Piling Canada

Putting People First

From recruitment to leadership, human resources management will help your business
June 2015

From recruitment to leadership, human resources management will help your business

Six years ago, the results of a national leadership survey revealed five top looming workforce challenges for any and all industry sectors. The top five challenges included the attraction and retention of skilled professionals, developing manager capability, retaining high performers, developing succession pool depth and addressing management and leadership talent. 

So, where does the construction industry stand? The answer: in a very tough place! That’s according to forecasts developed by BuildForce Canada, a national industry-led organization committed to providing accurate and timely labour market data and analysis. Their research is showing that the construction industry is currently and will continue experiencing a significant shortfall of skilled construction tradespeople over the next decade.

I’m quite certain that corporate leaders have been fully aware of this shortfall for some time, yet are challenged as to what role they can be play in turning around an entire industry sector. My advice is to voice your concern to government and educators while at the same time focusing on ensuring your company is the best of the best in your business.

Being the best of the best means that your company has excellent human resources systems and that you practice what you preach to your customers and market through your websites. If your branding slogans boast of such things as superior resources, personal service, a collaborative approach and/or fostering innovative solutions, then I guarantee you can’t accomplish this without good human resources practices.

Heavy impact
Human resources practices touch every aspect of your business and create a “domino” effect. In other words, if one part of the system is ineffective, it’ll impact all other parts of the system. This can result in misalignment with company vision, poor morale, high turnover, interdepartmental conflict and low productivity, all of which will ultimately hit your bottom line profitability.

In simple terms, good human resources management means hiring the right people at the right time with the right skills and doing the right things within a strong supportive environment. While there are many complexities within human resources management systems, I personally believe that a focus on the two key strategies of a) recruitment and selection and b) a focus on training and development will help to steer any company in the right direction. Let’s examine the elements of each strategy.

Define your organizational culture
A candidate can have all the skills in the world, but if they don’t fit into your organization’s culture, they will simply not stay for the long term. At the same time, candidates that do fit are known to reduce turnover statistics by 30 per cent. In fact, in my experience, most candidates who do not fit exit within one year, often leaving a trail of distrust and hidden costs behind them. Believe me, culture always wins! So, take time to define the key values within your culture and incorporate these into your candidate assessment process. Create specific behavioural questions that identify and confirm the right experiences and values for your company in order to ensure the right fit.


Build a competency map
Leaders need to know the skills, competencies and work behaviours that are required in every job and every level throughout the organization. Creating a competency map allows leaders as well as individuals to visually see the skills required and provides a framework for recruitment and selection as well as for employee development and succession planning. The map creates opportunities for leaders to see the organization as a whole and enables them to create a workforce and employee development plan that builds in contingencies to overcome any surprise employee turnovers, skill shortages and gaps as well as succession issues.

Focus on in-house technical training
Most of Piling Canada’s readers work on highly complex, unique engineering structures that require significant project management and leadership skills. For instance, one of the most high profile and complex projects ever attempted was the righting of the Costa Concordia cruise liner that capsized on the coast of Tuscany. This project involved over 500 people from multiple professions and 26 countries, working 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

While not every construction project is as complex as the Costa Concordia, every construction project has its own unique character and requires creative and innovative project leaders in order to assure a successful outcome. So where do these skills come from? In most cases – and the best approach, in my view – is to develop skills through extensive exposure to a wide range of progressively complex projects. This on-the-job experience, accompanied by solid in-house technical training programs, shapes and develops skilled technicians who understand your systems, your culture and practice your values toward quality, safety and customer service.

Focus on leadership
Since construction projects are so task-driven, technical training is definitely one key to corporate success; however, the other critical element for ongoing success is that of leadership training. And according to recent research, any future training must force leaders to undergo a complete “paradigm” shift away from short-term thinking to a more integrated approach. More importantly, leaders need to develop their skills in demonstrating empathy and compassion and the ability to develop positive interpersonal relationships and social responsibility so that they can excel in a more collaborative and integrated approach now being demanded throughout the industry.

Time is of the essence in the construction industry, and therefore leadership programs offered over a period of approximately six months are highly valuable. This progressive type of training allows individuals to get out into the field and practice what they’ve learned and to be coached and mentored, not only by classroom instructors but also by leaders on the construction sites. Your programs must also focus on helping leaders develop the emotional intelligence, teamwork, collaboration and social responsibility styles that are needed going forward.

Project-driven organizations, such as those in the construction industry, have long had the reputation of placing less priority on human resources management as compared to time, cost and quality goals. However, this approach is outdated and will no longer enable members to respond to complex future demands. If your goal is to be the best of the best, then focus your attention on creating an effective human resources management system. This will ensure the attraction and retention of skilled professionals and high performers while building strong technical strengths and leadership capacity.

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Category: Business

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.

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