Human resources

Major construction companies increasingly attach importance to human resources. This is part of a long-term process, all the more as it helps these companies keep track of and anticipate changes in their groups and in their needs. They undertake a wide range of actions aimed at integrating workers in the company as much as possible while offering them all the benefits of working in a large company (attractive and motivating wages, savings plan, profit-sharing, etc.).

The major groups adopted European social charters that underpin the social values that determine the working conditions in this sector and promote the mobility of the labour force. Outside Europe -and in particular in developing countries- they strive to promote local management and provide their workforce with much better conditions in terms of training, wages and social security than they would obtain according to local practices and under international regulations.


With a workforce of 14.9 million people in 2009 (i.e. 29.1% of jobs in industry), the construction sector is the biggest industrial employer in Europe. In France, this sector employs 1.8 million people.

Despite the rather lacklustre economic context, this sector is characterised by a proactive and dynamic recruitment policy that is geared towards renewing the age pyramid, helping the staff acquire new knowledge and enhancing the image of the profession among young people.
In order to encourage young people to take up these trades, firms have developed numerous initiatives: promotion campaigns, partnerships with schools and educational establishments at all levels, training courses, sponsorship operations, participation in students' fora, etc. They endeavour to give as much encouragement as possible to the promotion of the integration of handicapped persons and the unemployed. Another element that has been encouraged is the recruitment of women, who have traditionally not found many jobs in this sector, and these efforts have already borne considerable fruit in all disciplines.

In the developing and emerging countries, companies are striving to develop local management. As part of this initiative, the role of expatriates is now more often than not restricted to occasional expertise missions in situations where the required skills are not available on site.

The integration of new workers is the focus of much attention by companies. In particular, they seek to convey to these workers the values and principles underpinning the functioning of the company and to encourage them to appreciate the history of the group that established these values and principles in the first place..

Training plays an important role throughout workers' careers. Construction firms devote a considerable proportion of their salary mass to training (between 3 and 4%, whereas the legal requirement is only 1.5% in France). They also make considerable efforts to encourage staff career enhancement, to encourage integration, to promote attachment to the group values and to foster a sense of loyalty. Most of them, moreover, have universities or academies devoted to training, and they can also call on the services of a whole network of specialised agencies. These companies are convinced that this helps them meet the needs of their customers more effectively.


In order to encourage internal mobility, groups have databases that they make available to their staff. This makes it possible to centralise and publicise all the vacancies within the different structures of the group. Finally, this provides a means of offering new career perspectives to their staff.


The growing internationalisation of teams and geographical mobility call for new managerial practices. New communication tools are thus developed to organise the free flow of shared knowledge and to get the message across that innovation is vital. Interaction by intranet and extranet facilitates the transmission of knowledge, experience and best practices. In addition, it encourages cooperation among teams at a technical and commercial level and provides the staff with information on human resource management.


One of the top priorities of construction firms is to improve health and safety. At a practical level, their safety approach takes the form of certification (OHSAS 18001 - the hygiene, health and safety management system), especially for the most risky activities. The objective is not only to reduce the frequency of industrial accidents, but also to achieve «zero accidents». This is a concern that is disseminated directly by the Group chairman.

Generally speaking, contractors seek to create optimum safety conditions in simple ways, for example site cleaning, the implementation of procedures to facilitate and encourage compliance with safety rules, tools that incorporate this approach and «cross-vigilance» among the staff.

In addition to the instruments designed to evaluate risks, risk prevention plays a vital role. Many and varied means are used: diagnosis, evaluation documents, setting-up of a prevention-health-safety committee, training in safety instructions, training in the use of tools and materials, manuals and information brochures, safety flashes, an intranet forum, annual meetings, safety competitions, etc. The staff are actively encouraged to take part in the safety competitions, and the awards reflect the important commitment undertaken by companies in this field.

Companies take action to ensure that their staff are closely involved in health and safety matters. After all, the involvement and participation of all the workforce are the determining factors if a significant and lasting improvement is to be achieved.
At an international level, much attention is given to the health and safety of local personnel and expatriates.

Finally, it is pertinent to recall the competitive advantage that these two related concerns (safety and health) offer French companies when it comes to bidding in the context of invitations to tender sent out by major clients (industrial corporations, oil companies, etc.) or of multilateral financing projects that include these criteria as conditions to be met for the awarding of contracts.