Construction’s skilled worker shortage has a long history, and is forecast to continue. But, there are ways to use social media to improve your chances of finding new recruits.

By David Secunda

It’s no secret that the construction industry is facing a skilled worker shortage. The recent recession saw many construction workers leaving the industry, and now with the retirement of the baby boomers, finding quality, skilled workers is an up-hill battle for many human resources professionals in our industry.

But, it’s not just a skilled labor shortage that’s contributing to a perfect storm of unfilled positions and causing costly overtime to meet deadlines.. Most human resources executives in construction are over extended. They are often responsible for performance appraisals, compensation and benefits, training and development, employee and labor relations, and safety and health.  Sometimes they even handle finance in addition to staffing and recruiting.

Social Media Support

It’s time for the construction industry to realize that we are no longer doing someone a favor by giving them a job. Rather, the employees and contractors we hire are fundamental to the overall company’s development, and we should have an increased focus on attracting top talent everyday.

Even if you employ a staffing firm to help recruit contractors and employees, there are ways social media can support those efforts by differentiating your company from others who are bidding for the same skilled workers you are.

Now that we’ve outlined the issue, let’s get tactical about how your human resources department can work independently, or with your marketing team to fill your recruiting pipeline using social media.

Strategic Considerations

The first issue to address is “who owns what.” If you have a marketing department, they likely manage all of your social media and are a big help in shifting your recruiting process into high gear.  As an industry, best practices we say if you are hiring 50 people or more per year then the recruiting process truly becomes a marketing process. One where you can no longer rely on “just enough potential employees coming through” your portal without really focusing on this as a clear marketing effort. At 50 of more hires per year, you need to look at marketing channels for employees like you do for customers. How much do you spend on each new employee? What is the conversion that you get from each channel you are using?

Start Solving Your Skilled Worker Shortage

In the construction industry, you are often hiring well over 50 employees not just per year but per project. So now, you must shift your focus to how to work with your marketing team on this joint recruiting effort that will solve your skilled worker shortage. This pretty much encompasses three things:

  1. Gain buy in from all parties by holding meetings with stakeholders and talking through the objectives. Then allow the team to contribute to the best approach.
  2. Agree on ownership and deliverables – Our suggestion is that marketing focuses on the applicant generation and getting applications into HR, while also providing feedback on which channel the applicants came from. HR is then repsonsible for everything post application. Qualifying, interviewing, and hiring, while providing statistics on conversion from application to hired employee.
  3. Create a feedback loop – Ensure that at the end of the day the feedback comes full circle so you can turn your efforts in to a long-term strategy.

Once you’ve decided on a process and divided up responsibilities, it’s time to agree on the tactics that you will deploy through social media to draw in potential candidates.

Getting Tactical

All of the tactics we outline below surround two best practices for modern day recruiting. The first, is to provide transparency. One of the best things you can do to reduce churn, especially in the first 90 days of employment, is to transparently align expectations with reality. Yes, this applies even in some of the less glamorous jobs you may be hiring for.

I know many times there’s a hesitancy to be fully transparent because there’s a fear that the sheer number of candidates will drop. That may very well be true, but the quality of those candidates should increase, and the churn in the first three months should decrease, saving your organization thousands.

Using social media is a great way to provide transparency. But instead of just talking about yourself, you want to create an interaction with the potential incoming employees. You want to ask questions, tell stories, show REAL employees.

The second best practice is to provide acknowledgment and feedback. Using social media to publicly acknowledge your employees is going to work double duty for you as it reduces churn and promotes overall job satisfaction while at the same time providing transparency and insights into your workforce which will attract the best skilled workers to your next project.

Tactics to Try Today

  • A Day in the Life – Follow a typical employee though their day at work and then use it on social media. The actual portrayal could be a video, photos or just a write-up. What you are trying to do is paint a full picture for the incoming worker about what a real day looks like.
  • Community News – Look at the broader circle of folks that your employees would typically interact with and provide news about that. By being a resource for community news about what your existing employees would be interested in, you will naturally attract like-minded people as potential candidates. In this example from Masterpiece Construction, they are warning about a coming winter storm, along with some nice branding and a phone number to contact them in the image!

  • How-To Information – Normally this is something that is targeted towards customers, but what we hear from the folks that we’re working with is that you are really looking for those employees who are motivated and knowledgeable about the industry, and are motivated to learn more about the industry.  So providing how to information in your social media will help to identify these individuals.
  • Ask Questions – Use your social media platforms for two-way interactions. Rather than just talking about ourselves we want to engage with the community by asking questions. That can inspire potential employees to interact with you. For example, perhaps there is a new piece of equipment that just hit the market. Ask the community if anyone has used the new equipment and what their experience was like vs. the traditional method. This example from Viano Construction opens up a great conversation and gives them an opportunity to address concerns.

  • Profile Existing Employees – Most employees are looking for a place where they really fit in. By profiling your existing employees and just sharing about what they’re doing, not only at work but outside of work, it will attract best-in-class additional employees to your organization who think they are similar to the employee you profiled. In the example below, W.E. O’Neil Construction Company highlights one of their superintendents. Check out their Facebook page for some great inspiration!

  • Post Job Openings & Encourage Sharing – Ok, this may seem obvious, but we want to mention it because outside of just the exposure you will get by posting your open jobs, you are also putting that information out to your current employees in a way that makes sharing easy. Encourage your current employees to share those posts on their own social networks, possibly with an incentive like a catered lunch for anyone who does. Getting the word out about open positions through your current employees’ circles is one of the most powerful ways of finding candidates.

  • Promote Your Opening with Paid Advertising – If you work with a staffing firm, this may be overkill. But if you are running the recruiting pipeline yourself, social advertising is a very powerful tool. Here’s another one of our blogs that will walk you through the process step-by-step and show you how to narrow down your filters to only show your ads to those that match the ideal demographics, past work history, and more of your ideal employee.

Hopefully these tactics will get you well on your way towards creating a recruiting machine that will continually bring qualified candidates into your HR application process. However, we would be exposing ourselves and your company if we didn’t round this out by talking about getting your new employees engaged quickly with your company. Twenty-two percent of staff turnover happens in the first 45 days, so make sure you are engaging with them ASAP.

Engagement Counts After the Hire

Start by providing posts to your new employees so they can tell people they’ve been hired at your project. When first hired, employees are most excited about the position. They have gone through the process of deliberately applying, interviewing, and being welcomed onboard. This is a great time to leverage that enthusiasm into their own social network.

Further engage employees before they start by issuing their paperwork in a digital format so they aren’t coming into an office for three hours on the first day of work to fill out paperwork and make photocopies – boring!  If their paperwork is taken care of, the first day can focus on training and orientation. Link them up with a ‘buddy’ who can tell them where the closest shop is, tell them who to contact for what, and more. From transparency, to acknowledgment, to engagement, you’ve got the perfect recipe for loyal, qualified employees who will become brand ambassadors for your organization in social media, and the real world.

About the Author: David Secunda is the CEO and Co-Founder of WorkBright – a digital onboarding platform for rapidly hiring businesses. WorkBright can easily issue custom offer letters with start and end dates, compile digital new hire packets, and allow the new hire to upload photos of certificates and licenses to a secure cloud network. David Secunda is a passionate entrepreneur and HR enthusiast who has been selected to serve on numerous boards and host speaking engagements across the country for his expertise and forward-thinking perspective on the changing face of the HR industry. Here’s more about David Secunda.

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