3 ways engineering and construction can emerge stronger after the pandemic

The pandemic poses a range of new challenges for the global engineering and construction industry, seeing organisations needing to adapt to these uncertain times. Some construction projects have been delayed and others cancelled as a result of the impacts of COVID-19, while there has also been supply chain bottlenecks of equipment and materials — including structural steel and glass from Asia — that could cause project delays in currently funded projects, or reduced spending on future ones. Furthermore, the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19 has been recognised, with Australia being plunged into its first recession in almost three decades.

Engineering and construction companies are used to cyclical downturns, but the speed and strength with which COVID-19 has struck is unprecedented. It is a time that is forcing employers to rethink current strategies and consider the moves they can make today to come out ahead later. According to Deloitte’s Global Engineering and Construction Leader Javier Parada, survival will hinge upon firms’ ability to use this crisis as a “catalyst to rethink how work is done” and embrace the potential to bypass inadequate processes, streamline systems and reduce costs.

Here, we look at three ways Engineering and Construction companies could consider doing just this within their hiring and HR strategies.

Create a more flexible and agile workforce

The current state of uncertainty has cast a shadow of questions over ECB’s operations and their efficiency. The way in which the pandemic turned the global markets on its head has made engineering companies around the world realise the need for a more agile and flexible workforce to face the future world after COVID-19. 

This kind of workforce can take various forms depending on the sector, size of the organisation and its project load. While many construction sites are still operational around the country, there are instances where it could be beneficial for some staff to move to remote work, or else opt for more flexible working hours. It may be advantageous too, to consider on-hiring new employees during this time, as this allow employers to more seamlessly manage fluctuating workloads without committing to permanent headcounts that might not be financially viable, or necessary given economic uncertainty.

Invest in the skills needed to operate in the next normal

While a fast return to business as usual seems unlikely for the industry, Bayside Personnel Senior Consultant Stephen Xerri says that both state and federal governments will be looking to invest in infrastructure as a way to create jobs, provide assets and stimulate the economy.

“It is important for organisations to ensure they have the skills within their team in order to be an attractive choice for tenders and win projects,” he says. “If these skills aren’t already within your team, on-hiring employees who are experienced in the desired area can help to improve the value of your organisation to a potential client.”

For example, Stephen explains that Sydney was once very heavily involved in the mining industry, describing it as the “mining hub”. But with the mining industry quieting down and the government instead channelling major investment into infrastructure as a way to boost the economy post COVID-19, it may be necessary for employers to engage talent in this more specific area. If this service grows, it is then a good opportunity to bring proven on-hired employers on in a permanent capacity to strengthen the sustainability of your organisation. 

Streamline your HR practices

In many cases, responding to COVID-19 could present opportunities for Engineering and Construction organisations to exit those processes and systems that are no longer serving them and are adding additional and unnecessary financial burdens on the company.

In a recent podcast with Bayside Group, CEO and Director of UCS Stephen Ellich, said that during times of difficulties, it is critical to focus on cash and working capital management. The idea here, Stephen says, is that if you know you can pay the bills, you know you have time to think about the sustainability of an organisation. And if you have financial stability, this gives you the capacity to adapt, in order to stay relevant and viable in difficult times.

To do this, organisations can identify those practices which directly contribute to revenue entering into the business. In most cases, these will be those which ensure optimum delivery for the customer, as this is what builds trust, results in return business and a positive reputation which, in turn, can lead to more business.

It is often those internal, HR-related processes associated with a workforce that could be more cost efficient for many organisations, making outsourcing these a more financially viable option. According to Bayside Personnel’s Queensland State Manager Oscar Olsson, a third party not only reduces internal HR costs, but also relieves pressure from managers by taking on the burden of all other HR functions. If engaging on-hired workers, using an ethical third-party provider will also significantly mitigate a business’s risks.”

“Working in partnership with an agency can significantly take the pressure off already stressed managers during this time,” Oscar says. “Bayside Personnel, for example, will manage the employment risks, performance reviews and all other HR associated functions.”

Furthermore, as opposed to needing to manage and fund the entire outplacement process, a third-party will facilitate the demobilisation of an on-hired employee if necessary. For example, once a project has been delivered, a company like Bayside Personnel can manage the process of moving the on-hired worker onto another project within the company’s portfolio, or help find a new employer who requires their skillset. This also provides the employee with a range of experiences, allowing them to broaden their skills and become a more desirable employee if they are in fact seeking a permanent role.

If you require assistance with your recruitment processes during this time, contact Bayside Personnel today. With niche experience within the engineering and construction industry, we understand our client’s specific needs and can tailor our services to suit you.