Canadian Contractor

By Christopher Smith   

Hiring help: Using social networks to connect contractors

Canadian Contractor Technology Trades & Hiring

Of all the challenges of running a construction company, none seem as daunting as hiring. The stakes are always high, and it seems that in today’s world, the chances of success are very low. Not a day goes by without a stark reminder that our post-COVID world is not what it used to be. With numbers of new faces entering the skilled trades at an all-time low to a housing shortage of epic proportions, it’s no wonder that hiring is now one the biggest challenges we face.

Whether you use platforms like Indeed or Zip Recruiter or you are a little more old-school and put an ad in the classifieds, you have probably noticed that all of those wells are running pretty dry these days. Maybe one of your subs has retired and you have had to call around to find a new one. It doesn’t take too many calls before you realize things are not well. Of course, you get plenty of people who say they can do the job but how many actually turn out to be the real deal when it comes time to perform?

Well, there might be some good news on this front and thanks to its predecessors, it might work. Think Uber for your job site, except with this app, you don’t get a car, you get a skilled trade by the hour or a sub to quote on your project.

Cellphones and phone apps have single-handedly changed every aspect of how we go about our day-to-day business operations. They allow us to have a level of accountability and interaction with goings on of each of our projects that leaves me, at times, wondering, just how we managed without them. I think this next wave of construction-centric apps just might have the same effect.

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The nuts and bolts of these apps are deceptively simple as they leverage the social network effect to provide an accountable resource to help us better choose our next hire. The framework puts the workers/trades front and centre and allows us to rate them based on their performance. From the worker/trades perspective, if they do well, they get a good rating and the more positive ratings they have, the more money they can ask for their services. Just like a good Uber driver can get more than a not-so-good one. We of course want our hires to do a good job and so this ecosystem allows us to have a fighting chance that might happen.

This is just in its infancy but like with any emerging trend, adoption is the key to success. Love or hate social networks, it is undeniable that they are very effective at aligning incentives through social proof. Which, in my mind, is a lot better than anything we get with any other hiring option we have today, but they only work if we use them and encourage others to do the same. Without that, none of it works and I think that would be a shame, as we need every tool we can find to help us run better businesses.

If you are wondering, the app I am currently signed up with is UBILD. I was referred to them by a colleague and after speaking with its founder Matteo, I really believe they were the best fit for my business. They are not the only ones though, I recently heard a similar presentation from Crew up and I am sure there will be more coming, especially if widespread adoption happens.

As with all things you will have to do your homework to find the one best suited for you and your business. It is more the concept that intrigues me, as these apps can potentially enable us to use our limited skilled trades workforce more efficiently, which can’t be a bad thing. Especially when you consider what we are up against hiring anyone in today’s world.

Christopher Smith is the owner and founder of Woodsmith Construction Inc, a design and build renovation company that has specialized in working with older homes in the east end of Toronto since 2001. His passion for everything to do with older homes was rooted in his early childhood experiences working on Victorian homes in Cabbagetown with his architect/builder father. He is a Red Seal Carpenter and a BCIN registered designer. Woodsmith Construction has completed a wide range of projects, including full-home renovations, additions, and restorations. 

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