Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Set yourself up for hiring success

Canadian Contractor

It’s as much about you and your company as it about the candidate

Attracting the best available workers to your company, and then keeping them, is a prime responsibility of any owner of a residential construction or renovation contracting business. The skilled trade shortage across the country makes it a continual challenge maintaining a strong company going forward, let alone growing it. Maybe these ideas will help.

PART ONE: Plan your search
Always be hiring

Don’t wait to start your search for a new employee when your work load picks up. It leaves you fishing in a smaller pond because everyone else is doing the same. Keep your eyes and ears open year round. It might mean a bit of extra salary bringing them on board early, but it also means you have a better chance of finding the person with the right skill sets and character.

Widen your search
Skilled trades are in high demand in most regions of the country. If you’re looking for younger trades or apprentices, developing a relationship with the local community college or tech training centre is a great start. In Ontario, the journeyman-to-apprenticeship ratio will soon drop to 1:1 like the rest of Canada. That will open up possibilities for bringing in keen younger trade workers to both replace those planning to retire from the workforce and to grow your company. There’s also online sites like Kiijiji, your company Facebook page, and local job fairs. Use them all.

Happy employees can be a great source too. It’s called building an Employer Brand. A&G Roofing in Orillia, ON has found top notch employees through their current team. “Seventy per cent of the employees here knew each other before they started,” Adam, an A&G roofer, told Canadian Contractor. “Two of them are my family members. If employees recommend their own firm as a good place to work, that’s the best thing.”


photo: John Bleasby

Be clear about what you are looking for
You need to be clear and well-defined in your job descriptions. It’s tough for candidates to respond if they can’t figure out at least the basics of the job and the hours being offered. At the same time, don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If a prospect doesn’t have the skills or education you are looking for, move on. No one will be happy if their skills and your needs don’t match.

Plan your job interview
First, show respect and professionalism by setting up an appropriate time and place to meet the candidate — a casual chat in your truck by the side of the road doesn’t send a great message. Next, develop questions that will open the prospect up to reveal their character. Have an easy easy-going conversation so they don’t clam up due to nervousness, and try not to lead the candidate into saying what you want to hear.

Ask for references and check them
Cynics might say that no prospect would submit a bad reference, but ask for references and check them out. Use your intuition just like you do when you meet prospective clients — you might pick up on a remark that might be a positive or a negative.

Talk technology
Your company should already be embracing job site and project technology in some form. It can be as simple as phones and tablets to communicate within the team, to track project activity, and pass on important details. The younger the candidate, the more tech-literate they are. Tell them how it plays a role in your company.

Look beyond the skills to the character
TV renovation personality Paul Lafrance describes his character-based approach to hiring in order to build team spirit and cooperation. “To me, resumes are like Facebook. Everybody is trying to put their best foot forward,” Lafrance told Canadian Contractor. “We want real people, people who have a story and aren’t afraid to tell it.” Janna, Paul’s wife and business partner explains further. “We don’t want a group of people working side by side with their individual skills. We want synergy so we are actually supporting and complementing each other.”

photo: John Bleasby

Offer competitive wages
You don’t want to get into a bidding war. Plus, successfully hiring someone purely on the basis of a wage might attract the kind of person willing to leave when a better hourly rate is offered elsewhere. Nevertheless, quality people deserve a competitive wage.

PART TWO: Sell your company
What’s so great about your company? Why would anyone want to work for you? Prospective employees will want to know about the number of hours they can expect, and about the potential for personal or professional advancement. Benefits are important too. If you have a subsidized or matched contribution pension, drug or health plan, it can be a big attraction for an employee with a family.

Talk training
Some employers might be concerned that, after making an investment in employee training, they’ll simply up and leave for a better job elsewhere. Sure, it can happen, but more often it actually helps retain employees when they know you are prepared to improve their skills and knowledge through courses and mentoring. While current employees will value that investment, those considering joining your company will value it too.

Your company culture matters
Brian Audia, owner of A&G Roofing in Orillia, ON made a commitment to improve his family’s business culture when he took over from his father. “We exist to build and encourage strong families,” Audia told Canadian Contractor. “That extends to how we treat our customers — like family.” And it doesn’t have to be all about money either. As Audia points out, “We’ve turned attention to our employees and invested in them. We make sure they know this is a safe place to work practically, socially, emotionally and mentally, that they will be treated well, taken care of, and that we care.”

PART THREE: Keep your current employees, don’t lose them
Your commitment to the points raised here must be followed by meaningful action — training, career fulfillment, effective use of technology, competitive wages and benefits, good communication and encouragement among all members of the team. Keeping true to the promises you made to your employees and to yourself will likely reduce the chances of a good employee leaving to join another company, often a competitor.

Making a strong case for why your company is a great place to work will attract the best job applicants to your business. Making good on those commitments will keep them.

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