One of my first large projects with Red Clover was serving as the interim HR Manager for a commercial roofing company. As a firm, we decided to specialize in working with construction companies (anything in, on, or around a building), because we believe that the trades industry, and tradespeople, have been underserved when it comes to having access to quality human resources services. Our experience working in the construction HR industry has uniquely equipped our team to bring substantial long-term and sustainable change to construction business practices that directly impact construction workforces.
1. Hiring and Recruiting Process
One of the unique experiences I wasn’t prepared for when I began sourcing technicians in the roofing industry was, generally speaking, individuals weren’t familiar with going through a formalized recruitment process. Standard industry practice was showing up at the office or calling someone at the company, proving your basic knowledge of the technical aspects of roofing, and being hired on the spot. Unfortunately, this has the potential for high turnover, because the business and the employee didn’t realize the person wasn’t a fit until they were already on the job. Low employee retention impacts employee morale and creates a large gap in a company’s ability to connect senior employees with new employees for information transfer. The construction industry relies heavily on on-the-job training, and there is the potential for wasted time, effort, and money if there is a constant cycle of new labor, mainly because there isn’t a sound vetting process for hiring new talent.
Introducing a formal recruitment process for construction companies is a key way HR can help the firm differentiate itself from competitors. Phone screens allow you to confirm the information the candidate has on their resume. Note that resumes are not as common (or expected) in the trades industry, so you may need to build in some flexibility if a candidate applies for a job without one. But, engaging in a phone screen before considering them for employment allows you to properly vet them and verify they have the essential trades skills needed for the role.
The phone screen also presents a unique opportunity to market the employer brand among industry laborers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of businesses that take advantage of their workers, especially in trade industries where HR has never been a focus. Workers are tricked by “fly by night” operations all the time; doing work, never getting paid, and discovering the company wasn’t legitimate, to begin with. I was able to use the phone screen to inform applicants that the firm I was sourcing for was a legitimate business with 10+ years in the industry, willing to offer a competitive salary and generous PTO, with very strong medical and dental benefits package. For a number of workers, this was unheard of, and they became more committed to taking future formal steps in the process because they recognized the value of working for a company that was unlike any they had worked for before.
Beyond the phone screen, we introduced the standard in-person interview with the candidate’s potential manager using behavioral interviewing techniques. Behavioral interviewing provides a more conversational framework for the interview and can be a more comfortable setting for workers who are used to an informal interview process. Also, it helped develop new managers in their interview skills, as we were concurrently supporting the business on skilling up their internal talent, rather than going to market for mid-level managers.
Ultimately, we introduced traditional HR practices and processes in an industry where they hadn’t necessarily existed before, while still remaining true to the company’s identity and roots. This helped the construction company assert itself as an industry leader and attract the talent it needed to grow. It also helped improve word of mouth in the tight-knit commercial roofing world, allowing the potential for more referrals from current employees. And since the current employees had experienced our innovative talent processes, their referrals were more adequately prepared for the formal interview process.
2. Legal Compliance
As trade businesses scale quickly and hire more people to support the business, they become subject to more and more employment laws. One of the biggest milestones for any company is when they reach 50 headcount. That triggers FMLA, and suddenly businesses find themselves subject to one of the major federal leave laws. Without a devoted HR resource, it’s incredibly easy for a business to run afoul of the law without even knowing it. This doesn’t take into consideration any state-specific laws a company may be subject to, and since construction firms often operate in a number of states, it’s incredibly important for them to have the right HR partner to help them navigate the employment law minefield.
With our experience in partnering with construction firms, we recognize business leaders may not have taken the time (or have the skill set) to develop an employee handbook or don’t have the time to make sure it remains updated. We don’t expect them to be handbook experts, just as they don’t expect us to be construction efforts. But, it’s a perfect match because we are able to combine our people management expertise to develop a handbook that fits the unique needs of a construction workforce, with the specific insight from professionals with hands-on experience in a non-corporate industry. Also, we serve as the frontline for employees, interpreting and communicating handbook policies so they understand their rights and responsibilities and supporting them as they navigate the employment relationship.
HR professionals have also spent their careers interacting regularly with employment law firms. Red Clover focuses specifically on cultivating relationships with employment lawyers who can support our client base, all in different construction/contracting industries and operating with different budgets. We leverage those relationships to make sure we mitigate risk for the construction client, especially if they are faced with a significant reduction of force, a thorny termination, or other legal-adjacent issues that could arise. Red Clover is also skilled in ensuring that our construction clients are aware of all current employment policies and don’t misclassify their workers, whether it be exempt or non-exempt or as W2 or 1099. We know our stuff, but it’s always a bonus to bring in reinforcements for the tougher issues. And we bring in the right people for the job, especially when working within the niche construction industry.
3. Worker Safety
Construction HR is uniquely positioned to support leadership in their people’s decisions while also serving as a voice for employees. In my interim HR role with the commercial roofing firm, I served as a member of the senior leadership team. In that position, I was able to advocate for the safety of the workers while also recognizing the unique position the business leaders were in.
Also, HR can be the resource a business needs to bridge the gap between the field staff and the C-Suite and administrative office team, where there is often a perceived divide. I was able to do that by forming relationships with “both sides of the house” to balance leadership goals and essential business factors with employee needs and wants. I was uniquely positioned to provide a third party perspective; moving the business forward while making sure employees felt the leaders had their safety and best interests in mind.
Also, if you’re a construction company whose profit relies solely on manual labor that requires laborers to report to job sites – the COVID-19 pandemic has forced you to think creatively (and safely) on how your business can serve your customers while also keeping your employees safe. We recognized the unique challenges that faced our clients and were on the front line and on-call to help our construction clients navigate the initial impact of the pandemic, understand FFCRA, return to work planning, and beyond.
Your Construction HR Experts
Whether you’re a small construction firm just starting out or you’re a business in hyper-growth mode, Red Clover has your back. We have extensive experience in supporting the HR function of construction businesses and developing and implementing a comprehensive learning curriculum for their field employees. We have unique insight into construction HR because of our years of direct, boots-on-the-ground human resources support in the industry. We recognize the unique challenges of businesses that have been traditionally underserved by the HR community and want to see you elevate your construction business into an employer of choice.
Interested in working with an HR consulting firm with extensive experience to elevate your construction or contracting business? Contact us!