Tuesday, August 16, 2022

We Need More Good Employers!

For the vast majority of construction companies, finding and retaining loyal and capable employees with the necessary qualifications has become a challenge

For the vast majority of construction companies today, finding and retaining loyal and capable employees with the necessary qualifications has become a considerable challenge. Yet, employee satisfaction is the key to a company’s success, in subsurface infrastructure construction and beyond.

Construction sector protagonists are warning of the consequences of an ageing society and the associated shortage of skilled and managerial staff in growth markets. That is fuelling competition for employees, and is becoming particularly apparent in industrial centres. As a result, recruitment agencies are very much in demand in the current market situation. One thing is certain: good and authentic employees want to work for good and authentic companies.

In recent years, we at Swietelsky-Faber GmbH Kanalsanierung have doubled our permanent workforce solely as a result of organic growth. Today, with well over 300 members of staff and annual turnover of €70 million, we are a major player in the field
of trenchless infrastructure preservation and provide customers all over Germany with service that treats them as equals and partners. How did we do it and how much of it is attributable to the Swietelsky-Faber DNA?

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Attracting To Young Talent

In the competition for young people, an employer needs to be convincing and visible when it comes to communicating that they have attractive jobs to offer. In our case, a family-like company culture and good prospects for the future have proved effective arguments.

An environment that encourages learning and good pay are the minimum – but in order to keep apprentices in the long term and give them a sense of security, it is also crucial to have a sympathetic ear and an understanding of their concerns. Work is a shared learning experience and mistakes are dealt with in an honest and open way with the focus on responsibility, not blame.

Besides looking after the apprentices, it is also vital to cultivate the quality, loyalty and willingness of experienced employees. Many companies underestimate how important it is for senior level staff to embody these aspects in order to ensure the development, motivation and protection of junior employees. Older staff serve as an anchor for their younger colleagues.

Coaching these youngsters safeguards our future. That is why Swietelsky-Faber attaches special importance to ensuring the young generation receives first-rate training. Every year up to 14 apprentices, evenly spread between site-based and office-based roles, learn their trade in the company with experienced coaches at their side.

Communicating Attractiveness

Many young people simply do not realise how attractive an apprenticeship as a pipe, sewer and industrial service technician actually is. The varied work, the prospects for promotion, the handling and operating of sophisticated state-of-the-art technology, youngsters are often totally unaware of all these factors.

In our efforts to make all this visible to young people, we do not just participate in numerous regional career fairs; instead of waiting for youngsters to come to us, we go to them, with an active presence on social media, for instance.

Ensuring the impeccable technical features and equipment of the machinery is another basic requirement for employee motivation. In addition, digitalisation processes are constantly updated and our internal communications address staff as equals. Every year, Swietelsky-Faber invests up to 10% of its turnover in the modernisation of its technical hardware and new equipment. Besides being an investment in technical assets, this is also an investment in employee satisfaction and in a positive image for the company.

Company Culture Creates Good Prospects

The attractiveness of a sector and a company is significantly influenced by the prospects it holds for the future. We are in a growth market and this tendency is unlikely to change in the years ahead. That in itself makes this field of work a good choice for young people.

At Swietelsky-Faber it is not somebody’s level in the hierarchy that plays the crucial role in decision-making processes, it is the better argument, regardless of who it comes from. Our open company culture enables young and committed employees to contribute to leadership processes in keeping with their potential and interests, thereby giving them the opportunity to develop.

Furthermore, we offer staff extensive opportunities for additional training, such as upgrading their driving licence or training to become a certified sewer rehabilitation consultant. These investments have a positive impact on both the company’s performance and the retention of skilled employees. We also collaborate with universities and support students by assigning topics for their final projects.

The Safety Argument

An explicit focus on occupational safety is another way in which we can convince applicants of our attractiveness as an employer. It begins with the personal protective equipment, on which we do not economise, and continues with complex training programmes and safety management systems like the highly demanding Safety Certificate for Contractors (SCC). This system results in a significant and long-term reduction in the lost time injury rate (LTIR), an indispensable factor in determining a company’s efficiency and employee-friendliness.

It would be desirable for our principals to require such occupational safety management systems from their bidders as proof of performance. Because every work-related accident is one too many.

Besides physical on-the-job safety, psychological safety plays an important role in our company culture as well. Individual employees and entire teams know that they can always turn to somebody with their concerns and problems and find a solution. That boosts employee satisfaction and prevents fluctuation.

Associations Have A Role To Play As Well

If we want to find solutions to the recruitment problem, we all need to pull together. That goes beyond the level of individual companies. What is needed is a coordinated effort on the part of the relevant associations. Germany’s Pipeline Construction Association (Rohrleitungsbauverband) has for instance developed the necessary problem awareness and is doing good work with its vocational training centre. Furthermore, with the introduction of the Pipe, Sewer and Industrial Service Technician apprenticeship, the Association of Pipe and Sewer Technology Companies (VDRK/ Verband der Rohr- und Kanal-Technik-Unternehmen) has defined a job description and launched a recognised qualification for the industry.

However, there is not yet sufficient awareness of this issue among all the associations who represent the pipe rehabilitation and trenchless construction sector. That is why Swietelsky-Faber supports initiatives and campaigns launched by associations with the goal of interesting young people in our industry and sparking their enthusiasm.

https://www.swietelsky-faber.de/

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