You've heard the old saying, "you can control the sail, not the wind." I have two words for you that can help ease your stormy recruitment woes... "College Recruitment."
You read it correctly — college recruitment. It's not a quick fix, nor is it confined to national or large regional builders. In fact, nearly all builders can implement an effective college recruitment program.
If your company is growing, and you want it to continue growing, recruiting from colleges should be part of your strategy. Top caliber companies like NVR and Highland Homes do it masterfully and have for a number of years.
The size of your operation, growth plans and turnover rate should determine the number and type of college recruits needed. If you are a frequent reader of this column, you should have already developed, or are in the process of developing, a succession plan. You know the one... Who takes Joe's place in the event that he gets hit by the proverbial beer truck... and who replaces that person, etc. etc.? A planned intake of people trumps knee jerk reactions every time. And, it is less expensive.
The first step in setting up a college recruitment program is to develop a college relations strategy — target select schools and consider curriculum. Building Construction, Construction Science, Business and Finance are the most favored degree sources. However, don't overlook other majors like marketing or political science. In 20-plus years of interviewing some of the best people in our industry, perhaps 15 percent had construction related degrees.
Keep the schools current on your company, successes and future growth plans. Develop appropriate collateral materials that include job descriptions, success profiles, testimonials from alumni currently working at your company and typical career progressions and timing by functional area. Lay the groundwork. Visit the schools. Have brown bag lunches, host a party, sponsor an event (or two), fund a scholarship, have a booth at career fairs.
To get the most out of your recruitment program, remember to let potential recruits know why your company is a great place to work! Don't just show up one day on the recruiting schedule and expect to get the cream of the crop.
Don't forget to also develop and maintain partnerships with the faculty, department heads and career centers. You stand a much better chance of getting the inside scoop on the better students and, if you're lucky, seasoned alumni.
The next step in the recruitment process is to develop a structured summer internship program. There are numerous benefits of an internship program; however, the bottom line is internships give you an opportunity to assess talent on the job. Remember, direct observations of behavior are better than inferred observations or self-reports of how one might behave in certain situations.
I've always looked at internship programs as an inexpensive "try before you buy" scenario. Moreover, interns have a chance to see how your organization functions and learn your values.
Once your internship program is up and running, make sure you:
- Schedule informative meetings between mentors and interns
- Expose interns to various aspects of your operation, not just the field
- Assign responsibilities and projects, not just tasks
- Have regularly scheduled reviews — check what your interns have learned and monitor their performance
- Monitor the program and make adjustments accordingly
- Maintain ties with your interns and their schools after the summer
Investing the time and effort now will make for smoother sailing two to five years from now.