• Harrison & Ben



The following insights came out of our discovery activities, which include interviews, diary studies, fake door testing, and acting as assistants to tradespeople.

🔮 Insight #1: Many agency owners report not being able to distinguish their business from other agencies. They report finding it hard to offer a unique selling point (USP). This means that one of the only things they can compete on is their fee. This, in turn, creates an adversarial market where quality and standards are much harder to uphold, with the main victims being tradespeople who are placed in roles without sufficient vetting. As one recruiter said, “We just say yes and worry about how later.” It also means that as agencies grow in size and their overheads rise, they become vulnerable to smaller agencies that can afford to undercut them. From what we can gather, one of the strongest protections recruiters have in these market conditions is their relationship with their clients.

🔮 Insight #2: One of the things some agencies and payroll companies do is only keep tradespeople on for less than 12 weeks. They do this because 12 weeks of continuous employment with the same employer is the point at which agency workers are granted the same protections and benefits as employees under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010. Since tradespeople are being “flipped” before reaching this point, they’re not getting the sick pay, pension enrolment and other securities they would otherwise get. This scenario is not good for employers either, who are paying the price of an inconsistent workforce. In construction, high worker churn = worse health & safety, poorer workmanship, weaker relationships, and spiralling timeframes and budgets.

🔮 Insight #3: A significant number of people we’ve interviewed have moved up to management positions before deciding to move back down. The reasons given generally take some form of, “I felt I wasn’t part of the site anymore.” We’re just speculating here, but could this be a signal that people don’t feel they have the resources – the skills, the support, the confidence – to take on bigger challenges at work?


In this section, we share something we’ve learned that could help tradespeople get an advantage at work.

📃 Haggle over jobs. We’ve met some tradespeople who say they always haggle with recruiters to get higher rates, shorter hours and other beneficial terms. If you’re someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t tend to try negotiating, perhaps it’s time you considered trying it. The evidence we’ve seen is that tradespeople are sometimes successful at haggling with recruiters. There are no doubt better ways to approach it than others. If you’d like to talk to us about this, and there’s something we can do to help you prepare for your next haggle, get in touch, we’d be happy to help.

We want to help make construction work for everyone. Let your colleagues know that we’re here to understand and solve the most painful problems they face at work. Look out for more updates in two weeks.

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