Getting it Right

HULCEYou can leverage shared values to attract and retain top construction talent.   

By Sharon K. Hulce

As leaders within construction, how many of you have hired someone – you know, that guy or gal we “knew” would be amazing – and they ended up not working out at all? The people side of our industry is the toughest task we undertake. It’s easier to manage a bid, a project or a subcontractor to success than it is to get our own team right. Why is that?

Successful leaders ultimately understand that you grow organizations through people. While a company can make capital investments, buy new technology and add new innovation, it is the people behind these changes that make a company grow. So the companies that win, focus on their people. This includes all phases from hiring, onboarding, engaging and retaining.

So how can you make sure that the people side, the “culture” of your company is strong enough to attract and retain really talented people? Companies that do this piece well, through observation, have what we call a “defined culture.”  A defined culture is one that is built upon shared values from the leaders and bled into the organization from the top down.  

Think about it – a strong EQ leader credits their people and motivates the masses around a common purpose. While they also are smart, an IQ-driven leader tends to be more focused on profits and processes. That’s not bad, but you need both to grow an organization in the long term.

Shared values – what does that mean?  What we’re referring to is the “heart” piece of the organization. As we all know, most people hire with their head – the person has the right technical background and can do the job. The farthest we may go with the heart piece is, “I like him or her.” In order to truly understand if a person will integrate into your company, you need to have established guiding principles from your shared values on how you interact and behave with each other. These shared values set the tone for what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Companies that have strong “people first” cultures have shared values and everyone understands the organization’s purpose (the why we do what we do) and stakeholder engagement (for whom we do it).

This does not mean everyone has to think the same! Quite the contrary, we want people who will bring ideas and new innovations. What it is about is the core values system by which we interact and respect each other, and how we represent the company. 

So an example would be when a company says we are “family friendly.” What does that mean?  If your employee asks for time off to attend little Johnny’s ballgame and you say, “Wow, we’re really busy right now, could you skip this one,” are you really family friendly?  It may seem like a simple example, but that disconnect between what you say and how you behave is why most employees leave.  It is not normally about more compensation, which construction leaders tend to believe.  

Once values and guiding principles are established, it makes interview questions, onboarding processes and employee engagement so much easier. You can not only ensure technical prowess, but also know with a good amount of certainty that this person will “fit” inside your organization. They also will be clear on the company’s mission and purpose, something that is especially is important for today’s millennial candidates.

Another factor we are hearing from employees is their desire to have more say in what their career ultimately looks like. Millennials are openly talking about next steps and are aggressively pushing employers to promote early and often. While baby boomers often see this as a challenge, it actually can create accountability in having millennials own their career progression. This can be done through career-pathing.

Career-pathing is done typically during performance review time. Here’s the process we use – first the employee, not the supervisor, reviews their year. What do they believe was their great accomplishment? What key learning did they have? In what area did they struggle and would like more assistance?       

From this dialogue a one-year, three-to-five-year and long-term career path is established. Goals are set to match career path desire, and now the employee becomes accountable to the results. The path is now clear; they know exactly what they need to do to be promoted. While you as their supervisor may assist, it is up to the employee to accomplish the tasks for promotion. Once achieved, they now are eligible for promotion. As an executive search firm with a talent strategies consulting practice, we can tell which organizations career path and which do not. Those that already know the same path exists with their current employer are much less likely to leave than those who have no idea what’s next.  

The people side is tricky. There are many new dynamics cropping up we haven’t dealt with before. Baby boomers are retiring (10,000 a day nationally), but they are hesitant to transfer their institutional knowledge because it creates job security and they also believe it’s a waste of time since millennials leave positions, on average, between 18 months and 3 years. But that’s a whole different discussion for another article. A strong culture takes heavy lifting.  Is it worth it?  You bet; the fastest revenue growth and profit will only be realized if you get this piece right. 

Hulce headshotSharon K. Hulce is president and CEO of Employment Resource Group Inc. and a 21-year veteran of the executive search industry. She can be reached at (920) 996-9700 or [email protected]


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