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Human resource strategies for recruiting and retention

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

As the construction industry continues to be challenged by labor shortages, successfully deployed strategies and tactics for attracting and retaining employees become paramount.

It starts at the beginning

It should come as no surprise that retention starts during the recruiting process. Whether they are experienced hires or early in their careers, candidates form their initial impressions of an employer based on the ease of applying for the job and how quickly they receive a response. While there is still debate within the construction industry regarding the best methods to use for job applications, the optimum solution is a digital strategy where candidates can apply from a computer or mobile device. Use of applicant tracking systems to manage the process provides automatic acknowledgement of receipt of an application, immediate routing of candidates to hiring managers, and scoring or ranking of candidates—all enhancing the speed to hire.

Interviews also are a crucial element to the retention process. Far too often, whether a company is in growth mode or experiencing turnover challenges, recruiting becomes a grind. Hiring managers find themselves engaging in a marginal “selling and telling” process, rather than investing time in understanding the candidates’ needs, expectations and failing to provide realistic job previews. Realistic job previews do not simply tell candidates what to expect; they allow candidates to experience the positions by walking and observing the work areas or job sites. For example, simply telling a potential new hire to prepare for hot or cold temperatures is relative; cold in Texas may be 50 degrees, while cold in Boston may mean 20 degrees. Having candidates experience the jobs for themselves will help prepare them for the environment and the job sites.

Orientation is another challenge for the industry, especially in the field where a new hire’s Day One experience is typically the completion of documents and basic safety training. Simple but important things such as meal breaks and on-site facilities communicated in advance of Day One equip an employee to be prepared.

Employees also want to know the history of the company they work for and the opportunities that exist for growth and development. More importantly, they want to understand what they should be doing—and how they should be doing it. The procedures for every company are different, the reporting structures are different and the terminology is unique to its culture. Investing the time in showing new hires “our way” allows an employee to become more confident and productive.

Employees do compare notes

It is no surprise that employees do discuss their employment experiences and while employees may not always like or appreciate what is offered, a higher level of satisfaction is achieved when what is shared reflects a consistent employee experience.

The consistent employee experience is achieved when information regarding any terms and conditions of employment is accurately communicated. The most efficient and reliable method is again through use of technology. Human capital management systems that provide employees the opportunity to self-serve and access policies, benefits information, important company information and notices—in multiple languages—can eliminate the risk of information being miscommunicated or misrepresented.

I want to stay, but…

According to the Work Institute, 75% of employees who left their company could have been retained.1 The top three reasons employees cited for leaving included career development (22%), work-life balance (12%) and manager behavior (11%). For the construction trades to make progress in convincing candidates to consider construction as a career, career development must employ a well-planned and effectively communicated strategy. Career development should include communicating knowledge, skills and abilities that a worker must possess to achieve growth, resources to support the growth, and actionable, scheduled and timely feedback that allows employees the time to enhance or correct their behavior.

But for employee development strategies to be effective, managers must clearly understand their roles and responsibilities as well as the expectations leadership has regarding employee development. This can only be achieved by developing, deploying and maintaining a robust management development program.

It continues to be a workers’ market, with low rates of unemployment and the narrow pipeline of candidates considering careers in construction. However, with an investment in people, process and technology, construction company leaders can make positive inroads in recruiting and retaining good talent.


1“2019 Retention Report: Trends, Reasons, & A Call to Action” (2019) Work Institute.

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