Attracting Talent into the Construction Industry using Social Media – By Shaynesia Byfield

This needs to be a #trendingtopic

The decision to centralise this blog post around using social media to attract talent into the industry, resulted from many conversations within the industry about CHANGE. The industry has experienced a skills shortage and requires improved infrastructure, which have been followed up with suggestions to utilise modern methods of construction (MMC) such as offsite construction and technological applications such as BIM, however the uptake of these advances have not come to fruition. We still ask questions such as; ‘how can we solve the current housing crisis within the UK?’ and ‘how do we improve infrastructure?’ It is as if an objective cannot be achieved, without the cause, but how do you get the cause to happen? This led to much thought about the tools in which the industry has and does not have. These thoughts delved deeper into how the industry could become more productive. More recruitment into the industry would drive an increase in labour, therefore contributing to economic growth – sounds SIMPLE right?

Social Media as an Effective Tool

Social Media was evolved by the birth of Facebook and Flickr during the early 2000s. As a phenomenon, social media has proved to be an effective tool for influencing the consumer and has had a massive impact on industries such as information technology (IT) and marketing. It has become, even more so, an integral part of the general population’s activity today.

Figure 1: Social Media Prism sourced from Conversation Prism 5.0 2018.

We Are Flint (2018) conducted a study to assess the usage of platforms amongst 18+ individuals in the UK. It was revealed that Facebook and YouTube dominate the social media sphere with 78%. For YouTube, it was revealed that those in the age bracket of 18-24 consumed 486.6 videos on average during July 2017, however it has been noted that usage had reduced as the audience aged; 96 views amongst 55+

Figure 2 – Latest UK Social Media Statistics 2018. Sourced by Avocado Social.

Platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat (41%, 36% and 30% respectively) are further down the list, however this is not to say that they are not popular; in fact, they are but are relatively new compared to Facebook and YouTube. Results have been skewed due to the generations of ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation X’ usage. It will be no surprise that in a few years’ time, Twitter and Instagram will catch up to or even surpass Facebook and YouTube due to the usage of ‘Millennial’ and ‘Generation Z’ combined.

Today’s society has moved into a digital world and we have arrived at a place where viewpoints can be captured in seconds. Social media websites/apps like Facebook and Twitter allow for people to share their views, fulfilling the ‘what’s on your mind?’ or ‘what’s happening?’ statuses respectively.

Unfortunately, the construction industry in the UK, has not hugely benefited from social media usage, due to its slow ability to modernise. Within an industry that has not been synonymous with collaboration and innovation, it is without question that UK Construction is in dire need of radical change. In fact, there have been various publications over the course of twenty-five years; which have highlighted productivity as a major cause for concern within the industry.

Let’s rewind a bit – for context sake

The Latham report, ‘Constructing the Team’ (1994) commented on ‘The Image of the Industry’, where it was explained that there is a huge problem with attracting and attaining a high calibre of talent amongst young people. Recruitment in schools, colleges and even those at university has been slow, which has often been described as the consequence of an old-fashioned ideal; that it is an industry that is not enticing for young people, let alone women who are significantly under-represented in the industry.

Two years later in 1998, ‘Rethinking Construction’ report by Egan, further detailed on industry image too in Chapter four, ‘Enabling Improvement’ by stating that in order to deliver cultural changes there needs to be clear evidence of valuing people as it is not just down to the quality of the workforce. In Chapter one, ‘The Need to Improve’ there was emphasis on partnering; the share of information between organisations to improve performance and as an instrumental tool in facilitating continuous professional development (CPD).

In more recent years, Mark Farmer’s, ‘Modernise or Die’, argued that other industries have flourished by embracing and commercialising technology. It was emphasised that the industry can drive potential talent away to other industries because they are further forward in terms of modernisation.

Attracting talent – Engagement is key

Go Construct is an initiative that showcases many careers within construction, with aims to attract young people and career leavers into joining the industry. The site is brilliant at allowing the user to discover such career opportunities through dedicated interactive tools such as ‘career explorer’, where the user can be matched to a role that is reflective of the user’s selected place of work, interests, qualifications and skills. The site showcases diversity in construction through a series of videos and testimonials of professionals; albeit gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. As well as keeping up to date with major projects in the industry, the site also encourages competition between trainees and apprentices through ‘SkillBuild’. With over 10.5 thousand followers on twitter, in April 2018, Go Construct began a ‘Takeover Tuesday’ series on Instagram, to showcase a typical day in the life of professionals who have roles in the industry. It has proved effective ever since and this year, there was a noticeable increase in interest, particularly from young women, at their annual event at Skills London (which I am extremely proud to have been a part of). This is just one way in how a greater media presence can help to attract individuals and champion diversity.

Using Twitter & Instagram

I have found twitter extremely useful in keeping up to date with world affairs and culture in real time. In recent years, I have observed the growing presence of clients, consultants, contractors, housebuilders and subcontractors, you nameeeeeee ittttttttt. It is nice to see as it has helped to build interpersonal relationships, as well as showcase what is on offer to talent outside of the industry. I have accessed a myriad of CPD resources which I may not have necessarily found if I was not using the site. It is also helpful to connect with industry professionals and engage in meaningful discourse, as well as keeping up to date with problems/solutions of the industry and campaigns. Two to name; WES #LottieTour campaign and Go Construct – both instrumental in raising awareness, particularly to the next generation.

Since the birth of Instagram stories, I have used it to highlight different elements of my role; from being in the office and surveying a site. Why do I bother? The mission to attract talent into the industry is so much greater than me. I have been able to showcase interesting stuff, that not everyone in my following has access to because they are not in the industry. I have had friends refer young people to my content who have asked for advice on how they can join the industry. I have helped career leavers consider joining the industry. I also do it because as a dyslexic, visual aids are everything to me. I follow accounts who use their platform as an educative feature, so by creating my own content, who knows who I too could help along the way.

What can we all do?

As a stem and construction ambassador, yes, it is essential to actively be involved in events geared to raising awareness amongst young people, however social media is a HUGE tool that we ALL as industry professionals have at our fingertips. Generation Z (the cohort who were birthed between the mid-90s and early 00s) grew up in a time where technology extremely advanced. A survey by The Centre for Generational Kinetics showed that 95% of Gen Z has a smart phone; 55% of Gen Z use their smartphones 5+ hours per day and 26% use their phones 10+ hours per day. I am MINDBLOWN!

The smartphone revolution did not start until 2007 when Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone. By the age of 12, this cohort would have been able to have an iPhone. A whole iPhone you know! When I was 12, I was running around with a non-colour screen nokia and yes, I know that my elders will educate me about the IBM’s Simon and all the other bricks that were knocking about… ha!

Needless to say, we must work with what we’ve got when it comes to engaging with the next generation. USE SOCIAL MEDIA. Make your content fun! Make them think of the Construction Industry as an interesting place to work in – as I and you already know this. No matter how big or small, we can make a difference. You never know whose life you can change. The aim is to draw upon ourselves as existing exemplars to help build the vision of an industry that is open to all. If young people can look to us as examples in the field, then they are more likely to identify themselves in such positions. If I can inspire anyone (school students, school leavers, young women, career leavers) to consider a career in construction, then I have done my job.

#Surveyorhood

How can I forget about #Surveyorhood who was birthed by Natasha, Sara and Jo on Twitter. Honestly, if it was not for them, you would not be reading this right now.

An inclusive and open to all who wish to be a part of initiative, to support, connect and encourage each other to fulfil our potential in the built environment. When I was first asked to contribute towards the blog, I wanted to do it justice (sorry it took me some time guys). Thank you all once again for giving me the platform to share part of my master’s thesis with you all. I am honoured and will continue to shout you out through the rooftops. Be the change that you want to see! Watch out for Part 2.

One thought on “Attracting Talent into the Construction Industry using Social Media – By Shaynesia Byfield

  1. D Grant

    Informative, humerous and thought provoking article. With lots of tangible solutions to move the article forward.

    Well done!

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