Homebuilder HR Risks to Avoid

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Home building industry experts offer a look at some of the road hazards on the HR expressway and ideas on how to maneuver them.

July 01, 2007

This month we surveyed hiring managers and HR experts on what they do to minimize risk in the human resources arena. My group of usual suspects included three corporate-level vice presidents for major home builders or developers; two regional HR managers with experience inside and outside our industry; an industry HR consultant; and an industrial psychologist with 20-plus years of testing candidates for a Top 10 home builder. Here's what they had to say about common challenges in HR.


Rodney Hall, Senior Partner, The Talon Group

Recruitment and Selection

"More fully define the role you need to fill by including successful outcomes desired. It helps align your objectives with a candidate's experience but can be a tool in performance management and reviews later on. The more specific the examples, the better." — Industry HR consultant

"For growth-oriented companies, don't make a hiring decision based purely on immediate position needs but also the long-term business strategy. This means determining the upside potential of a candidate. Besides the immediate opportunity, does he/she have the potential to grow beyond it? How fast is his/her learning curve? All these things play a critical role in your succession planning." — Vice president of human resources for a national builder

"Recognizing personal hot buttons ... the characteristics you like to see in candidates: could be an engaging communication style, academic pedigrees from top schools, military experience or experience with a name brand competitor. [They're] all worthy considerations, but don't let them sway your objectivity. Let each stand on its own merit as a singular point." — Industrial psychologist

Management

"As an industry, we need to change our mindset as it relates to environmental, safety and health issues, whether it pertains to the trades, customers or employees. We cannot continue to run our business without addressing those issues. We employ and work with many people. We must recognize how these issues affect them. This trickles down to job descriptions; scopes of work; expressed or inferred expectations; and genuine compassion for their well-being." — Vice president of human resources for a national real-estate development firm

"Most of the difficulties we face consist of someone who feels wronged (either intentionally or unintentionally), twisting words and deeds to their favor. We tell our leaders to bring a second management representative into every risk-associated situation ... then clarify often and document the discussion in writing." — Regional HR manager for a national builder

"Companies need to maintain an organizational template, which dictates how many people (by function and type) they need to sustain operations under various conditions, whether it be unit volume, revenue, new market expansions, shutdowns, etc. Although this will always be a 'work in progress,' it provides a logical, non-emotional approach to managing human capital." — Industrial consultant

"No matter how well-documented or how valid, when we terminate, we will often offer a severance package to help the person transition out of the organization. They are not entitled to the extra pay, so we ask for a signed release from any kind of legal entanglement, as a quid pro quo." — Regional HR manager for a national builder

"We strive to exercise the same people skills with our employees as we did when we first recruited them. All too often, companies (as do candidates) show one face when they're interviewing and another once they're hired. Consistent authenticity is a key factor in retention." — HR manager for a regional builder


Author Information
Rodney Hall is a senior partner with The Talon Group, a leading executive search firm specializing in the real-estate development and home building industries.

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