got a hospital, you’re trying to run it and there’s there’s water pouring through the ceiling, it might take a plumber seconds to fix it. But to the people who run that ward, it makes a massive difference. It’s never lost on me and like I said, I keep reminding myself of it every day that I’m making that difference and I’m part of an ecosystem that really makes that difference and it’s why I love what I do. <laugh>

 

Greg Wilkes (08:15):

That’s brilliant, that’s great! I can hear the passion in your voice there again. That’s fantastic. You’ve obviously been with Hays a while, you started at the bottom, but you’ve worked your way up. Whats your current role in the business now? I know you’ manage quite a big team, don’t you?

 

Gaelle Blake (08:28):

Yes, so there’s just under 360 people in Hays dedicated to construction property. That’s everything from architects. We follow the design process basically. You go from the architects to civil structural engineers, you’re building services, all the way through your health and safety onto site. Then we’ve got a construction business that deals with everything on site, right from the top to the bottom. Then all the way through to the maintenance of a building that’s already in existence, your property management side, your maintenance of existing buildings. We literally do from start to finish. What construction looks like, is what we do. We divide it the three pillars, if you design your build and then you maintain. We’re across the UK, we look after Ireland as well. Hayes as a company is global. They would have offices in most continents, quite a big business in Australia and New Zealand and Asia as well. I only look after the UK and Ireland business. That’s my bit.

 

Greg Wilkes (09:26):

Okay, excellent. If you’ve been there a while, you would’ve seen changes in the construction industry. Particularly, we often hear that there isn’t the right applicants out there. There there’s a shortage of trades people (I’m currently in Australia and we hear this in Australia too) there’s a real shortage of applicants or good trades people or skilled labour out there. Have you noticed a big impact in the industry recently? Are you seeing things changing across the board?

 

Gaelle Blake (09:55):

I think there’s two parts to this. I think there is a long-term structural issue, and then I think there’s been a short-term exacerbation. So if I can answer it in two parts: I think the long-term structural issue is (there was a really good graph actually in ‘The Economist’ I can send it to you if you wanted to share it out) It’s very simple. What they did was they just took a load of people in further education, and all they did was they looked at (this was in 2015, so this is seven years ago) they looked at all the people in any sort of further education after 16. Then they looked at the demand/what they were studying. What was the industry that had the biggest gap between the demand for them and the people doing it? Construction and Engineering <laugh>. It’s a very simple graph and it looks at the marketing, it looks at various bits. I’ll send it to you because it’s so visual and it’s so clear to me. Now those people, if they for example, were studying or doing whatever in 2015, these would be people with maybe four or five years experience by now in the world of work. If they’re not choosing to study any form of (by the way, this could be BTECS, NVQs, or degrees if they want to be an engineer and architect) what we’re saying is at no level there is not enough people either studying or doing any sort of education for what the demand is. There’s a long-term structural problem. I think it is to do with how it’s possibly perceived as an industry. I’m very passionate about changing perceptions about it, because I care so much, and I’m in a position to fortunately where I can change and try to change people’s opinions of it. That’s something I’m trying to work on. That’s of the big structural issues.

 

Gaelle Blake (11:42):

The other big structural issue is (dare I say this) an aging demographic. There was a baby boom population, which we all know sociologically that happened post second world war. Therefore, particularly we see this in experienced people now, who are coming into their late fifties, early sixties, who naturally, because there’s a big boom in population want to retire soon. Then what I’ve just described in terms of the choices people are now making in education, there’s not enough people coming in to compensate for the second thing I’m saying. The first thing exacerbates the second, which is not enough people choosing it – lots of people getting ready for retirement. That is the structural issue.

 

Gaelle Blake (12:26):

There has then been a short-term issue, which is twofold. One is Brexit. So Brexit, there has been really interesting research on this that’s shown that 1.2 million people left the UK in Brexit, or who are EU workers. Of those (this is the estimation) 750,000 worked in construction. And quite a lot of the them in hospitality. We as an industry lost a lot of very experienced, very dedicated, very diligent people. They have gone and not come back. That has exacerbated a long-term structural issue with a short-term. The second part of the short term is what’s changing, what we’ve been reading about what’s been going on in the UK in terms of the labour market. What has happened also is that a lot of people have been choosing to be economically inactive, which means particularly people over the age of 50, they’re not claiming unemployment, but they are choosing not to work. The reason they’re doing that is because their house value’s gone up, higher pensions, and they’re looking for more flexible working. As an industry in construction, we are not necessarily the best at thinking “let’s offer flexible working”. I’m not just talking about working from home, I’m talking flexible hours. There’s things I think as an industry we need to do to make this more attractive, to solve almost both of those big problems. It really comes back down to “okay, what are we going to do as an industry to attract people, to make them think this is a great place to work.” That’s an area I’m passionate about.

 

Greg Wilkes (14:04):

Yes, I think you’ve made some really valid points there. One thing I’ve noticed while I’ve been over here in Australia, is that trades are more (what are the words?) they’re more respected over here than what they are potentially in the uk. When people leave school, it’s a career that people will look to do and it’s a great career. They’ll have earn really good money (which you would in the UK as well) but there’s a different view of it over here. It’s viewed the same as, a tradey would be viewed very similar to an architect. It’s like a professional trade qualification. Where do you think it’s going wrong in the UK with the perception? What do you think needs to be done to change that perception of children actually thinking, “Yes, this could be a good career for me”.

 

Gaelle Blake (14:50):

It’s about us making it more attractive as an industry. I think that, there is not enough people talking about…. I feel like I’m a personal ambassador. I’ve got three sons, so I’ve got quite a lot of traffic of people coming in out of my house because they’re everything from seven to to fourteen, so quite a lot of their friends are around. I feel like as soon as any of them say to me that they’re quite like DT or Lego or building stuff, I’m straight to, “Oh my goodness, if would you like to <laugh>, let me tell all the things you could do and how amazing it would be. You’d never be out of work!” I think that we naturally, when when a child shows interest in, whether its building things or being very practical and or even being design led, or very good at maths and quite sciencey, we go straight into, let’s push you into technology. Let’s take you down the tech route. I think as a country, I think we’ve done quite well economically by pushing the financial services sector. I remember, my husband works for an investment bank in London, and they used to say they were very interested in anyone from an engineering/construction management background to come and work for investment banks, because they had the mathematical ability but they also were deeply practical. They wouldn’t just get lost in all the maths, they’d be coming up with good answers. I think what happens is, kids that have shown interest have been advised to go into financial services or go and work in tech. As soon as people think, they’re (the children) are really good at science or maths or really good at envisaging and building stuff, they’ve been nicked from other industries that maybe have a better story. I don’t know if our story’s good enough. We talk a lot about muddy boots and it being cold on site, and maybe again we need to embrace, well, do you have to work those hours? If you’re struggling, do you really? Or could we make it a little bit better?

 

Gaelle Blake (16:59):

I’m quite a innovative, “let’s think a different way person”. I know that it’s done well so far to have the industry running this way, but could there be a better way or could we just do it a different way because the definition of insanity is carry on doing something and expect a different result. I care too much about the industry. I want it to be the number one choice for people. I want them to go, “This is the place to come”. So why don’t we just think a bit creatively about it? It’s probably my suggestion.

 

Greg Wilkes (17:27):

Yes, a hundred percent. Obviously we look to the top for that to start, with government etc. But at the same time, businesses themselves can lead the way in this, can’t they, thinking creatively and making it more attractive. With a shortage of labour that’s out there, it’s important that businesses make themselves look attractive to try and secure that talent. What sort of tips /are there any particular tips you think companies should be exploring to try and secure workers now? What’s working well so that you’re not looking like that dinosaur company that isn’t moving and adapting with times?

 

Gaelle Blake (18:07):

Absolutely, and it’s being that, it’s being really open minded. The people that I see doing really well with recruiting a really diverse team, is I see them really being innovative and challenging and asking, do we need to work these hours? or could this person be able to work from home one day a week? or do they really have to have done this? We get kids to make lots of choices at 14, 15, 16 that defines where they’re going. I interviewed the head of Sizewell Zoo, Sarah Williamson, an amazing woman. She didn’t even choose maths in her A Levels first time round. She worked for her dad on site and then she went back as a mature student and then got a first (degree) and all sorts. It is also just not pigeon holing kids too early and still attracting and being open-minded about people. I think taking on apprentices, giving people work experience, because when they come in they’ll see the difference they can make. You’re not just sitting there making a microchip, you’re building someone’s house or you’re making a difference to somebody. I think if they can experience it, often they get the buzz from it. I think the biggest thing I would say is, get out there to your local community. Do try and take on young people and it will not be lost on them. Even if they get to come in for a week or two’s work experience, you’d be amazed how much they’ll appreciate it.

 

Gaelle Blake (19:37):

The other thing I would say is, education is expensive now. Sponsoring young people to do whatever qualifications they’ve had (obviously with the caveat they’ve come and work for you afterwards,) I think that’s a given. I think kids understand that. Given the cost now of further education, I think anything you can do to support them through; going to college or helping them out, cost of living, anything you can do….Kindness is not lost on people is what I would say. I think that’s something we can do as an industry is to make people feel at home. We need people to feel at home with us. We want them to choose us. Does that make sense? It feels like a beauty contest and we want to win it!

 

Greg Wilkes (20:21):

<Laugh>

 

Gaelle Blake (20:24):

It has purpose. I think Gen Z are really into purpose. We’ve got the best purpose of all (I think outside of doctors!) we’ve probably got that (and excluding teachers) we’ve probably got that third in the best purpose <laugh>, We should make more of it. “Come over here, we’ve got lots of purpose here”

 

Greg Wilkes (20:39):

A hundred percent. You touched on a real practical point there too, about the cost of going to university. Some people are coming out of uni with so much debt, they haven’t got a job lined up. Whereas, we could be doing so much more. An example is my nephew. I took him on as an apprentice surveyor. He came on with me as an apprentice surveyor at 16/17. He was young. By the time he’s 23, he’s now chartered. Whereas some of his friends are coming out of uni with a qualification with no experience. But he’s got all of it and he still did a day release to uni anyway, he still has his degree. But what a better a start to life than going straight down the uni path and maybe not thinking of working in construction and getting a qualification behind you.

 

Gaelle Blake (21:31):

Absolutely. That’s why I think it’s such an amazing industry. Whenever my poor son’s friends that come around and I’m constantly going, what about this? It’s exactly what I say to them. I say, you can travel the world with it. That’s what I always say to them. It’s a skill. It’s a skill. That’s something to be really proud of. You asked me a question earlier saying ‘how do we change people’s perceptions of it?’ I think it’s the respect of the skill. I think also again, it comes back to purpose. I keep saying it, but I think it’s skill with a purpose. It’s the why, and the why is, we build communities. Not just metaphorically, we build communities. I think the more, as an industry, we start to push ourselves out there and say ‘okay, we are building things that matter here’ (like schools etc). I think that’s when you can say ‘So it has purpose. Do you not want a job with purpose?’ That would tune in with the younger generation. They’re looking for things that are different (I mean, I don’t feel like I’m that old, but I’m definitely Gen X!) and the reality is, each generation looks at something slightly different. This is a generation which I really respect, they’ve got tons of values and tons of purpose. We’ve got retrofit coming our way, right? We’ve got to make the entirety of the world net carbon zero. Who’s leading the way? It’s the construction property industry. It’s not going to be glamorous, but we’re going to be doing it. Changing one boiler at a time. If you’ve got kids that have got purpose and want purpose, what’s more important than saving the planet? But again, I don’t know if it’s often put that way to them. I’m trying to do that. I think it’s so amazing. Whenever I see plumber’s being retrained as heat source pump engineers, I think “you’re saving the planet mate”. Full respect to you.

 

Greg Wilkes (23:23):

Yes, you’re right Gaelle. It’s a shame there’s not more of you out there that are promoting that message. It does start with us, doesn’t it? I think you’ve given some real insight there for those that might be looking to take an apprentice on and/or maybe their children, the parents are looking at what career path could my children take? I think there’s some valuable insights you’ve given there that will get people just thinking a little bit. Thanks for that.

 

Greg Wilkes (23:44):

I wanted to touch on Hays itself as a company and obviously the people listening to this podcast, they’re trying to grow businesses between one and five million pounds. Would Hays to them feel like a big company that is too big for them? You spoke earlier about putting people on the shard and things like that. The people that are listening to this, that’s too big for them. But where would Hayes fit in with them as a recruitment company?

 

Gaelle Blake (24:14):

Our biggest client base are SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises) We have grown up being the recruiter to the client base that you’re talking about. We are so grateful to them and we love working with them. I think that the way in which we interact with them and the way that we’ve been built to work with them, has been that local presence. We’ve got just under a hundred offices in the UK and then again in Ireland less, but the reality is, it means we’ve got someone quite local. As you know, and we said this right at the start of the show, it’s a people led business. The reason that helps when we are local is, we can come out and meet people and get a feel for their companies and what they’re trying to achieve. As much as virtually is great and it serves its purpose, to me, that personal touch, that being able to come and experience an organisation and feel…Sitting in a site office, you get a feel for a site straight away. Straight away, you get a feel for the vibe of it. It’s not something you can experience on Teams or Zoom. You have to be there and feel it. Then if you feel it, and sit there with them and understand what they’re trying to achieve and understand their client portfolio, you then are able to better match the type of person that will love working for a company like that.

 

Greg Wilkes (25:42):

Yes, that’s interesting.

 

Gaelle Blake (25:43):

People love feeling part of a team. Some people don’t! But our job is to get to know that company, to get a feel for who’s going to thrive there? What type of person do they need to thrive? Does that make sense? You are constantly doing this matching. The culture of the company is like a mist. You can’t put it in a bottle. All you can you do is feel it, you can feel culture. And so, very quickly you go and meet a client, sit there and have a cup of tea with them and chat. I’ve got my own high (I’m not wearing it today) but I’ve got my own high vis, my own hat, my own steel cap boots and you just feel it. You feel it straight away. You can go, “Right, this is what they’re all about. This is what they’re trying to do. Hang on a second. Met somebody six months ago that said they’d love to move if they could find someone that did this” or “liked that”. Then you go, “Right, that’s that person. We need to make sure these two people meet and I think they’ll really enjoy it.” I think, we’re a business that’s built on that local presence and it never stopped being that. That’s the bit that I love. I love doing that.

 

Greg Wilkes (26:53):

Yes, that’s fantastic. That is a very different approach. I like that approach, and it’s more of a partnering approach, you’re trying to partner with them and help them build that business. Whereas in my mind, I’ve dealt with construction recruitment agencies before (not Hays) but it’s more pick up the phone, “I need this person, can you find me this applicant?” There’s no relationship there at all. It’s just “Let’s fill a seat and here’s a load of CVs and what do you think?” What you are explaining sounds nice <laugh>. It sounds like the way it should be done, which is great.

 

Gaelle Blake (27:28):

We still are able to do that by the way. If somebody wants a real transactional service and say “Right, get me these people”, what I would say is, in the nicest way I say to your listeners, you’ll pay us the same amount whether we’ve come to meet you or not. We’d much prefer to come and meet you, simply because it’s better for you if the person sticks. That’s the truth of it. For you on site, the continuity that you need. These are very good trades people, they are professional people, they’ll get on. But my point is, that the stress (as you know) as a business owner, the length of time it takes them to get on, if there’s any problems, if they don’t do it quite the way you need it to do. All that stress in the back of your head and your wellbeing is all going to be preoccupied. It’s almost like your brain will be whizzing worrying about it. So we can do it transactionally. You can call us up and we’ll go, “Okay, we’ll get these people over to you.” But I think it’s better for you as well, if you say ” Yes, he or she has come down, has met me, you’ve seen what we’re talking about, gone on site, understood the site dynamic. They get it now, they get what I’m going to need” and then it just helps us. The biggest thing we’re trying to do is get someone to stay. The longer they stay, the better it is for you, but also the better for us too. I think we all benefit from long term, I’d say.

 

Greg Wilkes (28:53):

A hundred percent. Without doubt, the cost of going through hires and retraining it is ridiculous, isn’t it? I think your approach is brilliant. Thinking about the practicalities of that: if someone’s not used an agency before and you come out and you assess, you have a chat and talk about their goals etc. Let’s imagine now they say, “Yes, right, can you help me find me a project manager to come and start?” How does that work from the practical side for you? Are you helping prepare job adverts or are you matching someone that you’ve already got on your database? What does the practical side look like generally?

 

Gaelle Blake (29:27):

It really does depend on what the project is, where they’re at, where is it geographically and all those things. What we are constantly doing is, huge amounts of talent acquisition in the sense of constantly, not just the advertising but building relationships. As much our clients in constriction and properties, the organisations we work with, are very people focused, so are the applicants. The applicant also has a career that they want, aspirations that they have, and that by the way is not based on level. Everyone at every level has something they care about. What we look at is what we call ‘The Move Motivator.’ What’s of interest to them? A good trades person, let’s be honest, is probably in work. What we’re probably trying to do is get them to come to this project. You are constantly having to manouver people around, but what you need to do is understand what is it that that person’s looking for in their career so that you can then match them. They might be looking, for example, a site that’s closer to home because then they’re not traveling as much. That’s got a knock on effect in terms of cash, it’s also got a knock on effect in terms of their wellbeing. They’re looking to do that. You’re constantly listening to them as to what they’re wanting and the client and what they’re wanting. We are doing a huge amount of that all the time. All the time. We don’t wait (in the nicest way) for you to call me and say “Gaelle, I need six plasterers tomorrow.” We’ll already be talking to the plasterers before you’ve asked us. That’s our job to do that. We are constantly doing those things to understand where they are, what they’re doing, who they’re working for. There’s very few people that’s without work at the moment in construction. It’s constantly, where are they, who’s looking to move, whose contract’s coming to an end, what site’s coming to an end, where can we move people? We will do that anyway, regardless of this. We’ll constantly be doing those advertising and all the different things that we need to do, so that when someone turns around to us and says, “Right, I need somebody now” we have already proactively done the work. There are some times where they might need a load of people and we simply don’t have the proactive and that’s where we need to do it on top of that. But all the advertising, all the talent acquisition, all the relationship building is done proactively.

 

Greg Wilkes (31:36):

Yes, fantastic.

 

Gaelle Blake (31:37):

Because we need to.

 

Greg Wilkes (31:39):

I can imagine. It’s constant isn’t it? It’s constantly moving. Well, thinking again of the practical side of things. Let’s imagine now we’ve asked you to go and find us this project manager and you’ve sent us some CVS over and you say, “Right, we believe these are perfect matches for you” From, again, a practical side with someone who may not have recruited a big role like that before and it might be their first time, what should they be looking for (I know you’ll be giving them guidance on the CVS that you’re sending over) but any practical tips on things they should be looking out for, any red flags or what would would you be your top tips when analysing CVs?

 

Gaelle Blake (32:18):

I would say that your CV is the summary of experience that you have. Bear in mind on the job, depending on the job, do you need them to sign off? Do you need them to supervise other people? Depending on the job, look for those key words. Almost decide as an employer, what is essential and what is desirable? What are your non-negotiables that you’re think “They have to have this because I need them to do this, I need them to do that. I need to have experience.” Let’s be honest, there are practical sides to this industry. If you need them to be chartered because they need to sign something off, that’s a non-negotiable because that’s for your insurance. You need that to happen. I think you’ve got to make a list in your own head of what is essential. Then there is the desirable, what will I negotiate on? “I’d like this, but it’s not essential.” I think in the industry, Glenigans did some research in January (at the time of this podcast is eight weeks old) that said the forty two thousand vacancies in construction alone. Right now, unfilled. Ricks did this massive survey less than four weeks ago where they asked ‘What is your number one problem that’s holding things back at the moment?’ It wasn’t shortage of materials, even though we know there’s a material problem. It wasn’t projects. What was number one? Labour was number one everyone. I think there’s an element of, as an employer, if you can be one of those ones that understands the parameters that you are operating in and saying “Yes, I’m going to choose them” But the really smart employer will say, “They’re going to need to choose me.”

 

Gaelle Blake (33:52):

The clever employer, so speaking to your audience now, the clever employer would think, “Yes, they’ve got all the practical stuff I need. When I’m going to meet them, I’m going to sell this to them.” They’re the ones that are doing brilliantly. The ones that do the old-fashioned interview where they come across “I am the employer and you are the person I’m interviewing” and it’s quite old-fashioned and it’s almost ‘Will you pass my test?’ They’re not going to do as well as the one that goes, “Right Greg, what is it you’re trying to achieve? Where do you want to go? This is where I want to go. How can we do this in a way that you get the career that you need, the environment you feel safe in, you thrive? Also let me share with you the goals I’ve got and let’s see how you can also help us to reach the organisational goals we’ve got.” I think the ones that treat it as a real partnership that say we respect your career, we’ve also got organisational goals, how can these dovetail together? Straight away you’re going to stand out as an employer and you’re going to get the cream, simply because you’ve treated them as a person.

 

Greg Wilkes (34:59):

Yes, I think that is so valuable and some really good advice there. Going back to what you said originally, when you meet a company and you start understanding their company culture etc, are you coaching a company when you try and make that match between the CV and the applicant and the company? Are you coaching the company or the director of the company whose doing the interviews on how they should be selling themselves as a business and what the person might be looking for?

 

Gaelle Blake (35:27):

Absolutely. A hundred percent. That’s our job to do that. Often this is what we are saying, this person has got another couple of interviews. Let’s be really honest, with 42,000 unfilled jobs, the number one reason that organisations said they’ve got a problem is a shortage of people. Everyone’s competing. In our lingo, it’s called ‘Employer Value Proposition.’ It sounds very posh, but what it really means is, how are you different to your competitors? Greg, with your company, you probably knew or know what is different about you in comparison to your real close competitors. You would’ve felt instinctively, they’re really good at this (if you’re being really unbiased) but I’m definitely better at that. That’s what you to get across in the interview, because they will be comparing you with the others. What is unique about you? What is it about you that’s different? If you can get that across quickly. If they are going on an interview with people that are very similar to you, then they’ll have understood very quickly from you what made you different. I think understanding yourself, and it can be really practical things that you don’t even pay much attention to. Maybe (I’m making this up now) but every Thursday you do a doughnut run and it’s something you really enjoy doing and you do it every week and it’s really important and you all sit down, you all have a cup of tea, you’ll have a doughnut, you have a chat about something. Even small things that gives them an insight into your community and the culture, that you would just take for granted because that’s what we’ve always done, that makes them feel at home. I think the more you can make them feel safe and at home and that they’ll thrive with you…People think money is the number one reason (for happiness at work) it isn’t. If people feel happy, they’ll stay. I’m not saying money, you can’t underpay them, but it’s a lot more than money, these days now that people look for.

 

Greg Wilkes (37:24):

Yes. Obviously the environment’s got to be right, the money’s got to be right as well, but that that might not be the, the main thing. What about people’s career progression and are you coaching companies on where this person wants to go and how they might fulfil that career progression need?

 

Gaelle Blake (37:43):

Yes, I mean any good recruitment consultant will tell you what this person wants to do and where they want to go. If they’re not saying it to you, ask them. Also ask the person in the interview, “what do you want do? where you want to go?” If you don’t paint a story and the story is so important, if you don’t paint the story in the interview of “‘I’ve heard you Greg, I’ve understood where you want to go, let me show you how our story will go together.” They’re like, “I’ll go to the one that’s explained it better to me, that shows that you’ve listened and took my career seriously and and you can explain to me how your company’s going to let me do that thing.” I think that it’s so important that you absolutely do career progression. Isn’t that the person you want? Let’s think about it. Someone comes in and they are really hungry for a career. That’s your best candidate. Of course you want to have that conversation with them. But I think also, don’t just make it about their career, make it about their personal development, because it’s not always just about that. We have to teach them resilience, the resilience that it’s not always going to go right on site, you know that as well as I do. It doesn’t always go right. Sometimes some of the things they’ll learn is how to handle crisis or things that don’t go right. Say “we’re going to go through some stuff together. It’s not always going to be that it’ll go the way you want it to go, but I will be there to help and support and develop you.” I think as long as you caveat it, it’s not all going to be moonlight and roses all the time, but I’ve got your back. That’s what people want. People look for a lot of safety at work. Does that make sense?

 

Greg Wilkes (39:25):

Yes a hundred percent. I think people can see the honesty and transparency of business owners, can’t they? They know if things are being done and they get a feel for it. I think that honesty is really important as you’re doing the interviews.

 

Greg Wilkes  (39:41):

Let’s imagine then, you’ve managed to find a candidate for us. We’ve found that project manager that we wanted. In the back of my mind, if I was paying an agency fee, I’ll be thinking, “Right, I’ve got to pay a fee out now for this person. But what if they last a month and they’re off?”

 

Gaelle Blake (39:58):

You get your money back. There is a rebate. If it’s temporary or contract, you pay weekly. We charge you once a month but we pay the contract with the temp once a week, if that makes sense. Effectively we will pay them, then we’ll charge you once a month for the bill. If it’s a permanent employee, then we give you a rebate period spread over several months. Effectively, the longer they stay with you, obviously the less money you get back. But, absolutely the majority of it you get back, if they’ve left within the first month. What we’re always trying to do though, is to avoid that, both for you and for them. It’s hugely disruptive to you. The first four weeks, the first two weeks really, you are putting the most amount of effort into them. And you haven’t yet (in the nicest way) haven’t got a lot out of them yet. You’ve put a lot in, they haven’t given you a lot back yet. As time goes on, that changes. The whole point of the interview process is to avoid that situation so that, as you just said before, red flags or anything like that have been avoided. You’ve recognised that you’ve had a chance to talk through any concerns that you have and so that it avoids that situation.

 

Gaelle Blake (41:10):

Certainly ourselves and I would expect good recruiters would always offer that. We’re also just human beings. At the end of the day, you think someone’s going to be somewhere and their just not. That’s ok. They didn’t quite fit into your culture. It could be them leaving, but it’s also you going, “It’s not right” and that’s okay too. We would offer either a free replacement or on a sliding scale of the money back, and then start looking again for somebody else to come in and join basically. There’s a stage where, you have to also think, “Was there something I could have done differently?” I think as long as everyone’s reflecting on it, then normally the next person that goes in would be the right fit. If that makes sense.

 

Greg Wilkes (42:00):

Yes, and thanks for clarifying that because again, there there might be some that haven’t used an agency and they don’t quite know how that works. That takes a little bit of pressure off and that could be a barrier to them making the phone call in the first place. I think it’s good just to clear that up.

 

Greg Wilkes (42:14):

That all sounds pretty good. If we were now looking for someone, how far in advance do you think companies should be planning this out, this recruitment strategy? I know you are going to get phone calls and someone says, “All right, can you get me someone for Monday?” But generally speaking and if we’re thinking of long-term hires, how far in advance would you encourage companies to plan?

 

Gaelle Blake (42:40):

That is a really good question because workforce planning is something that is, I think as an industry, starting to change. I think we used to be as an industry quite last minute, and I think now actually a lot more people (because the project’s and the way it’s running,) we realise it’s much better to plan in advance if you’re looking for somebody permanently, given the context of less people unfilled vacancies. Remember also the UK’s got 30 million people in work at the moment, which is the highest payroll employees that the UK’s ever had. We’ve also got the lowest unemployment which is 3.7%. The context is, there’s not many people available, they’re already working for somebody else. If you came to me tomorrow and said, “Gaelle, I need a project manager permanently”, the reality for you Greg, would be is they’re working for something else right now. There’ll be people constantly that for whatever reason want to move on, that’s fine, that we are talking to. Now in reality, by the time we’ve started to talk to them on your behalf, we’ve come to meet you, understood what it is you want, started to talk to the pool of candidates that we have, gone out there, advertised etc. You’re going to want to meet them. If it’s permanent, you’re going to meet them. I would say most people meet them two times at least. So you’ve got to arrange that. They’re obviously at work, you are obviously busy, we’re trying to get the diaries to coordinate. Then you’re going to get the offer letter out, you’re going to haggle over the bits and bobs in there, terms and conditions. Then of course, they’ll hand they’re notice in. Let’s be really blunt here, most good people will be counter offered. Let’s be absolutely honest here, and I’d rather be honest with you and with your listeners so that they understand what will probably happen. You would do it, right, if it was your employee that’s handing their notice in, you’d be like, “Oh my goodness, hang on, let me see if I can try and match it.” You would. So, there is a whole amount of work that goes into then making sure that they wouldn’t accept it or what you can do to sell so you avoid that problem when it comes around. The contracts have got to go out, they’ve got to read the contracts, sign it off, and then they have to work four weeks notice. From start to finish you’re looking at a 12 week cycle and it really does take about 12 weeks to have someone to come in and join you, because in reality someone will be in work. The person you want is working for your competitor, is the reality. It’s the length of time for them to be sure that you are the right person for them, for you to be sure and those two things. I would say a minimum a 12 weeks.

 

Gaelle Blake  (45:03):

If it was a contract person, shorter timeframes. But again, you know, a good site manager, even if they’re on contracts, they like to see projects through and they’re not going be jumping ship. You’re going to need to give a good run of I would say, a good four weeks. The longer you give us, the better quality of candidate will find, does that make sense? Temporary or permanent. Then we’re not against the clock, “Oh my goodness, I’ve got to get someone in. This is the best we can find you today.” With workforce planning, the longer you give us, the better you’ll get, is is normally how it works.

 

Greg Wilkes (45:42):

Yes, I think that’s really good advice because it’s like any anyone recruiting, sometimes you do leave it to the last minute. Without a doubt, I think in this industry more than ever now, we’ve got a plan, haven’t we? We’ve got to plan for it with the shortage of candidates out there. I think that’s valuable.

 

Greg Wilkes (45:57):

One last thing I wanted to briefly touch on, again you were talking about company culture and you can assess the culture of a business. One thing that’s really important, I know that you spoke about this on the pre-show, something you’re passionate about is, is having diversity in the workplace. Why should companies be thinking about that? Would that be a conversation they would have with you and the benefits that a diverse candidate could bring to the business?

 

Gaelle Blake (46:24):

Yes, there’s two parts to. There’s a deeply commercial side to it and there’s a value side to it. I think the deeply commercial side to having a diverse workforce is every piece of kind of business data that you look at (and Harvard Business Review have done loads of work on this, McKinsey have done loads of work on it) is that you get better outcomes with a diverse team, whether it’s of gender, sexuality, differently abled people, people from different ethnic migrant minorities. People just think different ways. When you’re problem solving, and let’s be honest, we’re a problem solving industry and we’ve got the biggest problem facing the planet, which is how do we reduce net carbon zero (most of which is, is created during the construction process) we need different ways of thinking. The worst thing for us is everyone thinking the same way. The best thing for us is everyone thinking differently. So just hard, cold, commercial <laugh> side, is that a more diverse range of people will think in a different way and therefore you’ll get better outcomes. Commercial outcomes. That’s not “Gaelle Blake says” that’s research from Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, Accenture. You name them all, they’ll say that to you. There’s a real commercial hard nosed, actually this is a good thing to do. There’s also then, the purpose and value set. We know, because we track the data and again, there’s been a lot of research in this, in that people will stay along with an organisation where they feel they can be their true selves. The true self isn’t fitting in a certain box of a certain pigmentation of skin, a certain gender, whatever. The more that you can show that you’ve got different people in your community at work, the more people will feel I can be accepted for who I am and I’m not worrying about pretending to be something that I’m not. I can just focus on working really hard for Greg, fixing the problems for him, and I’m not then having to deal with almost not being really myself at work. I think, in the advice that I would give is, is truly think about not just saying that you are diverse, but really taking maybe a bit of the gamble, a bit of a risk if you’ve never taken someone on from a certain gender pool etc and remember that they’re someone else’s kid. We’re all someone’s kid. How would we want our kids to be treated? We’d want them to just be regarded as who they are and the talents they’ll bring. That doesn’t come in the same looking box every time. <laugh> It can look different, they can dress differently. They can have a different life outside of work to yours. That’s okay. Can they come and help you in a different way? I think once you’ve can see what diversity can bring, then the commercial outcomes, but also the joy that it can bring to an organisation that different cultures, different backgrounds, whatever it can be, can bring that most organisations just don’t look back. They love it. I’m passionate about it. We’re a sponsor of the Women in Construction and Engineering Award. It isn’t just about gender. I’ve done a lot of work with it to support the Building Equalities network, which is LGBTQ plus onsite. People just feel like it can be the true selves. There’s a really good movement called ‘hashtag love construction.’ If none of your listeners have heard of it, go and put it into any social media field. This is not owned by us. This is something that’s called ‘Love Construction’. It’s about positive imagery of diversity on site and elsewhere. If you have got two assistant site managers that are women or someone who’s openly out or who somebody who’s differently abled, just literally hashtag anything you’re doing. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, just put ‘hashtag love construction’ and it’s positive movement, the change in construction. This isn’t owned by me, but I love it. I think the more we can see “Oh, people that look like me or act like me or love the people I love, they’re all like me on site. Maybe I’ll be accepted on site and maybe that’s okay to be me.” I just they’re just someone else’s kid. That’s it. They’re someone else’s kid. How would you want your kid to be treated? That’s it.

 

Greg Wilkes (50:33):

Yes., that’s brilliant. Gaelle, it’s been so nice to speak to someone that’s so passionate about construction. You can see it oozing out of you and it’s really nice and it’s just such a positive podcast to have with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show today. I know my listeners would’ve got a ton of value from that. If someone wanted to reach out to Hayes and talk to someone about their recruitment plans and strategies, what’s the best way of them doing that?

 

Gaelle Blake (50:59):

Hays is hays.co.uk or hayes.ie if they’re in Ireland. Then there’s the rule across the world, if they just type in ‘Hays’ their local country. And then me personally, I’m Gaelle Blake G-A-E-L-L-E, and I’m on LinkedIn if anyone wants to follow me there. I post loads of things, I share quite openly. I’m quite a big content producer. So all the things that I talk about, giving people top tips on how to recruit or how to find themselves a job. Some of your listeners might be themselves thinking, “Actually I’d like to find a job myself. I want to move. I’m not fulfilled, I’m not happy.” I do provide lots of content and ideas so they can follow me. Hopefully that’ll give us a few ideas.

 

Greg Wilkes (51:39):

That’s awesome. Well thanks again Gaelle. We really appreciate it and I wish you all the best.

 

Gaelle Blake (51:43):

Thank you. Cheers.

 

Greg Wilkes (51:54):

If you’d like to work with me to fast track your construction business growth, then reach out on www.developcoaching.co.uk.