Record salary levels in the tightest ever labour market

By Rob Sellars, 84 Recruitment.
It has been well reported that salaries both here and around the world have significantly increased over the past two years, and we are currently experiencing the tightest labour market in history.

This, coupled with the fact that investment in infrastructure shows little signs of slowing down significantly, also means that there is only one direction that these labour costs are heading in the future.

With the rapidly changing environment, we at 84 Recruitment recently completed a salary survey across a range of the civil construction professionals on our database. We often get asked by candidates to advise on market trends for salaries and to check their worth, and field requests from employers as well, who are seeking to ensure they are paying staff at a competitive level.

Salary surveys are useful, but notoriously challenging to utilise effectively because there are so many factors that go into why individuals are paid a certain level. In the civil industry, it is often related to the scope, value and complexity of the construction projects that individuals are working on or managing. Soft skills like leadership, performance and attitude will play a part in determining value, not necessarily just the job title. Also, different businesses have their own ideas on what certain positions are responsible for or the skills required, which adds to the difficulty.

Overall, our results show what most people might have surmised, that salaries are up considerably on a few years ago, and also that salaries towards the top end of the seniority level have increased considerably. We asked respondents to share with us their base salary without any add-ons like vehicles, allowances or bonuses.

At the start of the career ladder in the Construction Engineering field, Site Engineers are reportedly being paid between $70k to $110k with a median of $90k. Site Engineers with some experience are notoriously difficult to source, as by the time they are skilled enough to be up and running effectively, they are very close to moving into a Project Engineer position.

Project Engineers report they are paid between $95k-$150k with a median of $120k. This is the level where we see many engineers heading overseas for their OE, or to chase the larger money on offer elsewhere, limiting the supply of experienced candidates.

The role title with the most salary variance and need for clarity around scope of individual positions is that of Project Manager. Our median salary for this job came in at $140k, for which I would imagine they would be responsible for managing at least $10m-$20m worth of work.

Those in the more senior construction roles, such as Divisional, Zone, Area and Construction Manager positions have a median base salary of $180k, and at the Project Director, Operations Manager, General Manager level are sitting at $250k median. Around 17 percent of the people surveyed overall had a base salary of more than $200k, with a number over the $300k mark.

Other notable roles included Civil Estimators, who according to our survey attract a range from $120k to $230k for intermediate to senior level depending on experience, Bid Managers, sitting around the $200k median mark and Engineering Managers who are paid between $170-$280k.

There has been a noticeable increase recently in Senior Engineers moving from construction to consulting positions, usually drawn by the attractiveness of a 40-hour week or increased job flexibility. These roles may be either as an employee of a firm or self-employed and on average pay $140k-$150k. Quantity Surveyors are paid at a similar level to this on average, while Commercial Managers are well into the $200ks.

“With the rapidly changing environment, we at 84 Recruitment recently completed a salary survey across a range of the civil construction professionals on our database”

Something we have noticed over the past few years is the lessening of wage disparity between regions of New Zealand.

In the past, centres like Auckland usually paid noticeably higher salaries than other areas of the country for obvious reasons such as the size and scope of the projects being constructed and supply vs demand of Engineers.

Lately other areas of the country have increased their share of the construction projects being built in NZ both in size and volume, notably Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

This combined with low numbers of skilled Civil Engineers in these regions have pushed up salaries to the point where they are often on par with what people can earn in Auckland. With this parity and the fact that demand for Engineers in Auckland appears to be decreasing will mean that companies should be able to attract city-based professionals to other regions much easier than they may have in the past, should they wish to.

A question we asked survey respondents was, ‘Do you think you are paid at the right level for your role and responsibilities’?

 A majority 57 percent said yes, which is a good score for an industry. Most people would always like to be paid more money, but for so many to feel comfortable with their current earning level shows that as an industry lots of good work is being doing in the remuneration space.

In this challenging staffing environment we find ourselves in, be sure to utilise recruiters for up-to-date salary information, market trends and to complement your existing recruitment efforts by helping to source the ‘hard to find’ talent your business needs. A good recruiter can be one of the best marketing tools your company can have at its disposal.

By bringing recruiters in close and building strong relationships with them you can share with them your culture, team, project wins and all the information you want prospective candidates to know about your business. You’ll then have advocates for your company spreading positive messages across wide networks of the type of people you are looking to hire.

Remember the phrase “money isn’t everything” and while your salaries need to be at an appropriate level for the role, project, location and the dynamic demand/supply curve, it is people that make the biggest difference to employees changing jobs.

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