Staffing Systems that Get the Right People on the Bus and In the Right Seats

Several weeks ago, I introduced you to the six systems that control the fate of your construction business. To refresh your memory, they were:

  1. Marketing
  2. Sales
  3. Staffing
  4. Planning
  5. Tracking
  6. Financial Control

Today, I am going to expand on the nine components that form your staffing system.

Do you remember that the objective of a staffing system is to recruit and retain a team of highly motivated and skilled employees? The popular analogy is getting the right people on the bus and putting them in the right seats. To do that, you need systems for:

1. Advertising Job Openings
When it's time to add staff, you need to roll out a recruiting system that will generate a large pool of good candidates. You need the recruiting system to work quickly. You need it to pre-qualify the candidates so that you don't spend a lot of time sorting through unqualified resumes and interviews.

Write help wanted advertisements that sound like sales pitches for your company. Don't let your help wanted ad sound like you are doing the candidate a favor. Make it sound like the candidate is doing you a favor by joining your firm.

Know which help wanted advertising outlets work best for the types of workers you need. In some markets, neighborhood papers work well, in others CraigsList.com works best, and for professional positions Monster.com often excels.

List both the minimum skill set the ideal skill set you are looking for. Don't go crazy with the required experience. If you have created skill development systems, look for candidates with the right raw materials (abilities and attitude) then mold them into super performers.

Have template for writing different types of help wanted advertisements: shorts ads for newspapers, long ads for the internet, work fairs, and community bulletin boards (churches, civic centers, etc.)

2. Interviewing
Interviewing is difficult. Despite what hundreds of human resource professionals claim, there is virtually no fool-proof way to interview. Individuals with superior people skills are the ones universally selected.

Of course, superior people skills are only essential in sales and leadership positions. Decision making skills, problem solving skills, and time management skills are often far more important in most construction positions.

That said, there are certain interviewing techniques that will help you make better hiring decisions. The primary one is asking open-ended questions. Ask the candidate how he would handle a problem that might arise in the position.

Ask him to explain how he dealt wit a similar problem in the past and what he would have done differently the next time.

Know which questions to ask, know how to ask them, and then stay silent until the candidate answers.

Always check references and listen closely to what they say. Their feedback is often the most revealing and predictive information you'll get. Negative comments will be stated very subtly. Learn how to read between the lines.

If you are hiring a manager, ask for references from at least two of his or her former subordinates. Direct reports know whether a manager knows how to lead or not. Rarely does the manager's boss.

If possible, have the candidate meet with multiple staff members.

3. Creating and Updating Job Descriptions
When workers clearly understand their role and their relationship to their co-workers, they are more productive, make better decisions, and tend to work harder. When workers don't understand their role, quality, productivity, and job satisfaction suffer.

Job descriptions are the tool used to establish clear roles and responsibilities. A job description should be written for each position and it should list the major tasks to be performed, the standards the tasks should be performed at, and identify the tasks of highest importance.

All tasks that need to be performed in order for the company to be successful must be documented on at least one of the job descriptions. If the task isn't on a job description, odds are the task will not be done.

4. Communicating Performance Expectations
Job descriptions are not enough. Performance expectations must be explained. That requires face-to-face discussion.

Verify your employee understands your expectations. Have him repeat them back to you in his own words. If he is catching on to what you're trying to communicate, he should have questions. When he doesn't have questions, assume he doesn't understand your expectations. Repeat these conversations as many times as necessary.

Keep an eye on performance. When performance slips, remind your employee of his job responsibilities your performance expectations.

5. Monitoring the Market's Wage Rate
You are in competition for good workers. You compete on many different fronts, the two primary ones being wage rate and work hours. You need to keep a close eye on what the market is paying for people of like skill. Paying below that rate is risky and will most likely leave you with an under-motivated or under-skilled staff. You can't afford either.

6. Dismissing Non-Performers
One of the biggest challenges employers face is terminating non-performers. The fear of the unknown makes owners hesitate to pull the trigger. They usually figure that the devil they know is better than the one they don't. They figure a firing, no matter how justifiable, will hurt morale. T

Here's the rub: good workers can't stand working along side bad workers.

It's your responsibility to fire a poor worker, not theirs. It's your company and they expect you to staff it properly.

If one of your workers is falling short of performance expectations and you think letting him go might be the right course of action, go talk to the people he works with before you make your final decision. They'll give you an honest answer and more often than not it will be: get rid of him.

7. Developing Employee Skills
When you implement systems that help employees develop their skills you benefit in three ways:

  1. They work faster.
  2. Their loyalty to your company increases greatly.
  3. You increase the pool of potential employees your company can hire.

You need a system for evaluating skills, setting skill development goals, and creating learning opportunities.

Raising the skills of your existing staff is the surest way to improve your competitive position and bottom line.

8. Rewarding Superior Performance
Something often forgotten by business owners: the company isn't just theirs - it is everyone's who works there.

What that means is when the company succeeds, the success should be shared with the employees who made it happen. When success isn't shared, dissatisfaction and jealousy start spreading like a wild fire.

You need a system for legitimately identifying and rewarding superior performance. The systems needs to be simple explain and easy to understand.

It takes more than skills to be a high performer. It takes a solid work ethic, a sense of duty, and focus on the job at hand.

Those characteristics are somewhat rare and need to be rewarded. By rewarding them, you make the employee feel valued and you help set an example for their co-workers.

When you fail to reward superior performance, you send the message that all performance is equal. That's a bad message to send. It de-motivates the better workers and emboldens the poorer ones.

9. Promoting the Right People
Selecting the right person for promotion is tricky. Here's why: the skill set demanded by the higher position is often far different than the skill set needed at the lower position. Often, people who excel at the lower position are wired to fail at the higher one.

The opposite is also true. Great leaders and managers often make horrible front-line workers. Selection is not as easy as "This guy is my best worker so he's the one I should promote." Your system for choosing someone for promotion should be as thorough as your system for selecting someone to join your company.

You need a system that helps you accurately determine an employee's real skill set. Then you need to compare the skills of your employees against the demands of the position. The best match is the one who should be promoted.

To review, here are the nine staffing systems you need to build a great team and grow you company profitably:

  1. Advertising Job Openings
  2. Interviewing
  3. Creating and Updating Job Descriptions
  4. Communicating Performance Expectations
  5. Monitoring the Market's Wage Rate
  6. Dismissing Non-Performers
  7. Developing Employee Skills
  8. Rewarding Superior Performance
  9. Promoting the Right People

Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.

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