23 May 2023

Beyond Wages: The key to attracting and retaining skilled workers.

Steve Bratt, ECA CEO

An interview with Steve Bratt, CEO of ECA.

Running a thriving business in the electrotechnical sector is no easy task. Fierce competition looms not only for lucrative contracts but also for the highly skilled workers necessary to fulfil them. In this interview, Vicki Leslie, Client Relationship Manager at ECIS, delves into a thought-provoking conversation with Steve Bratt, CEO of ECA.

Steve shares his thoughts on the sector's greatest employment challenge: the hunt for and retention of skilled workers. They also explore how businesses can create a supportive infrastructure to address productivity challenges.

What is the most significant employment challenge currently in the electrotechnical sector?

The biggest employment challenge currently coming out from ECA members I speak to is the availability of good quality people to work in their business.

Why has it become such an issue?

We haven’t been bringing new people into the industry in the numbers we needed to.

And we’ve had people going out of the industry as they’ve aged or left the country with some of the changes we’ve seen politically. Overall, we’ve seen a reduction in the available workforce.

This creates a challenge for businesses who must ask themselves, how do we find good people and hold on to them?

What do you think businesses can do to retain skilled people that maybe isn’t just about paying them an extra pound an hour?

One of the problems that employers face is that they’re losing people to agencies. Usually, these workers are relatively young, and their primary focus is hourly rates. So, when an agency says we have work on this project, the headline is usually “Come and get more money”.

But that isn’t everybody. Many employees are still shrewd enough to think about benefits like pensions and healthcare.

Retention is about showing employees that you care about them by treating them as an asset, not a commodity. Retention is about a business demonstrating that it genuinely wants to safeguard its employees’ wellbeing and help them to be productive and happy. I think that’s where companies should be focusing their attention.

Businesses should provide a supportive infrastructure where employees can get the support to help themselves if they have any challenges. Through offering Private Medical Insurance (PMI), for example, businesses can provide an offer where their employees can get that help quickly.

So, the employer is saying, “We’re here, and we want you to do a good job, so we’re going to provide the services you need to do a good job, and here they are.”

And how about attracting new skilled employees?

If you’re demonstrating that you’re a good employer and looking after your existing people, you are more naturally going to be an attractive employer as the message goes around the industry.

So, whether it’s about retaining employees or attracting new people, it’s about setting yourself up as a caring, supportive, and professional employer with all these underpinning benefits to demonstrate that.

What other challenges does the electrotechnical sector face where employers could benefit from keeping employees engaged?

Productivity is a big challenge. Project contracts are written quite tightly; there’s little room for error. Suppose then that you’ve got people off work or people on those sites not operating at full capacity. In that case, everyone is going to suffer.

Presenteeism is an issue for many employers. You see workers hobbling around sites with their bad hip or knee. They haven’t got it sorted because they don’t want to wait weeks in the NHS queues to see their GP.

You can get people disengaging because they get fed up and don’t feel well.

How can employers overcome this productivity challenge?

Having the support infrastructure in place through, say, Private Medical Insurance to say if everything isn’t as it should be, we’ll get it sorted. Whether that’s to do with mental health or physical wellbeing. That’s good for retention, recruitment, and productivity.

How ECIS can help.

ECIS, a chartered insurance intermediary owned by the ECA, can provide comprehensive employee benefits packages, including Private Medical Insurance (PMI), that safeguard employee wellbeing and demonstrate a commitment to their care. If you don’t have a PMI scheme or if you have a PMI renewal approaching, ECIS can help you find the right option for you. Contact us at ecis@ecins.co.uk or call us on 0330 221 0241.