Construction recruitment is a buyer’s market – and Gen Z have demands


Construction firms need to get to grips with the possibility that the employer-employee dynamic has radically changed when it comes to hiring a younger candidate – and the reality is, regardless of a company’s size, turnover and yes brand, it is no longer a seller’s market 

At one time, a company could perhaps rely on its good reputation and even…prestige to ensure a steady and perhaps high rate of fresh applicants would continually beat at its door with hopes of getting themselves “a job”. But in recent years that relationship appears to have been completely inverted. 

More and more, would-be applicants appear to put themselves on equal footing with their prospective employers, interrogating past behaviours and policies for reform, asking penetrating questions about corporate responsibility, employee wellbeing, retention rates, and group representation, and testing the integrity of lofty Mission Statements and Values. In other words, they want to know if you are the right fit for them!

Furthermore, they expect more than a yearly salary and a benefits package that includes paid annual leave to win them over – that’s just for starters. They are evaluating your attitudes to flexible working arrangements, mental health support, company culture and employee “belonging”, and opportunities for rapid advancement (or they’re off!). 

When it comes to attracting an applicant from Generation Z, “Gen Z”, or sometimes “Zoomers” (born in the mid-to-late 1990s/early 2010s), being the oldest and largest industry in the UK (if not the world!) no longer resonates with the same vibrancy it once did. Nor does 7% of UK GDP or annual output of more than £110 billion.  

One of the first ways the industry can begin to address its chronic skills shortage (225,000 extra construction workers are needed in the UK by 2027, according to the Construction Skills Network) is to repackage its recruitment and marketing campaigns with this in mind… 

It’s a buyer’s market now and the pitch needs to include tangible improvements to quality of life. 

In this SPECIAL REPORT, we assess the things that young job seekers say matter to them when venturing into the world of work and how they compare with notions of work-life balance and employment benefits that were once standard but are now losing their appeal in the minds of Gen Z. 

Job factors Gen Z rank as most important  

  1. Compensation

It’s no longer just about a salary and ample annual leave, Gen Z are seeking “compensation” that affords work-life balance. Quality over quantity. 

Most graduates are deep in debt and suffer the same effects of high living costs like the rest of us. They want benefits that enable more affordable living.  

This includes remote working opportunities, industry hubs, transport initiatives, flexible work options (including a four-day week), paid holiday and sick pay, and an attractive pension. 

They also value tailored benefits. For example, the preferences of a particular group, instead of one blanket provision for all, according to UK Recruiter. 

A commitment to equal pay is also important in selecting their employer. Don’t forget, they have unprecedented access to pay data. 

  1. Career advancement

Gen Z are keen on internal mobility opportunities, with one in five saying they are more likely to remain at an employer who offers regular training and upskilling programmes. They are also attracted to employers who offer training reimbursement. 

They are looking for a sense of personal ownership in their work, they want to tackle projects that challenge them and enable them to gain new skills and showcase their abilities. 

In a recent poll by career management platform, Handshake, 71% of Gen Z said they expect to be promoted at work between six months and 1.5 years into their career, putting pressure on companies to implement coherent Learning and Development strategies they can discuss at interview stage. 

Gen Z also appreciate mentorship in their early professional lives, they crave frequent support and constructive feedback from more experienced colleagues.  

  1. Benefits

As above in section 1, compensation is very different from financial benefits in the minds of Gen Z. 

Many want to hear an employer has a modern approach to its benefits package, with more than 70% saying it is the top reason they would choose, and then remain, at a company, according to Handshake.  

Flexibility and mental health are big draws for young job seekers – they value arrangements that increase their sense of wellbeing and capacity to manage work and home life. These include: 

  • Counselling services 
  • Flexible schedule  
  • Remote working 
  • Four-day week 
  • Healthcare plans 
  • Mental health days 
  • Unlimited/flexible paid time off  
  • Mat and Pat Leave 
  1. Culture

Young job seekers don’t view work in the strict 9-5 sense their predecessors perhaps might, they want to know their employer is keen on “community, culture and collaboration” – even in remote settings.  

Many rank strong peer relationships and feeling part of an organisation as determining factors for staying with an employer long term.  

They are also keen on networking to boost their professional standing and socialising to cultivate colleague, and even interdepartmental, relationships – and they want to know managers make it a priority too. 

One’s identity is more important nowadays and Gen Z know opportunities to further themselves should exist beyond social media at work and among their colleagues as part of team-bonding events.  

  1. Commitment to EDI

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion commitments by employers rank high among young job seekers. 

More than half said it was a huge factor when choosing an employer, according to a Handshake student survey.  

Social Justice is an increasingly mobilising issue, particularly among Gen Z, and they expect to see that same concern reflected in the job market, including equal pay and equal opportunity.  

Further, it must be public – companies should stand by their principles by adopting charters and hiring policies that embed EDI into their organisations and culture.  

“They are watching […] for how your organisation does or doesn’t respond to social justice issues,” said Handshake. 

“This generation have no tolerance for prejudice or exclusion at work and are therefore more likely to dismiss an employer who does not provide diverse leadership and an inclusive work environment,” said UK Recruiter. 

  1. Sustainability

Attitudes and policies towards social responsibility, the environment and sustainability are criteria by which Gen Z will evaluate potential employers – but furthermore, they will hold firms to account on meeting those commitments and on addressing any existing shortcomings.  

They are well versed in net zero imperatives, carbon neutral commitments, climate change trends and “greenwashing” than perhaps any previous generation and they want to see that obligation reflected in an employer’s long-term strategies.  

Further, younger job seekers want to know their actual job isn’t exacerbating the climate crisis and may ask managers to provide a carbon footprint.  

“Gen Zers […] want to work somewhere they feel has a broader mission and purpose that aligns with their own values. They don’t want to make money just to make money—they want to make an impact. And they won’t stay in a job that doesn’t satisfy them”, said Handshake.  

Wider UK jobs market 

The fastest growing industries in 2023 are fintech, renewable energy, healthcare technology, e-commerce, cyber security, telemedicine, and AI – with roles in IT, game development, manufacturing, property, and data science growing also, according to employment website, Indeed. 

Most popular degrees in the UK – 2023 rankings 

  1. Business and Management 
  2. Law 
  3. Psychology 
  4. Engineering and Technology  
  5. Medicine  
  6. Sports Science 
  7. Computer Science 
  8. Media and Communication 
  9. Design 
  10. Education 

Enjoyed this? Try Labour shortages pose ‘biggest industry threat’ – firms need to prepare 

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