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Define Your Culture and Reduce Your Risks when Hiring New Employees

Thursday, November 16, 2017

By: Patrick Johnson, CRIS, PWCA

The typical non-construction company hires new employees using a series of steps – review resumes for eligible candidates, conduct progressive interviews with multiple company personnel, check references and then, after extending an offer, perform background and other tests/checks.

This has been a tried and true method of selecting new hires and while it has it problems, it works for the majority of companies. Yet, construction companies tend to not follow this approach for field employees. Why is that? 

  • First, union signatory contractors believe it’s the union’s responsibility to provide qualified employees and therefore let the union take on this role. 
  • Second, the need for “new” hires are often determined at the last minute, “I need two guys tomorrow to get the work done.”

As a result, we find a number of risks when a methodical and well laid out hiring process isn’t followed. 

  • A new employee may not be physically or mentally able to do the work
  • Culture of the company is put at risk
  • Increased exposure to workers’ compensation claims – impacting the new hire and established employees
  • Increased exposure to lower quality work

How can you change the way you bring on new employees reducing your risks and increasing production?

  1. Require that your project managers and superintendents plan their work in advance so you know when you need new hires in advance. A last minute leave creates a lot of unknowns. Allowing field management to react vs planning when it comes to staffing is a recipe for trouble. Yes, unexpected changes happen, but not for every new hire situation. Effective field management should include appropriate staffing and be prepared in advance of when new hires are needed.
  2. Hire from referrals whenever possible. Your best bet for finding a high-quality, new employee is to start by asking your current long-term employees who they know and who would be a good fit. Note, the referral source should be from an employee who embodies your culture; a referral from someone who doesn’t support your culture isn’t a good referral.
  3. Require that all candidates report to the main office for an interview with senior leadership, ideally the owner or president, and your safety person. This provides you with a “gut” check on the candidate. Do they have what it takes from your perspective to fit into the company culture? This is also the perfect time to define your corporate culture: what is expected of the new hire with regard to safety, taking care of every employee, quality of work, and skill required? Review the safety program in detail, get their commitment to working safely and keep others safe.
  4. Really up your game. This is done in two ways:
    • Have the candidate take an integrity test. This is a simple test asking a series of questions about what kind of person they are; if they lie, cheat and/or steal. You’d be surprised at the answers and it has a very high correlation to lowering your risk of a workers’ compensation loss.
    • Evaluate the candidate’s physical strength to do the work you are asking.  Isokinetic strength testing is an objective way to determine if the person can physically do the work. It tests each knee, each shoulder and the torso (back). It can’t be faked and candidates that complete the test will not get hurt.

Bringing this all together…

Yes, this approach takes more time and it is more expensive. However, the pros truly outweigh the cons. How much does it cost you when a new hire has an accident? Avoid the possibility of having to redo their work because of quality concerns. Find an individual who embodies and believes in your culture. Select a candidate who strives for accountability and safety – avoiding any instances of injuring employees because they just don’t care.

It’s time to start a new way forward. Spend more time up front when looking to hire and establish your culture and avoid catastrophic risks.


Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.