Recruitment, staff retention and “poaching”!

Good people are the lifeblood of every business, but right now skilled people are hard to recruit and those we have and value are getting harder than ever to retain. With a record number of job vacancies listed in July 2021 according to BBC reports recently, PCA members (as well as many construction-related companies) are currently being affected by staff shortages, difficulties in recruitment and “poaching”.

Recent events have caused many of us to think about the value of people as well as the training and qualifications they receive. It seems that as well as increased mobility between firms, we are seeing outside agencies closing in on people within the sectors PCA members specialise in.

Housing Associations, estates offices and large contractors are all currently taking a close interest in the skills of many PCA qualified surveyors and technicians. We are also seeing more and more social and commercial housing providers increasingly coming to the PCA for training, but they struggle to pass the examination.

Past Chairman and friend of the PCA, George Hockey recently contacted us about some of these experiences from his company perspective in an attempt to bring this topic alive. We suspect many of you (whether you are a PCA member or not) might relate to some of his experiences.  To find out more…simply keep reading…

That’s another person leaving us…

I had a thought following news that one of our young surveyors was leaving us. He would have been the sixth recruit that we have trained up and subsequently lost to other companies.  Very frustrating…but with the ‘age old problem’ of surveyor poaching between PCA member companies (after great expenditure on training); we are now increasingly seeing large service contractors that work for numerous public bodies (e.g. councils) poach the skills and talents of many of our PCA qualified staff members.  From speaking to other PCA members, by accounts, we are not alone in experiencing this.

Subject to any reasonable agreement between an employer and employee prior to training, no PCA member company will ever be able to stop surveyors, or indeed installation operatives, from leaving to join a competitor…so there is no point in attempting to set any restrictive rules (which would be illegal anyway). I see ‘adverts’ on platforms such as Facebook, where competitors look to entice the experienced to ‘desert’ and move companies. Such events occurred with us a lot in the past, although many came back in disgust when they were fed up with being asked to install using poor practices!

Why are qualified surveyors being poached?

So what is changing and why are outside bodies now looking to poach our qualified staff members? And is the rate of this likely to increase?

Basically if you consider the implications and problems occurring with the cladding of tower blocks, certain sectors in construction are undergoing wholesale change. Everything presently associated with global warming, our housing, dampness (including condensation control), insulation and heating, are all subjects that public housing bodies have liability for in ensuring that their stock is healthy and fit for purpose.

Whilst there is no doubt plenty of studies by various government funded bodies in providing general guidance are taking place, just who is qualified to go into properties to inspect and diagnose individual conditions of dampness of any kind? And put forward a remedial scenario that may include changes to insulation, ventilation and heating, in addition to addressing any common rising or penetrating dampness issues?

CSTDB is the ‘go to’ qualification

Similar to what the National House Building Council (NHBC) and Local Authority Building Council (LABC) et al have achieved by removing their primary liability for waterproofing from their balance sheets via the PCA and GPI, I believe that public housing bodies seek to meet and limit their liabilities – some by outsourcing to service companies with the requirement that qualified personnel provide the appropriate advice.

So it looks like housing bodies and service contractors are coming to the PCA for training of their existing staff. However when that fails, due to a lack of experience and an underappreciation of how much there is to learn, PCA qualified surveyors are being poached…!

So what can we do

On the basis that PCA surveyors are likely to be increasingly poached by outside bodies, what can or should we do?

As the Trade Association for our industry, should the PCA potentially obtain guidance on contract agreements between employers and employees where training is given and examinations taken? Is this even practical, or more importantly, legal? Furthermore, would many PCA members be willing to share this information?

These are very difficult questions to tackle, and there are certainly no clear cut answers. However, as mentioned right at the start, hopefully this blog will potentially open up a discussion on how ALL PCA members can better protect their businesses and the staffing investments they have made.

The issue of “poaching” will be on the agenda…

Correspondence this week with a member in Kent, who has lost both qualified surveyors and apprentice trained technicians, has brought this issue into sharp focus for us. As a result, the matters surrounding staff retention and “poaching” will be on the agenda of the next PCA Board meeting.

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