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How to Build a Better Construction Hiring Process

Typically, during periods of economic turmoil, the construction industry takes a hit. Fewer families take the plunge into home ownership, businesses halt their expansion efforts, and new projects hit the pause button. But this recent economic downturn has been anything but typical.

In terms of projects and revenue, the construction industry is in the midst of vast success. Large businesses such as Tesla, Oracle, and HPE are breaking new ground in Texas which could portend a large scale commercial migration out of densely populated—and more importantly, heavily taxed—areas, namely Silicon Valley. 

In terms of housing, many believe the next American housing boom is already underway. In July of 2020, new home sales surged 55%, largely in part due to the millennial generation entering the housing market for the first time. With some lending companies having their best fiscal year ever, many believe the wild events of 2020 have ushered in a new era for the construction industry.

Identifying The Problems

So this all sounds great, right? What could possibly be the problem?

The truth is, the number of qualified, capable adults in the construction industry is trending in the wrong direction, and has been for some time. Just like in most industries, the pandemic has underscored and exacerbated the severity of the problem. Older workers are seeking alternative employment over virus fears, and the pipeline bringing young, new workers into the industry is, for lack of a better phrase, running dry. 

To make matters worse, even if you hire someone with a superb skill set, keeping them under your employ throughout the slow winter months can often prove too costly for small businesses. Large companies can lure talent away, leaving you back where you started—frantically looking for the next candidate. This vicious cycle doesn’t have to last forever.

The construction industry isn’t for everyone, but with competitive pay and benefits in a country struggling to stay employed, opportunity is aplenty. Let’s take a look at how your business can keep up with demand by demanding the best out of your hiring process.

Invest in Recruitment

Your hiring process may still resemble how it looked in the early days of your business. Sure, technology has evolved, but the core tenets of how your organization has scoured for talent has essentially stayed the same. With material costs rising as much as 50% this year, it can feel difficult, and almost irresponsible, to justify a total revamping of any facet of your business—especially the hiring process. 

According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 81% of construction firms are reporting difficulty filling both salaried and hourly skilled labor positions. To make matters worse, 25% of firms surveyed said they “have not done anything” in terms of investing in the recruitment, training, and development of skilled workers.

So what can you do to buck this industry trend? To start, seek out organizations that look to lend a helping hand when it comes to procuring and training talent. 

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) offers education, hands-on training, and mentorship programs to both individuals and organizations. Similarly, many schools have increased their vocational training, providing viable alternatives to those not seeking to pursue a traditional collegiate education.

The point here? Look to invest in the services of organizations that are forward-thinking in their methods of attracting young talent. As you continue to grow your network and hiring pipeline, the goal is to position your business as the gold standard for what employees can expect in the construction industry. 

Competitive Pay & Custom Benefits

One way to hire great talent? Pay them—a lot. The good news here is that “a lot” may not actually be all that much, relatively speaking. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary in the construction industry is about 20% higher than the median salary for all jobs. 

Seemingly in a semi-permanent state of “under construction” since 1776, American construction workers have no shortage of hours—especially given that the coronavirus related project delays have begun to pick up steam again. 

Competitive pay and availability of hours are obviously huge variables that employees consider when seeking work. The other substantial piece of the financial hiring puzzle is your company’s ability to offer benefits. 

Employee benefits, on their own, are necessary. Most construction workers wouldn’t think of accepting an offer from a company that wasn’t able to them (especially health). One way to stand out? Offer benefit packages that are customizable. 

According to MetLife’s 15th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 74% of employees say that having the ability to customize benefits to meet their individual needs is important when exploring a new job opportunity. Enhanced benefit customization goes beyond attracting new talent—72% of employees say that loyalty to their current employer would increase if offered customizable benefits packages.

The Future Is Female

Throughout the hiring process—in pretty much every industry—a decent amount of pigeonholing takes place. Our hubris inhibits us from seeing that our process could be flawed. When we think we know exactly what we want, we put up our blinders and disregard whatever else may be in our path, even if that path is riddled with valuable, young talent. 

Now, don’t misconstrue the point here—confidence in your process is a positive trait. But when it comes to hiring, it’s important to keep an open mind, even if you think you’ve found “the one.” 

To start, there’s one major area that the construction industry is lacking in—the number of women in the field. In 2019, women comprised just 10.3% of the construction industry workforce. While this number represented an uptick of .04% compared to the previous year, it is still a far cry from equality.

It’s certainly not fair to assume that construction companies turn away women—that’s far from the case. The issue begins much earlier, and is much more innocuous. Young women simply don’t seek careers in construction. Organizations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) are looking to change that. 

In the short term, they aim to be a viable resource that any woman interested in construction or contracting can turn to. Whether it be for education, networking, or career development, they seek to empower women in a field dominated by men. In the long term, they hope to make the current “boy’s club” of the construction industry a thing of the past. 

Enlist Construction ERP Software 

A plan is just a plan without the proper tools to see it through. When it comes to the jobsite, you know exactly what tools you need. But when it comes to the hiring process, do you know what should be in your toolbox?

Like everything else, it starts with organization. Between material costs, subcontractors, and winning bids, there’s a lot to think about before the thought of hiring is even mentioned. One of the most crucial assets you need to keep organized? Your list of desired candidates that you weren’t able to hire previously. Construction ERP software can manage all of this and more for your business.

Whether it was a down year, the offseason, or you simply didn’t have the payroll, there’s likely some candidates that you saw joining your business down the line. Too many times have those high quality job leads slipped through the cracks, getting lost in the shuffle over the years while their application gathered dust. Keep their resume, your notes about them, and all of their pertinent certifications in the same place the rest of your business runs.

While your new hires don’t necessarily need access to all of your business’s silos right away, it would make sense for all of your new and potential employees’ information to operate in the same space that the rest of your business does. 

This type of all-in-one platform improves efficiency across the board. You can immediately see how the qualifications of your new hires mesh your existing team, and how they can best contribute. While you pride yourself on maintaining an injury free workplace, you know all too well how things can go awry during a first day. Using technology to keep your new hires close and informed will help you mitigate the risk of any first day jitter-induced accidents.

Wrapping Up

As your business prepares for the work the coming year will bring, take a minute to think about what the years after that will look like. How much will your company grow? How will you empower the next generation of employees? How do you know where to invest your hard earned revenue?

During this self-reflection, remember to look at the facts. The demand for new projects—both commercial and residential—are abundant, but the employees—namely women—are not. Technology is here to help you along the way, but ultimately it will be you and the people you employ that continue to make your business successful for years to come. The future doesn’t wait for anyone, so make sure you go out and do something about it today. 

6 Methods Every Successful Manufacturer Needs to Know

Efficiency is always the name of the game. Every business owner tries to accomplish the same thing—to create a sustainable and reliable stream of income without overextending resources. How does this process begin? For manufacturers, it begins with planning and setting the stage for things to come. 

Brought to life in Japan during the 1960’s, the 5S method was first utilized in automobile production. Allowing manufacturers to substantially reduce workplace waste and distraction, the 5S method quickly expanded into other industries, such as government, finance, and education.

Since its inception, technology has changed. Well, more accurately, saying “technology has changed” in the last 50 years is like saying “the universe is large” compared to Earth. Though the original proprietors of the 5S method surely could not have foresaw the colossal changes that modern technology has ushered in, they would certainly stick to the original principles of the method to get things done.

Let’s take a look at how the 5S method can be modernized to fit 21st century manufacturing—and how 2020 has made the 6th S possibly the most important of them all.

Sort (seiri 整理)

The first “S” will be one that’s familiar to you. Basically, it’s taking inventory of your business. No, not just the raw materials and finished products, but everything.

Take time to carefully look around and inspect your surroundings. Account for every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Tools, machines, computers, desks, decorations, pencils—yes, everything. Ask yourself what value each object holds. Does it serve a purpose, or does it simply take up space?

The goal here is to remove clutter, distraction, and anything else that will hamper efficiency. If you have less items clogging up your operation, the less time it will take you and your employees to accomplish your tasks for the day. Certain technologies will facilitate the finding of inefficient processes within your organization, but it begins with you taking stock of all of the variables located in your physical workspace.

Set In Order (seiton 整頓)

At this point, you’ve taken stock of everything. You know where to find all of the spare box cutters, that the plants on the second floor surely haven’t been watered enough, and that the accounting department has seemingly taken control of your business’s pen supply. 

Taking stock of your office is great. You even managed to get a lot of old equipment out of the way that was just piling up dust. But now, ask yourself this—is everything arranged in a way that facilitates optimal efficiency?

For example, are all of the machines used to manufacture your most popular product grouped together on the floor? Are your accountants searching through jumbled spreadsheets in order to find accurate numbers? Are areas and objects appropriately labeled so that the efficiency of their use can be maximized?

Odds are that you’ve recognized—and possibly have tried to solve—many of these issues in the past. Instead of continuing to use band-aids to remedy a gunshot wound, set aside time to dive in and fix the issues at their source. It’ll be messy at first, but you’ll come out healthier on the other side.

Shine (seiso 清掃)

Finding the right place for everything wasn’t easy, but you think you’ve done it. Your employees are starting to notice the improvements, and you’re noticing improvements on their end too. There’s just that little extra pep in their step that comes with a renewed sense of professional pride and purpose.

As it always goes, the only thing harder than getting to the top (in terms of success, organization, building good habits, etc.) is staying there. You got rid of clutter, synced up your operations, and even put a dent in some things you’ve been putting off for a while. You can’t help but ask yourself  “how long can this last?”

Getting organized is a lot like driving a brand new sports car off the lot. Your endorphins are rushing, your confidence is soaring, and the world is at your fingertips. Then reality sets in—your gas tank hits E, your check engine light flickers on, and you find out your insurance company is upping your premium quite a bit compared to your Honda Accord days.

The truth is, you have to work hard to stay efficient and clutter-free. It won’t happen naturally. You and your employees will naturally stick to what you know, but don’t fret. Start each day by tidying up your processes and finish each day by sticking to them.

Standardize (seiketsu 清潔)

For a process or procedure to become truly standard, it needs to be consistently and thoroughly reinforced. This starts from the top down, but it takes a team to make it happen. 

How have you enabled your employees to stick to the system? What is their role in maintaining and upholding the standard? What will keep this all going smoothly?

The goal here is to establish protocols and procedures to keep the 5S method on track. The best way to do this is to keep everyone involved and to be transparent. Make it very clear to your employees what their roles are. The more empowered they feel, the more they will buy into the process you are implementing. After all, the success of your manufacturing operation lies within your employees.

As you continue to optimize your processes, positively reinforce the things that are done successfully and very clearly acknowledge the things that don’t. Ask your employees their thoughts—they could recognize an improvement to a process that you didn’t catch. Don’t let bad habits become the norm.

Sustain/Self-Discipline (shitsuke しつけ)

Your employees have gotten pretty good at following the new procedures you have in place. Heck, it seems they may be starting to like it. (As much as they can like something at work, anyway.) You’ve gotten into a good routine, made progress in areas that you’ve been lacking in, and have seen your employees follow suit.

As your company grows, you will have to continue to trim the hedges. Make sure that you organize training sessions—not just for new employees, but for existing employees to stay sharp, too. On the floor, your veteran employees are your ambassadors. You may not always be visible to new employees, so make sure that your experienced employees are setting the tone.

Your company won’t be immune to issues, but fear not—issues give rise to opportunities. Each procedural flaw that comes to light also brings with it a chance for improvement. Learn from your mistakes and make sure that they don’t happen again. Share your successes—and your mistakes—with your employees, too. Learning and growth happens as a team.

Safety (anzen-sei 安否)

Yes, workplace safety has always been a relevant concern, but it’s taken on an entirely new meaning in 2020. You’ve probably experienced your fair share of issues maintaining safety standards this year.

As you continue to streamline your business, personal safety needs to be at the forefront of that process. If your employees don’t feel as though they are being cared for, they won’t care about their work. It’s as simple as that. So in addition to hardhats, make sure that masks and sanitizer are sorted and set in abundance around your workplace.

This entire article has been focused on the importance of efficiency. And rightfully so—an efficient business is a profitable one. But this sixth “S” is about much more than the bottom line, it’s about the people who make your business a reality. Without taking care of them, you can’t take care of your business.

So, sometimes efficiency will take a little bit of a hit when you are abiding by necessary social distancing guidelines, or when your budget has to include a literal metric tonne of hand sanitizer. It’s ok—people come first. Efficiency and profits will follow close behind.

The 10 Types of Employees (And How To Manage Them)

Throughout your professional career, you’ve seen all kinds of organizational strategies. Ornately arranged Post-It’s, hundreds of Chrome tabs, chicken-scratch filled notebooks—you probably have employees that fit into each of these categories. 

When it comes to management, there’s no singular, correct way to get it done. Everyone manages their workload differently. And now that you’ve migrated out of the office and into the living room, that fact is truer than ever. 

Your employees will continue to work differently. That’s exactly how it should be. As a manager, one of your top priorities should be to recognize the subtle—and sometimes not-so-subtle—differences in your employees’ personalities and work habits. In doing this, you’re putting an emphasis on individual growth and success.

But at the end of the day, your job is ultimately to facilitate growth and success for your company. By recognizing the different types of employees that you have, you’ll be able to translate their individual successes into the overall success of your business. Let’s take a look at the different types of employees that make up your organization and how you can best manage them:

The Free Spirit 

Who They Are: The Free Spirit craves professional independence and freedom. They seek to have autonomy in their respective role, and prefer to dictate their own creative direction. Usually equipped with a positive attitude, the Free Spirit often leaves the team feeling refreshed. Being the Free Spirit comes with notable downsides, too—they are generally not fans of bureaucracy and constraints. There’s a good chance you won’t hear from them for a few days. Despite the occasional headaches, they continue to turn in high quality work time and time again.  

How They Work Best: To manage the Free Spirits within your company, it’s best to tread lightly. Make sure that boundaries and parameters are given, but resist the urge to micromanage. The Free Spirits’ strength comes from their ability to autonomously think outside the box. Give them the tools for success, but let them figure out how to use them.

The Grinder

Who They Are: The Grinder is the ultimate team player. Unlike the Free Spirit, they won’t go AWOL for days on end, but they might miss an email or two while neck-deep in a project. As the ultimate workhorse, you know that The Grinder is always ready to take on the lion’s share of the work. They’re the first person you turn to when you need something hefty accomplished. They may lack some charisma and leadership abilities, but they make up for it with talent and effort.

How They Work Best: The Grinder works best when given clear, direct instructions. Structure is a huge component of success for The Grinder. As you’re managing, make sure you spell out exactly what needs to be done. Sometimes you may be looking for someone to bring new ideas to overhaul a project—you may want to turn to someone other than The Grinder for that. But, The Grinder will deliver everything you asked exactly how you asked to have it done, on time with no questions asked. 

The Pathfinder

man hiking

Who They Are: Always searching for the newest and best way forward, The Pathfinder is one of the key innovators in your company. Passionate, engaging, and intelligent, The Pathfinder finds creative solutions to problems and elevates the quality of work for many around them. The Pathfinder is unafraid to take risks—that in itself is a double edged sword. At times, other team members can feel intimidated by them. There is never malicious intent—sometimes the energy and passion exuded by The Pathfinder can unintentionally dominate the conversation and stifle the ideas of others.

How They Work Best: People like this are often the ones who find ways to solve the biggest problems on your agenda. Much like a nuclear reactor, they are extremely powerful but need to be carefully controlled. When in meetings, it’s best that you make sure The Pathfinder is not totally dominating the discussion. Make sure their points are heard, but make sure that ample time is given to others, too. If you really want to motivate The Pathfinder, tell them that they won’t be able to achieve what you’re assigning them. Odds are, they’ll find a solution that few others could have.

The Mediator

Who They Are: Thank goodness for the mediator. You can’t remember any particularly great or awful ideas they’ve come up with on their own, but they’ve sure had an important role to play when it comes to getting your team on the same page. Compromise, structure, and stability make up the core components of The Mediator. Every idea, big or small, good or bad, is equal until proven otherwise. When juxtaposing ideas clash in the office, The Mediator is there to bring a sensible solution to the table.

How They Work Best: While their originality and technical ability leave a little to be desired, The Mediator sure knows their way around the politics of a company. Fortunately for you, The Mediator does not play office politics for personal gain, they are in it for the good of the whole. As a manager, you would be best served to consult The Mediator on a variety of issues. They may not be the driving force behind the start or completion of any particular project, but they sure know how to bring about a peaceful resolution. 

The Giver

a helping hand on a climb

Who They Are: No, this section is not about the dystopian novel. In your company, The Giver is someone who routinely seeks to contribute in areas where they have a strong sense of the difference they are making. Whether they’re leading the way with charitable endeavors or have joined in on a project that they feel will have a lasting, positive impact on the community, they are up to the task. The problem? Sometimes the work you do won’t align with their preferences.

How They Work Best: To get the most out of The Giver, assign projects to them that are customer-facing. They’ll often jump at the chance to service someone directly. If this isn’t an option, assign them to a role where they’ll be able to substantially contribute. The Giver is always open to collaborating. Give them a chance to address and present ideas to their entire team—maybe some of their altruistic tendencies will rub off. 

The Whiz

silhouette of person and nightime city sky

Who They Are: The Whiz’s technical ability blows you, and everyone else, away. It’s an unspoken acknowledgement among your entire company that they’re clearly the brightest bulb in the box. When it comes to solving a technical issue, there’s no one better. But, there’s some issues. They can be messy, disorganized, and not all that personable. Direction is a huge issue, and their commitment and work ethic have been called into question more than once. You’ve tolerated it because, well, they’re The Whiz. You know they don’t intend to slack off, but they get bored and distracted all too easily. 

How They Work Best: Here is where taking a granular management approach is prudent. The Whiz may scoff at times when given directions, but really, they are well aware they require structure in order to succeed. Pick and choose tasks specifically for The Whiz—work that’s too simple or mundane will ultimately bore them and derail the timeline of your project. You might be thinking to yourself, “It’s not really fair that they get preferential treatment when it comes to assignments.” You’re right, it’s not fair. Unless the rest of your employees can start operating at the peak that The Whiz can (spoiler alert: they won’t), that’s just how it should be. 

The Task Rabbit

person hunched over computer on desk

Who They Are: This person is often very recognizable—they are always asking you for more work and what to do next. The work ethic and organizational skills of The Task Rabbit are second to none, but their level of autonomy leaves a bit to be desired. They complete work quickly and completely. You may not be able to grant them the same level of responsibility given to The Pathfinder and The Grinder, but you know they’ll succeed at any moderately challenging task. 

How They Work Best: People like The Task Rabbit are extremely valuable. They can be utilized to keep other less organizationally skilled team members on track. Shyness and lateness aren’t terms in The Task Rabbit’s vocabulary. Outgoing, alert, and punctual, they can help The Free Spirit and The Whiz meet deadlines they otherwise would have failed to meet. Just make sure The Task Rabbit has their directions in writing—they can be sticklers for following the rules.  

The Confidant

businessmen talking late

Who They Are: While their technical skills don’t blow you away, they always prove to be among your business’s most valuable employees when it comes to fleshing out ideas. You certainly wouldn’t assign them the lead role on most projects, but there aren’t many that you don’t have The Confidant consulting on. Put simply, their input is extremely valuable. More than once, you’ve achieved an “Aha!” moment during a conversation with The Confidant. Your other employees have had similar experiences. The main impact they have on your company is often immeasurable and intangible, making it difficult to define what they’re best at. It’s certainly hard to put a finger on exactly how, but they always find a way to help. 

How They Work Best: The best thing you can do as a leader is not to overthink the role of The Confidant. Bring them in on a lot of different projects, ideas, and visions. Share with them some of the new and upcoming things your company is working on. The Confidant loves productive conversations, so keep their role simple. Shoot ideas back and forth—let your minds wander. Heck, maybe share a happy hour with them. You’ll be amazed at some of the insights you’ll gain from a relaxed, free-flowing conversation.

The Statistician

man thinking over chess board

Who They Are: They aren’t the loudest or most frequent contributors in meetings, but when they speak, the information they provide is valuable, informative, and backed by cold hard logic. They form a foundational piece of any of your major projects, and may be brighter than everyone besides The Whiz. Some may consider The Statistician a pessimist, but they will dispute this by asserting they are simply a “realist.” Never missing an opportunity to deliver hard-to-swallow yet valid truths about someone’s work, they provide more constructive feedback than one often wants. 

How They Work Best: Obviously, having someone whose work is dictated almost entirely by math and logic is important. It’s also important to have people that think the exact opposite way. Pair The Statistician with employees like The Giver and The Mediator in order to strike a productive balance between logic and emotional intelligence.

The Contrarian

Who They Are: Yes, we all know this person. When you do a Google search for “Devil’s Advocate” their picture will be the first to populate your screen. At this point, you aren’t entirely sure what their stance on anything is. But either way, when there’s a debate to be had, you know who you’ll find right in the middle of it. While The Contrarian may irritate some, including you, having this person around is valuable in the right context. 

How They Work Best: They work hard, they’re smart, and they’ve come up with solid contributions across the board. But they are who they are—a contrarian to the bitter end. People feel most comfortable in an echo-chamber. But when it comes to formulating the best possible or idea or plan, it would be a disservice to everyone involved if you don’t consult someone who is going to tear apart your idea bit by bit. Sure, The Contrarian often does this simply for argument’s sake. Around the kitchen table, they probably aren’t so pleasant. But in the (virtual) conference room, their knack for arguing the antithetical position comes in handy for everyone. 

Knowing Your People

Managing your employees is never a one-size-fits-all approach. All of your employees are unique in the way that they work—no different than the uniqueness of how they look, dress, and live their lives.

Most of your employees will probably fit one or more of the personas above. That being said, there will always be some that won’t. That’s one of the great challenges of leading a business—smoothly blending together people of all walks of life in pursuit of a common goal. 

Some employees will take the ball and run with it, some will need some training wheels. Some will pull brilliant ideas out of thin air, some will find ways to improve ideas already in motion. Some will thrive right away, some will take longer to acclimate. Stay in tune with your people and however they may operate. Being able to distribute work appropriately and efficiently will make you successful this year, next year, and every year after that.