Our industry requires unique skills and experience — here’s a step-by-step guide to hiring right, the first time.
Like any business, you have designed yours to grow. However, business success can sometimes be felt as “pain points” – when your business has grown so much that you need more help.
For many businesses, growth happens gradually. Yet with some, it can come up suddenly, after landing a large new account, such as winning a tender to build a block of flats, or expanding your service offering.
Hiring in the trades and labour market has its own set of criteria, challenges and responsibilities. Hiring staff might also help you to refocus and redefine your own role as a business owner. Here is some great hiring advice from similar businesses that will help pave the way for hiring successfully — whether it’s your first skilled trades employee, or your thirtieth.
1. Identify the person you need BEFORE you begin considering candidates.
This sounds obvious – but knowing precisely what type of employee you need will significantly help you hire and retain them down the road.
To do this, write down the job description of the employee you need for your construction business. Be as specific as possible, and let no detail be spared. Just write down bulleted points as they come to mind — these will be your notes to use later. If you can afford the time, take a day or two and come back to review what you’ve written.
As you need specific skilled labour, your needs are unique and different from other service businesses – so capturing all the criteria will not come naturally in just one sitting. You may decide you need an expert stone mason, for example, with a large body of local work under his belt. After considering your clients, however, you may realise that people skills are also important, as well as juggling the demands of multiple — sometimes incredibly demanding — property managers or town planners.
Capture the role of the person you need today – and tomorrow. As in any business, roles change and evolve over time. Undoubtedly, this one will, too. So, build in a few points at the end of your write up to include additional responsibilities over time. This will add to your expectations – as well as give incentive to new employees who may be eager and energized to grow in their role.
Once ready, have a professional friend who knows your business review what you have drafted. Allow them to give you feedback and suggestions, and truly listen to what they have to say. Thinking about your business needs from more than one perspective will help make the role stronger.
2. Turn your notes into a real, “marketable” job description.
This is a critical juncture when looking for a new employee – especially in the construction job market. Jobs are plentiful in this industry — so make sure your job description is precise and one that a talented person would want to apply for.
Take the notes you’ve written for yourself (in the previous step) and turn them into an actual external job posting. Be as specific and concise as possible — as well as professional. Toss aside any chatty jargon.
Do you need someone who can interact with customers on a daily basis? Someone who can handle the physical demands of mulching a garden bed or refinishing a hardwood floor for 4-5 hour periods before breaks? Be honest in your job description and set real expectations for the work and abilities required — this will save you the time and effort of hiring the wrong person and having to “rehire” in the long run.
Don’t forget to ask for details — for example, whether or not they have a suitable driving licence for the vehicles you’ll need them operate. While some of these qualities may seem given or obvious to you, your potential new hire might gloss right over them. Think of these details as mandatories that should be mentioned now.
Make sure your job posting is inviting, not too “wordy” and attractive enough to spark interest. It is perfectly fine to end your write-up with something like, “For more information please email or call us at …” to see which candidates take the initiative to reach out to you. If they initiate contact, it not only shows real interest, but also starts a dialogue – one that may grow into a positive, long-term working relationship.
3. Post that job!
Once you’ve perfected your job description, it’s time to post it and find your perfect candidate.
In the UK., the best sites to place skilled trades and labour jobs are:
All three of these sites are popular among individuals seeking construction and professional trades jobs.
Remember, once you have settled on a candidate or shortlist of applicants and no longer need the job advertisement, then remove the listing. It is simply good, professional protocol and won’t attract any additional candidates or unwanted emails.
4. Expand your candidate pool by going offline.
In today’s age of social media-induced “over-sharing” and technical immediacy, you may be under the impression that finding the ideal candidate would be conducted entirely online. While your online efforts are important, good old-fashioned networking still holds a significant amount of merit.
Your candidate “pool” is most likely local and in the construction job market it can be tight and competitive — so reach out in real life, as well as digitally, to spread the word about your opening.
Here are two “offline” ways to attract more candidates locally:
- Ask around.
Most candidates connect with employers simply by “knowing someone who knows someone.” Use local meetings, open houses, chamber or speaker events, industry gatherings and even your personal networks as opportunities to get the word out about your job opening and find people.
Even personal and informal settings, such as at community or social events, may create the opportunity to let people know you’re looking for a good worker to fill a specific role. Yes, this may sound basic — but you may be amazed at how many people skip this step — and how willing others might be to help connect you with great potential employees.
- Stay in touch with your previous employees.
This is one tactic that many employers overlook. When a former employee leaves your company on good terms, keep your business relationship with them current and healthy. Have lunch once in a while — even consider sending them your “overflow” projects.
In return, they may be happy to connect you with someone else they know in the local construction and outdoor services market. And, who knows, they may even return as an employee in the future.
5. Know your role – and realize it may change with your new hire.
Running a construction business means you’re a very hands-on individual. You’ve literally built your business from the ground up.
Having the need to bring on a new employee is great, theoretically — but it can have its downsides. While you’re probably happy that your business is growing, you’re also likely so busy that finding the time to search for the right person to join your business may feel like just one more thing on your already-full plate.
At this moment, the best thing that you can do, for both your business and your own mental health, is embrace the fact that your role is evolving. At least part of the work that you have been handling will now be given to someone completely new — maybe be a percentage of your role and another employee’s – or entirely from your current workload.
Again, whether this new individual is your first hire or your thirtieth, you will be taking on the added role of managing someone new to your construction business. While you will eventually want them to “own” their responsibilities and operate as independently as possible, you should also anticipate their learning curve and the litany of questions they’ll likely ask as they settle into their new role.
Be as patient as you can. Choosing, growing and mentoring the right employee will naturally take time.
6. Consider starting with a temporary arrangement.
In the field of construction, hiring a new employee is like dating – in some cases, even marriage. Think about it — you make big decisions with your employees, sometimes communicate with them as often as your spouse and need to make sure you have the right personality fit to make things run smoothly.
It is common practice for small businesses in our industry to bring every new employee on as a contract worker for one year before considering full-time employment. After this one-year “engagement” phase, employers sit down with their potential employee to discuss the new person’s performance. If everything went well, they are offered a position with the company. The benefit of this practice is that everyone – employer and employee alike – has the chance to see if this is a good performance match, but it allows you to see if they are a good fit with your current employees and culture.
Across the UK, well-paying construction and skilled labour jobs are plentiful and workers are often seeking guaranteed job security without waiting a full year for an employment contract. For us, a shorter “trial” approach may work well. Perhaps, you could suggest a one-month to three-month trial period for your new employee, with a review and potential job offer session at the end.
A contract period should give you a much better idea if your new person is a great fit for the role you have to fill (and your business) than if you simply brought them on board after an hour or two of interviews. Should you take this approach, write down very specific goals and expectations for your candidate to meet at the end of your 30, 60 or 90-day trial.
Whether your employee trial period lasts for three months or one year, suggesting a trial period may immediately tell you something about your potential construction or outdoor services employee. If your candidate is confident about their skillset, they will likely welcome the idea of a trailing their services – and the opportunity to prove how much they can help you and your business.
7. Check up on their background.
While a prospective employee may interview well and seem like a great fit with your team, it is critical for you both to ask about and independently check their background.
When you make an offer for employment with your construction company, it should always be contingent on them passing the following checks:
- A reference check
- A criminal background check
- A drug screening
When you check on these items, record each response and each piece of information you find. While a not-perfectly-squeaky-clean record may not bar a candidate from being a good employee for your company — a speeding ticket in the past doesn’t mean past doesn’t mean they couldn’t be a careful driver now — know your standards for hiring and document anything that you might feel falls below them.
Failure to meet your standards on any one of these checks gives you the right to revoke your offer of employment, should you find something that you feel is a threat to your business. Also, as your construction or outdoor services work likely requires physical activity, you may want to ask your candidate to pass a pre-employment physical to verify that they are physically able to perform their role.
If you have other employees and can afford the time, schedule separate “mini-interview” sessions (perhaps 15-20 minutes each) to have them interview your candidate as well. Then, follow up a few days later to gain their feedback and comments. Working well with your current team is a crucial factor in your new candidate’s future success at your company, and your current employees may notice something that you’ve accidentally overlooked with your new candidate.
8. Never stop looking for good people.
While you have the right to dismiss an employee (for justified reasons) at any time, conversely, they also have the right to resign at any time. And sometimes, you can lose an employee who you hoped would “stay forever’ due to factors completely out of your control — an out-of-state move, a career change or a competitive business with deeper pockets or a bigger benefit budget.
That’s why it is important that you always have an eye out for talented individuals in your area with the construction or outdoor services experience your company needs. Aside from the concern of people leaving your company, a great employee may come along when you’re not actively hiring. In that instance, you can keep the relationship with them strong for down the road when your company is ready to bring them on.
9. Create an attractive company to work for.
Even in the most closely-knit construction business, your company culture is key – especially when you are small. Your employees literally work shoulder-to-shoulder with one another and depend on each other every day.
They depend on you as their employer to lead by example and set the tone for how they communicate, operate and manage their own projects along with your expectations. While you want to find and retain the right employees for your business, you also want to be a preferred employer in your field. After all, it’s the most reliable way to find and keep them.
You’ve worked many long and hard hours to get your business where it is today — and you know, every project you earn takes careful planning and execution to complete well. On the flip side, the same amount of skill, planning and time are also needed when hiring your construction or outdoor services employees whether they are experienced specialists, new trainees, seasonal workers or anything in between. They define your business to your clients – and your company’s future.
Put the time and effort needed into attracting, retaining and mentoring the kind of employees that reflect the business you put your life and livelihood into. It’s an effort you won’t regret.
For more guides and information relating to construction and trades professionals, join our Facebook Group: Advice2go for UK Trades Professionals