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The importance of investing in a highways workforce

The skills shortage is nothing new within the highways sector.

But the recruitment challenge has been ramped up by a combination of Brexit, a global pandemic and the demands of the UK Government’s £27 billion road investment.

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The investment aims to create more than 64,000 highways jobs but finding those workers is easier said than done for those businesses within the supply chain. Companies are having to explore new ways to attract people into the roads sector.

While pay and benefits remain the most important factors, today’s workers are increasingly looking for more than just a decent pay packet.

5 ways that investing in a highways workforce can make a positive impact:

  • Upskilling
  • Onboarding
  • Technology
  • Engagement
  • Wellbeing

Upskilling

Effective employee training helps to attract, develop and keep the best workers. It plays a major role in improving employee retention rates by giving workers room to develop their knowledge and skillsets within a company.

The ability to keep workers is a major benefit given the significant expense of hiring and recruitment. Research by Oxford Economics estimates the average cost to replace a worker as £30,614 when all of the admin time/resources and agency fees are accounted for.

Training and development play an equally important role in recruitment. It allows potential recruits to see the potential of a career within the highways sector rather than just a job.

Onboarding

Employee onboarding refers to the experience that a worker has as they join your company. This covers everything from the documents you share with new starters to the way you handle their first days and weeks.

It’s a crucial area to get right because first impressions last. A good onboarding process will make incoming hires feel excited, engaged and welcome new members of the team they’re joining.

By switching to a digital management process, onboarding times can be reduced from weeks to days. They can also improve the experience with the use of digital resources such as personal welcome videos and virtual team meetings.

Technology

Providing workers with the best possible tools to do their job is a basic part of good management. And in today’s highways sector that means giving your workforce the digital tools they need to simplify and streamline work processes.

Digital systems don’t just improve safety and performance, they show that an organisation is forward-looking, competitive and committed to its workers. It helps potential recruits to see that you are investing in them and are geared up for growth.

In contrast, a company that fails to invest in technology sends out the wrong signals for recruitment. It creates a work environment that’s out of kilter with a new generation of employees who have grown up in a digitally connected world.

Engagement

Engagement is a slightly fuzzy term but it generally refers to the sense of connection a worker has towards their employer. A lack of engagement means that employees feel forgotten or ‘out of the loop’; leading to resentment, demotivation and increased absenteeism.

Read 5 ways of motivating mobile workers.

It’s a particular challenge for a highways workforce due to the remote nature of the work. Engagement can be improved by simply recognising the problem and finding better ways to communicate and interact with mobile workers.

This could be finding ways to use video conferencing to better connect teams or with company meeting, activities and events to bring people together.

Wellbeing

The stresses and strains that workers had to cope with during the pandemic have helped to highlight the issue of well-being. This is a commitment to welfare that goes beyond health and safety and looks to create a healthier, happier and more productive work environment.

There are practical reasons why it’s a worthwhile investment. A study by Deloitte found that poor mental health costs UK employers around £45 billion each year. This results from a combination of reduced productivity, staff turnover and absenteeism.

But beyond this, having a well-being policy helps to create the kind of positive and protective work environment that people want to be a part of. It delivers a strong recruitment message and reassurance for commissioning clients that they are investing in a company that takes care of its workers.

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