Building those who build structures

Building those who build structures

The construction industry in India is the second largest employer after the agriculture sector. However, for an industry that employs millions of people, there are considerable human resource challenges that are expected to become more pronounced in the days to come.

Currently, the construction industry is estimated to employ around 35 million people, and it is this huge number which presents considerable HR challenges. Although, these challenges differ in terms of people who work at actual construction sites versus the white-collared employees.

The first concern for an employer is the ability to attract and retain talent for the white-collar jobs within the construction and infrastructure industry. The challenge arises from the lack of adequate skilled resources, be it engineers, project management personnel or individuals with expertise in supply chain management.

Further, the available talent pool is always skewed towards men. So, it becomes imperative that the industry comes together to create an agenda to offer lucrative opportunities that will attract not just male but women civil engineers as well.

In a fast-evolving world dominated by technology, young engineers are veering towards a career in information technology (IT) industry, regardless of the subject that they have studied. It is not common to hear students with civil engineering, environmental engineering and even structural engineering background happy to find a job in the IT sector.

The need of the hour is to create a defined structure, which makes civil engineering attractive to pursue a career in the construction or the infrastructure sector. It would be a misconception to think that young millennials are only interested in industries, which are glamorous in their outlook or pay higher compensation to keep them invested in this segment.

Given the short-term nature of construction projects, it is essential that the employer creates a longer-term framework for skilled personnel in the sector. There has to be a defined career roadmap for them, which gives the assurance that it will be a fulfilling experience with adequate compensation.

This would require laying down specific standardised procedures to create a process-oriented framework where human resource management remains the priority. Companies could start by hiring the right kind of talent pool who will remain in the industry for a more extended period.

The change needs to begin from the top where the management takes the initiative to create the right environment with the culture of motivation to enable these professionals to thrive. One should remember that skilled professionals like engineers or architects are working mainly in harsher conditions and not so much in comfortable environments.

Therefore, it is critical that these employees remain motivated enough to continue their career in this industry. There is also a vital need to further improve the safety and health set up in this industry as work-related accidents are a significant occupational hazard.

However, the most crucial change happening in the construction and infrastructure industry is the advent of technology. Technology in today’s world is dominating every aspect of human life, and no sector or vertical can deny that. For example, designs of a construction project which was displayed and viewed on long sheets of paper can now be seen on a tablet or even phones.

The advent of software is dramatically altering the landscape of the industry, resulting in a higher degree of automation and improved efficiencies. This puts the onus on the employees as well to keep pace with these changes, failing which not only will there be a resource issue but the organisation will be left behind from an industry perspective, too.

The construction segment should also follow other industries where there is a boost to reskilling and upskilling of employees. Steps must be taken to provide such skill-based training to technically qualified employees.

There are many technologies like RFID, robotics, CAD, CAM software, IoT that are increasingly used in the construction and infrastructure industry. These may be seen as sophisticated and not commonly used now, but they are the future of the industry. To keep oneself aligned with these new technologies, organisations need to ensure that their skilled personnel is given consistent training. This also serves as a critical retention tool for companies to keep their valuable employees.

The landscape of the construction industry in India is changing rapidly and to harness these changes and taste success, the sector needs to keep the priority of its employees right on the top.

(The writer is Deputy Director, B L Kashyap & Sons Limited)