How to Recruit Great People

In the construction industry, recruiting is always a hot topic. First, you struggle to find the right people. And then you struggle to retain and grow the workers you have. All the talk of the “Great Resignation” highlights how challenging a hiring environment employers face today.

Recruitment shouldn’t be a zero sum game. When it comes to finding employees, it’s important to look further than simply trying to hire away your competitors’ workers. Sure, it may minimize the amount of training you have to do, but you’ll still need to know how to compete against other industries, like those attractive new tech companies that seem to pop up every day.

As Blount noted, “The shortage we're seeing isn't going to be solved by taking each other's employees. It is going to be solved by marketing and branding your companies to get those who aren't in the industry into it, to help them to see the advantages.”

Making your workplace more attractive to candidates.

Blount acknowledged that their brand “is a huge part of us just getting a lot of good applicants. The other thing I think is people don't realize the power of social media,” said Blount. “You can get a lot of applicants, very targeted applicants, through social media.” Instagram and LinkedIn offer all sorts of connection opportunities, especially with younger workers.

The Blount Contracting leadership, all of whom are under 50, have learned a lot from their acquisition by the Clyde Companies, a 100-year-old organization. The mix of perspectives is valuable. “We're gonna be so much stronger because of it,” said Blount. “Because there's things that we're learning from them. There's a lot of things they're learning from us. And we're kind of meshing those together. And it'll be super strong.”

This kind of sharing culture can organically help bring in recruits. And a bonus: If your people love what they do, they won’t keep it a secret for long.

Also look at your policies and procedures to see where they’re tripping up your recruiting and retention efforts. For example, if the policy is, you damage something, you’re gone, then you’re creating an environment of fear where nobody reports damage. Anyone can have an accident, even a good operator, who tends to learn from their mistake and not repeat it.

As Blount advised, “Don't be quick to fire, because, if you teach through mistakes, you're going to get a really strong person, right? Like, we don't get stronger without lifting weights. You need that resistance.” Being challenged and failing is a part of the process. He also sees parallels between being a leader and being a parent: You don’t give up on your kids for their first mistake.

Working through issues strengthens your company’s culture. “It'll bring more people in, because they see like, hey, they care about people. We all say that. But, at the same time, did we really care about people if we fired them because they hit something? That's saying it, not doing it.”

Along with not being too quick to fire, look at how well you’re helping an entry-level laborer see his or her potential career path and providing them with training. “I think, as an industry, we've gotten better at saying, ‘Hey, here's a career path’ if you’re a project engineer,” said Blount. “Maybe you're a laborer, and you want to become an excavator operator, that's what you want to do. I'm not sure that there's many companies who really have a clear way for an entry level laborer to get where they want to be.”

Patience and communication.

Blount is a big fan of informal mentoring — often in the form of walking around a job site and sharing what he notices. From being put into a leadership position at an early age, Blount also respects the importance of being patient with early-career workers. He advises looking back on your own career and acknowledging the mistakes you made. Today’s workforce is looking for more mentoring and involvement, and a patient teacher can make all the difference.

The other important factor is communication — a skill that not everyone has developed. Ask questions. Look for gaps in people’s understanding. Make sure you’re being understood. Goals that are understood can more easily be shared.

Another reality is that the dirt world has changed. People still work hard and still build stuff, and the industry has matured quite a bit, whether people like it or not.

For an older worker, understanding that the younger generation coming up “doesn't necessarily have to learn like you and probably shouldn't learn like you because the industry has changed,” Blount said, is important. And then, for the younger generation, it’s “understanding that this older generation, they're sometimes harder on you because that's how they were taught. Understanding that the industry has changed — is changing — is a huge, huge insight that a lot of people don't necessarily have.”


One opportunity that Blount sees that would really make a difference is recruiting more women. With 50% of the country’s population being women, your talent pool doubles.

In creating an environment that will attract more workers, he also recommends tackling one issue at a time, whether that’s diversity, training, or culture change. The quickest fix? Informal mentoring. “It’s so easy,” said Blount. Plus, it can lead to progress across your organization as others start replicating your behavior: “Your culture changes. Your people get better. There's a lot of things we need to do. But mentoring is an easy one.”

“Just look at, 'Where can we get better? How can we improve it?' And go do it,” summarized Blount. “And don't bite off too much. Step by step, and you'll make a difference.”

One key step to making a difference? Partner with other companies to raise awareness and pave career paths in this industry. Remember, when everyone works together, you’ll all have a bigger talent pool to pull from—and that’s a good thing! In fact, there's already one community working to unite the industry and solve its people problem. It's called Better Dirt World, and it's a great opportunity for you to work with other leaders to help the industry and your business thrive.  

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