Ah, the good old days. Remember when practically every operator or technician you hired grew up running tractors on the family farm? Or spent evenings with dad or grandpa in the shop tearing engines apart and putting them back together?
For better or worse, we’re not passing on those skills from generation to generation like we used to. That’s been tough on the construction industry, where the worker scarcity and skills shortage are well-documented. And that means many contractors are now hiring workers with little to no construction background. That’s true even in management positions, where degreed employees come in with textbook training but often minimal hands-on experience.
Sound like your operation? Here are a few recommendations to help you and your non-construction hires succeed:
1. Find out where they’re starting from.
Like all industries, construction comes with its own special jargon, processes, tools and technology. Don’t assume a new hire coming from another field understands any of this. Ask what they know — encourage them to be honest — and tailor your training around their needs. Let’s say you’ve just hired a couple new employees who previously worked in retail. Safety should be a huge focus as they move from a controlled indoor environment to a more precarious outdoor one.
2. Set up a 90-day plan.
Every business wants employees who can start contributing on Day One. But that’s probably not realistic if you’re hiring someone with little or no construction experience. Instead, set up an orientation plan for new hires that lays out what you expect from them AND what they can expect from you during the first few months on the job. What training will you provide? What tasks, projects and areas of the job will you expose them to? What milestones do they need to meet along the way? Many contractors use a 90-day plan, but you may find 60 days, 120 days or some other timeframe works better for your business.
3. Assign them a mentor.
Whatever you do, don’t leave new hires alone to figure things out. Pair them up with a work buddy — a more seasoned employee or someone you’ve assigned specifically as a trainer. New employees need someone who can show them the ropes, answer questions and get them involved in a way that their supervisor just can’t.
Onboarding employees with minimal construction experience might be challenging, but there are advantages, too. One is no baggage. These new hires present a clean slate, which means you can train them in your culture, your techniques and your processes. Two is a different perspective. Construction doesn’t have a monopoly on the best way to approach every problem. One of your new employees may offer up a solution or idea that changes the way you do business for the better.
Think of it this way: There are a lot of great prospective employees out there who have never been exposed to construction. You could be the one who helps them fall in love with our amazing industry.