Recruiting Keepers

Contractors need to explore new or different means of recruitment, as well as maximize the value of recruiting methods already in use.

Now that the concrete industry is recovering from economic woes, most contractors report that they have more work than they can comfortably do. This makes the hiring process more important than ever.

The traditional recruiting strategies include online recruiting, job fairs, high school/college presentations, employee referral or word-of-mouth, staffing companies, search firms, “old school” methods, and stealing your competitor’s workers. Some of these strategies work in the concrete industry, but some of them are not very good for finding labor. Let’s take a closer look.

Online recruitment works for employers seeking younger workers, i.e. those who have and regularly use smart phones and social media. Unfortunately, it is rare that these workers will last more than a couple of weeks in the field before they move onto something new and different.

Job fairs hosted by schools and alumni offices generally share the same fate as online recruiting. When job fairs are hosted by a local chamber of commerce, they may bring a richer mix of recruits to you but generally the recruits will be looking for professional or staff positions instead of field labor jobs.

High schools and colleges are increasingly being used to find field laborers. Some contractors report success working with the school’s coaching staff or vocational crafts faculty. Coaches want to keep their athletes in shape during the off-season. Since most contractors are placing concrete during the summer months, this means that you want to look for athletes in winter sports because they generally cannot start practice until around October 1 and their season will end in early spring. Remember that OSHA restricts what younger workers can lawfully do, so you will want to make sure that your student recruits are old enough to perform the work.

Word-of-mouth recruitment can be the best source for finding keepers. Basically, you start by asking your good workers to bring their friends to work. Unlike traditional systems where you might pay your worker a bonus for bringing a new worker, given the nature of this work, it probably makes better sense to pay your worker multiple bonuses tied to the new hire’s longevity. Perhaps a bonus at 30, 60, and 90 days makes the most sense.

Staffing companies can be an expensive way to find labor, but they can be useful. To be truly effective recruiters for you, the staffing company really needs to understand the work and the job you are trying to fill. Consider inviting the staffing company representative to a job site so that you can demonstrate the work in person. Ideally, the staffing company is not paid just for bringing a worker on board, but instead is paid a little at first and more as the worker keeps working.

Search firms are generally not much good for finding laborers. They are focused more on the professional positions in your organization.

“Old school” recruitment includes methods we used before the advent of social media and modern telecommunications. These include posting notices at grocery stores, laundromats, bowling alleys – anywhere there is a bulletin board. You can also try newspaper advertising but that is a little more expensive. The “art” of this recruitment is how you describe the job and your company. Be certain to give a range of compensation and benefits that will be attractive to the average reader. Consider advertising a bonus system for keepers.

Stealing your competitor’s workers is always tempting but problematic. The worker lured by an extra dollar an hour can easily be lured away from you. Plus, you won’t retain many friends in your area if you are known to take good workers away from others in your industry.

Before starting a recruitment program think about where your best workers came from. Go back there. At the same time, think about where your worst workers came from and vow to ignore those sources of recruitment completely.

For any small to medium sized contractors, these additional recruitment tasks can become quite burdensome, especially when you see good workers leave after a few weeks. That suggests that maybe it is time to “retool” the HR function within your business.

In the past we have looked at the traditional process for hiring. Perhaps, at least for field labor, we can abbreviate some of that hiring process to make it easier for most contractors to recruit keepers. We’ll look at that in the December 2015 issue.