The leadership of every construction company needs to take responsibility for the skills crisis, says Dave Stitt.
In June, the CITB predicted that the industry will need to recruit 266,000 extra people between now and 2026.
But it isn’t ‘the industry’ that will solve the skills problem: that’s down to the leadership of every company in it. Consider the drive to attract more women. We know companies struggle to recruit women, but a deeper problem is their difficulty in retaining them. Some 57% of female engineers drop off the professional register by the age of 45 compared to just 17% of male engineers, says the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Companies should retool their recruitment processes to cast the net more widely, but it won’t bring real change if the environment new people enter pushes them back out the door.
For women, part of the problem is structural, to do with unequal pay and inflexible working hours. But much of it is cultural, the way we are with each other, and this is harder to tackle.
“Our default management culture, which can be described as ‘command-and-control’, prevents us from creating work environments that are inspiring and engaging.”
The culture issue goes deeper than hurtful banter and sexist or racist behaviour. It goes all the way to our default management culture, which can be described as ‘command-and-control’, and which prevents us from creating work environments that are inspiring and engaging.
A command-and-control manager sees their role as giving orders and monitoring compliance, a ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ stance that suppresses the talent, creativity and drive in teams. It also deprives people of a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
But when managers incorporate simple coaching techniques into their management style, they stop giving orders and instead start conversations with their people about how they’ll fulfil their responsibilities. This changes the dynamic.
I know it works because last year I created a fun online course for young construction professionals on the CIOB Academy, called ‘Coach for Results’. Feedback from the first cohort of about 40 people was amazing.
Construction manager Alex Young told me that before the course he’d doubled down on command-and-control in response to mounting project pressures. Team morale suffered and he’d been burning out. When he tried coaching, his team responded positively and his load got lighter.
Alexandra Smith and Holly Williams, both business development managers for a national contractor, said coaching gave them the confidence to get buy-in from more senior technical people so they could serve the company’s clients better.
Seeding a coaching management culture is quick and low impact. Anyone can see immediate benefits as relationships become more humane and productive. Coaching is inclusive and it makes things better for people – women and men.
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