Hiring Two Ways
For most employers, hiring is a routine process that involves the same steps for everyone…Yet for many contractors this process is far too complex for their everyday hiring needs.
At CFA Convention 2016 I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on hiring practices with several members of the Board of Directors. They took turns describing some of the latest processes and resources they use, both successfully and not so successfully, to meet their growing needs for employees. During this discussion, the application process came up and was met with broad differences.
For most employers, hiring is a routine process that involves the same steps for everyone. Every applicant completes the same employment application, and if selected for an interview, completes the same interview process. If hired, each new hire goes through the same orientation process. This methodology provides simplicity and consistency in the hiring process. Yet for many contractors this process is far too complex for their everyday hiring needs.
While it is true that all concrete contractors will occasionally have to follow this approach, the fact remains that most of the time a shorter one is used. For example, when hiring office staff or professionals, the full-blown hiring process is always recommended. On the other hand, most contractors are constantly trying to hire field labor at least when they are pouring concrete. For this class of employee, the full-blown hiring process is often more than necessary and a waste of time. Instead, contrary to most labor and employment advisors, I recommend that contractors use a simplified, abbreviated hiring process for field labor.
The simpler hiring process starts with a slightly different focus on recruitment. In the traditional, or full-blown, hiring process you would want to advertise/recruit wherever possible. In contrast, in the simplified hiring process, you will want to focus on recruitment efforts that have yielded good workers in the past. Often, this will involve more word-of-mouth recruitment and may sometimes even involve paying recruitment bonuses to existing workers. After all, if you have a good worker, he or she may know friends or relatives who will also be good workers.
The next step in the process involves using a simplified employment application. For example, the simpler application may include only current contact information and relevant recent employment experience. For field labor you probably don’t care about education and employment experience that’s not relevant. In fact, you may not even care about criminal convictions, although that can be a little risky. Certainly, some questions contained in a full-blown employment application really are not relevant for field labor.
For example, questions about how long the applicant has lived in the area, hours available for work, schooling, possession of a driver’s license and driving record, typing, computer, or word processing skills, military service, and perhaps even references may be unnecessary when hiring field labor.
What you’re really seeking is relevant information about the applicant’s ability to perform the job. To that end, you will definitely want to know if the applicant has worked in the industry before, and if so, for whom and for how long. Although you need to be a little bit careful about disability discrimination, you will also want to know if the applicant has any physical or mental impairments which would prevent satisfactory job performance. Finally, you will want some contact information and perhaps an emergency contact. Ultimately, this makes the simplified hiring application no more than one page in length, which is a significant reduction from the normal 4 to 6 page employment application.
Other pieces of the hiring process will also be different. For example, for an office position you might review all of the applications and select a few people for interviews. In contrast, for field labor you are more than likely going to interview on the spot and make a hiring decision almost instantly. In that case, you will want to be sure to review the application before you actually talk to the applicant. That way you will be prepared to ask relevant questions, although in most cases the hiring decision will boil down to whether or not you think the applicant can do the work.
Reference checking is going to be optional for most field labor positions. In so far as the applicant indicates that they have prior experience in the construction industry, you probably want to ask for the name and phone number of a supervisor or manager at the prior employer. Even here, the reference checking process is a little different. Frankly, you probably don’t care if the applicant is eligible for rehire or not. In most cases, your real question is whether or not the applicant was capable of doing the work. Usually, you won’t care about the quality of work performed as much as the period of time that the applicant performed the work.
One aspect of the hiring process that should not be any different is pre-hire drug testing. Regardless of the nature of the position, you should always check for drug use. Specifically, you are most concerned with impairment rather than possession or use. Despite the increase in state legislation permitting medical and sometimes recreational marijuana use, it is still a federal crime. Perhaps most important, marijuana use results in impairment, and that poses risk to the individual in question as well as others working around him. That, in turn, exposes your company to risk. To date, even in those states that permit medical marijuana use, impairment at work is never permitted. Thus, you can and should conduct pre-hire drug and alcohol testing.
Finally, the orientation process may be different for field labor versus regular positions in your organization. This is so for several reasons. One, most field laborers will not have as much interest as other workers in things like benefits, promotion, job security, and the like. Second, most field laborers do not need to, or want to, be burdened by a bunch of rules. Notwithstanding that, it is important for you to go over certain basic rules and policies during orientation. These include basic safety rules and procedures, which you definitely want field labor to readily understand and abide by. Other policies to include in an orientation of field labor are non-harassment, nonretaliation, confidentiality, cell phone/smartphone usage, and perhaps a social media policy. You may also choose to use a shortened form of an employment handbook for field labor. The orientation period is an excellent time to introduce and go over that abbreviated employment handbook. You should be aware that for some employees English is not their primary language, and where that is the case it is a good idea to translate key portions of the orientation into their native language.
By following an abbreviated, simplified hiring process for field labor, you will save lots of time and energy but still get the basics done. Note however that no hiring process can completely eliminate the risk of hiring a L.U.Z.I.R. This is where an effective trial or probationary period will help you sort out the keepers.