Recruitment Tips for Your Construction Business
The last two years have not been easy when it comes to hiring. According to JazzHR’s industry report, only 37% of workers feel they are paid fairly, and a whopping 40% of people are actively looking for a new position, most of them outside their current company.1 In construction, it can be even worse. The Bureau of Labor cites that 64% of employees 24 and under are likely to quit a job within the first three months.2
So how do you stop the bleeding and change your trajectory when it comes to hiring? We’ve compiled some advice for Dirt World companies on how to attract and retain great talent.
Start with Your Brand
Take a card from Randy Blount’s playbook, and start with your company’s brand. Branding is not only about how your teams and job sites look, it’s a huge factor when it comes to attracting talent. As Blount says, “the fact is that you have a brand, whether or not you actively work on shaping it. What your customers, local communities, and potential employees see on your job sites informs their view of you as a company and an employer: Is the equipment well maintained? Is any necessary signage clear? How do your employees interact with passersby or visitors to the site?”
Blount built Blount Contracting from the ground up by doing branding on purpose. “We’re outperforming the industry,” he notes, “so it can’t be hurting us.”
The Blount team focused on sticking with one shade of grey and defining their logo, mission statement, and company voice. Their branded hard hats, branded t-shirts, and that trademark Blount grey have earned them a reputation in the Southwest that’s bigger than they are.
You don’t have to invent a new persona when it comes to branding, you just need to tell your real company story. Sargent, a construction company based in Maine, developed the Sargent Construction Academy with that in mind—courses built around their company story and culture that help train new hires and introduce them to the Sargent Brand.
New evidence suggests that a compelling story is the greatest factor motivating young people. According to a recent report from Forbes, “Millenials are all about working for or starting purpose-driven companies.”3 Developing a powerful mission statement, identifying your company story, and clarifying your company values are all part of identifying your brand and being noticed by potential candidates.
Be known for treating employees well.
Generally speaking, 90% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations over reviews and written evaluations.4
If you’ve been in the Dirt World for half a second, you know that everyone talks. So when they talk about working for you, make sure they have good things to say. The way to do it? Actually treat your employees well. Companies that complain that “there’s no good help these days” are often the same companies that offer low wages, long hours, and poor healthcare plans.
Make waves on social media.
Social media isn’t trendy. It’s a must-do. When it comes to finding talent, you’ve got to be where the people are, and take it from a company built on the foundation of Aaron Witt’s social media—they’re on Instagram, etc.
You can do all the work of branding your company, but if you don’t tell your story to the wider public, it fails to reach job-seekers. Social media is the natural next step when it comes to telling your company's story in such a way that others will resonate.
Hire someone to help you execute consistently.
Don’t feel like you have the time to learn how to navigate social media well? Hire someone to do it for you. Does it cost money? Yes.
But with 3.6 billion users worldwide, and the average person spending 2-3 hours per day on social networks, you’re on the fast track to extinction if you’re not using social platforms to recruit and tell your story.5
Feature your people.
What does it mean to “tell your story” on social media? Alex Frias of Track Marketing suggests personalized, original images and text. If your culture is healthy, your people are an endless resource for capturing your brand story and telling it to some of those 2.6 billion job-seekers who are on their phones every day.6
That can look like featuring the workers on the front lines, which demonstrates that you value them, celebrate their achievements, and give them credit for the company's successes. Over her two decades spent working with Fortune 500 companies, Shawna Armstrong has seen firsthand that a company that uplifts its employees will win people to you, as opposed to a company that only pats itself and its leadership on the back.
Put job listings in the right places.
Do you know which social media sites are the most effective places to put a job ad? Are the people you want hanging out on Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? At college fairs? Should you be using an online job board? If so, which one(s)?
BuildWitt’s Hiring Director, Shawna Armstrong, says “To reach active job seekers, you can cast the widest net on the most commonly used job boards like Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and LinkedIn. The most efficient way is to use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to automatically distribute job postings to all those places, and funnel all applicants back into one place.”
You need to know where your potential new hire is looking for jobs, then get your ads where they will see them. The website Indeed is a great place to start, and a good HR person or recruiter will be able to help you engage with tools like Workable to help your job listings land candidates.
Make your job descriptions detailed and transparent.
This is important! You can only attract talent at the level of your job description. Take the following points into account when you’re writing job descriptions:
- Get the title right
- Engage the reader with a brief, dynamic description
- Avoid flowery language and adjectives, but do utilize personality and humor
- Focus job responsibilities on how the person can grow and develop their career using supportive, not demanding, language
- Focus on outcomes over tasks
- Have current employees help you write the descriptions
- Don’t solicit everyone—be specific about who you want and what traits they’ll need
- Edit ruthlessly for grammar, biased language, typographical errors, and vague phrases
- Preach culture, mission, and vision
Like attracts like. Take the time to create job descriptions that are clear, accurate, and engaging.
Be bold with your benefits.
There’s a reason enormously successful companies like Caterpiller and Turner aren’t afraid to publicize their benefits—they have a laundry list of thoughtful and practical perks that are designed to make their employees’ lives better in every area.
Talk about your benefits package on your website
You don’t have to be a multi-million dollar company to provide good benefits and let the workforce know. Local companies like Berg and Bemas have always made it their top priority to provide for their workers and families. Because of that, the information is easy to find on their website.
Use employee testimonials
Going back to the power of word-of-mouth advertising, don’t be afraid to quote your employees when it comes to how they feel about working for you. A brief survey with questions about employee benefits can provide you with sound bytes about your compensation package in the authentic words of the people who rely on it.
Using your employees in videos is a powerful way to attract new talent.
Be clear about training.
Are you committed to helping your employees grow in their careers? If so, describe the plans and mentoring structures that you have in place for team members to advance their careers. Coaching and HR company TLNT proves that the best way to increase engagement is to create a coaching culture.7 Improved engagement means more buy-in from employees, which in turn leads to attracting talent of the same quality.
And let’s be real, training shouldn’t be a perk. It should be the standard for any company that wants to succeed.
Make the process simple.
Shawna Armstrong’s idea for companies is almost too easy. “Apply to one of your own company jobs. Why not?” She recommends following it up by asking yourself these questions:
- Was the application mobile-friendly?
- Was the process quick?
- Was it easy?
- Did you receive an acknowledgment of your application? If so, what was the message and how did it make you feel?
- How long will you wait? Will you still be waiting several months later? Are you ever likely to get a response on your status?
Next time your team looks at the hiring process, consider, do you really need two interviews for the position? What about a third interview? The Harvard Business Review suggests that you minimize the complexity of getting hired wherever possible. Occam’s razor, or the law of economy, should govern your hiring process. Haven’t read any Occam lately? Just remember K.I.S.S.—Keep it simple, stupid.7,8
The competition isn’t the enemy.
In construction, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that other construction companies are your competition. After visiting hundreds of job sites, Aaron observes “everyone in this industry gets caught up in competing with everyone else, because of the bidding environment. You're always going head-to-head with other companies. So you get in your head ‘these are the enemies,’ but they’re not.”
In response, Randy Blount agrees that, in construction, “there’s no scoreboard. “We’re here to help each other attract and develop great people.” His words of advice? “Lead with questions.”
Steer clear of an us-vs.-them mindset, because every other company is in the trenches with you. Focus on branding, tell your story on social media, and treat your people well. Creating an atmosphere of encouragement and collaboration in your company is a big step toward attracting and retaining great talent—and it will change the whole Dirt World for the better. The hiring problem the industry faces can only be solved by evolving the way we approach people and working together.
That's one reason we started the BuildWitt Partners program: to come alongside construction and mining companies and work together to solve the industry's people problem. Our nearly 20 partners have been making huge strides. Now, we're taking it a step further—and you can join in.
Put these collaborative principles into practice as a member of Better Dirt World, a community of companies and individuals who are passionate about making the industry better. You'll get to unite with other businesses and leaders to pave career paths, raise awareness, and change perceptions of the Dirt World so the next generation of workers will get excited about being part of it.
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Meet the Expert
Marilee Brewer's philosophy on heavy civil construction is that everything—even the Bingham Canyon Mine and the Willis Tower—starts with ideas put into words. An avid writer and researcher, Marilee brings inspiration, storytelling, and human candor to Dirt World information. Her writing focuses on providing content that enhances user experience, improves engagement, and ultimately increases revenue. A trained Linguist and social media storyteller, ask her for story and social media writing tips.