Is it possible to build a good construction workforce quickly and cheaply?

Imagine waking up one morning to find that every single role on your site has been filled overnight by a worker with the relevant skills and qualifications. Better still, all of the workers have taken the roles because they love what they do, not for a decent wage.

It would be a modern miracle.

But are miracles ever possible within construction? Can you really find a workforce that’s good at their work, fast to source, and cheap to pay?

In this article, we’ll look at the expectations of construction recruitment as well as the benefits and downsides of sourcing workers quickly. 

Good, fast, and cheap: fantasy or reality?

There are many skilled construction workers within the UK so it’s of course possible to find workers who are good at what they do. But with the decline in numbers of the construction workforce, finding workers quickly is undoubtedly harder than ever before. With so few workers available and so many projects with roles to fill, competition is tough.

You may be able to find a construction workforce quickly and cheaply, but they won’t be any good.

With the current state of the construction market, it’s unlikely that a skilled worker will be out of work. So if you’ve managed to source a worker quickly and they’ve agreed to a lower than average rate of pay, you should start to hear the sound of alarm bells ringing in the distance…

Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule. A worker may be new to the area, or just starting in the industry and looking for an entry-level position. Either way, they are unlikely to have the specific skills you need for your project.

Sourcing a workforce cheaply may be possible if a worker is in-between jobs, but let’s be honest, as soon as they have a better offer, they’ll up and leave without a backward glance.

If you want a good construction workforce, low pay won’t cut it and rushing it won’t help.

Paying low rates will never work if you want to source a good construction workforce. Construction workers aren’t backwards in coming forwards, and in our article on Trade Pay Rates in 2022, you’ll see just how quickly word spreads about low paying roles.

As far as speed is concerned, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and good construction workforces don’t form overnight.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand that can be waved to create an instant construction workforce. Finding workers immediately for a project may resolve a problem short term, but it’s likely to create larger issues for you in the future when you realise they don’t have the skills or experience you need.

Is it ever possible to find good workers quickly?

If you’re looking for workers rather than a workforce, then you might be more likely to find one or two workers at short notice, but you may have to make some compromises in terms of their skillset.

To find workers quickly, contingent recruitment is your only option.

As a short term fix, contingent recruitment can be used to plug the gaps in your workforce. But in long term projects, or projects requiring specialist skills, retainment recruitment is the best choice.

What’s the difference between contingent recruitment and retained recruitment?

Contingent recruitment relies on construction recruitment agencies sending you the best workers they have available, as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this can often mean you end up getting quantity over quality, and the workers you receive may not be what you’re looking for.

In contingent recruitment, the recruiter (or agency) won’t get paid unless you choose to engage the worker they have put forward. When time is tight and a deadline is fast approaching, this can often result in a race to the bottom, where each agency puts forward workers with low rates of pay. Subsequently, this can also often mean a lower skillset. For certain roles, the level of skill may not be an issue, but in construction skill level is essential.

When lots of agencies are pitted against each other to fill the same role, the chances of being successful are slim. Why would agencies waste time and effort sourcing you the best worker if you can still decide to go with someone else? The short answer is that they won’t. You’ll get sent the quickest option they can find so that they can move on to a more fulfilling client.

Unlike contingent recruitment, retainment recruitment is more specialist and is better suited to roles that require a set of specific skills or experience. Clients rely on one agency to source workers for them. Despite reducing the number of recruiters trying to fill the role, it also means the agency understands a client is relying on them to find the best workers, and is giving them time to conduct a thorough search.

Retainment recruitment enables a recruitment agency to spend more time sourcing the right workers for your project. They’ll have time to understand your needs, and can create a bespoke workforce that ticks all of your boxes. 

When isn’t contingent recruitment good for your business?

For highly skilled workers with relevant experience, contingent recruitment isn’t the way forward. You won’t receive the candidates you need, simply because you’re not giving an agency enough time (or the incentive) to source them.

If you realise on a Friday afternoon that you need 10 electrical engineers for Monday morning, most agencies will do their best to accommodate you. They may even fill all 10 spaces. But how long will that last? If the workers don’t have the right skillset, aren’t happy with the pay, or have a better offer, they’ll be gone by Monday evening, and you’ll be left to start the recruitment process from scratch.

It’s important to consider how your choice of recruitment approach impacts potential workers too – good construction workers are your end goal, after all. The construction worker pool is limited, and so it’s likely that more than one agency will contact some of the same people. If you’re a worker being offered the same project through 3 different recruitment agencies, you’re going to feel as though the project doesn’t exist, or that the recruiters are lying and could potentially reject the work in favour of something more solid.

Early engagement leads to more bespoke workforces.

When you contact an agency at the start of your project timeline, you’re giving recruiters and workers enough notice to commit to your project. Recruiters will have the time to find you exactly the right workers, and workers will feel confident in accepting the role.

At Pier, we focus on retained recruitment because it allows us to provide the best service to our clients. By creating a bespoke workforce, we can guarantee you have the workers you need for your project, and we have time to upskill any internal workers if required. 


With early engagement, construction recruitment agencies can be proactive rather than reactive in sourcing your workers. Instead of contacting every name on the books to find someone who’s free the next working day, they can work methodically through their contacts to secure the best person for the job.

Workforce planning should never be last-minute.

Last minute role filling can lead to high staff turnover, which in itself, is a huge problem within the construction industry. Sadly, a lack of planning can often lead to extended time frames, pushed back deadlines, and unhappy clients.

Avoid these common pitfalls by ensuring you give your agency the time they need to build your construction workforce. Instead of pushing for good, fast, and cheap, focus on good, skilled, and committed.

To retain a committed workforce you must make your workers feel valued.

Giving recruiters enough notice to source the right workers for your project will also enable recruiters to give workers details about the role they’re about to accept. Workers will understand they’ve been approached because they are a good fit for the job, not out of desperation, and are more likely to commit to your project.

Building a good construction workforce is a skill, and when done correctly, can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

How does Pier build a construction workforce?

Our aim is to give our clients top quality service every time they interact with us. Retainment recruiting enables us to establish good working relationships with our clients and their ongoing projects. In turn, this means we have the knowledge we need to find the right workers for their projects, every time.

By encouraging clients to engage with us as early on in their project as possible, we can ensure we provide maximum value to our clients. From helping to source candidates, to dealing with paperwork and organising relevant training, we offer a complete recruitment service ending with a bespoke and committed workforce for your project.

Engage early with Pier Consulting to build a skilled and reliable construction workforce.

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