What makes a good post-frame crew member?

This entry was posted in Business and Management, FN November 2011, Frame Building News, In the Industry, Low Rise Construction, Post Frame and tagged employee retention, pole barns, post-frame. Bookmark the permalink.

With the current economic woes comes a high unemployment rate. Tom Flynn of Lynnman Construction says, “We have people stopping by our offices asking for work right now.”

However, just because someone wants a job doesn’t mean he will make a good employee.

Lynnman Construction

Lynnman Construction photo

Most post-frame builders are looking for someone who will not only be around for the long term but will become part of the company’s “family.”

“It takes about 10 years to get an employee seasoned into the company,” says Flynn.

We talked to four companies in different areas of the country to get their opinions on what makes a good employee, and in turn, how to be a good employer so good employees will stay on board. They were Lynnman Construction based in Morrice, Mich.; County Line Construction in Mt. Solon, Va.; Pioneer Pole Buildings, Schuykill Haven, Pa.; and H&D Quality Builders, Roanoke, Ill. All have some employees who have been with the company for more than 10 years — some who have been with the business from its beginning — while there are employees who have been on the job for less than a year. The companies vary in size. County Line Construction has 25 employees with crews of four or five, depending on the job. Pioneer Pole Buildings has 70 employees, with 20 of them being with the firm for 10 years or more.

When asked to describe their ideal employee for their post-frame crews, the answers were remarkably similar — someone who with a good work attitude, a sense of responsibility and a commitment to doing a good job.

“I’m a worker myself,” says Flynn. “I want to hire someone who has the same philosophies about work that I have. I also want someone who takes pride in himself as a person and understands what we expect as a company.”

Of course, every company will have its own particular needs when it comes to those ideal characteristics. For example, Todd Meinhold of H&D Quality Builders wants someone who thinks outside the box. “We look for employees willing to accept a different way to build, not afraid to climb and be in the air and loves the outdoors,” he says. Meinhold adds that one of the top characteristics he looks for when he is hiring a new employee is integrity and how that person acts when he thinks no one is watching. “The customer is always watching,” he quickly points out.

Attitude. Ability. Commitment. Responsibility. Integrity. Goals. Ambition. These are all qualities that are desirable, but let’s be honest. Almost everyone is on his best behavior in a job interview, trying to give that best impression or say just the right thing. No one is going to say he isn’t punctual or can’t work independently if asked. For this reason, the companies use word of mouth as their primary source to find new workers.

County Line Construction

County Line Construction photo

“I often have a waiting list of potential employees because existing employees make suggestions,” says Sherman Nicely of County Line Construction.

“I have the benefit of having long-term crew members. When we do need to hire we use multiple ways. Our most successful way is word of mouth. We have a good reputation for treating our employees well and our current employees are the best recruiters when we need to add to the crew,” Bob Green of Pioneer Pole Buildings adds.

The companies trust their employees to recommend potential employees who will fit into the builder’s work philosophy, something you can’t know about a person answering a blind newspaper ad.

Smart employers recognize even the best employees need some incentive to stay with the company. “This is a hard business on your body and young adults today are not always willing to work physically,” says Meinhold. “We try to keep them encouraged and motivated to continue in this field.”

Flynn finds the incentive in mutual respect. “Employees need to respect what the business is about,” he says, but employers must also show their employees that they are appreciated. That comes in the form of a pat on the back after a job well done or thanking them for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Pioneer Pole Buildings

Pioneer Pole Buildings photo

Green agrees with Flynn’s point of view. “I am constantly trying to make Pioneer a better place to work,” he says. “I don’t want any of my employees to ever feel that I have taken advantage of them, and I make sure that I do my best to let each employee know how important they are to me and the company. “

All four companies understand that people aren’t working just because they love the job — they need the paycheck. Nicely says he pays a little more than other companies in his area, but he also demands a higher quality employee.

Providing benefits is also a major incentive to keep good employees around. “Benefits are changing more and more each year so we try and secure the best benefit package we can each year,” says Green. “We have a benefits meeting each December to review any changes and allow all employees the opportunity to ask questions directly to representatives from our 401K, health insurance and any other areas that may need to be addressed.”

As Nicely points out, good employers think of their workers not just as employees, but as individuals. So he likes to hold events that focus on fun and fellowship. “Our biggest event each year is a Christmas banquet,” he says, “but we also try to do one company function a year.” The employees will vote on a couple of different options, with a majority rule. This year, employees will choose between a barbecue and skeet shoot or a deep sea fishing trip.

Meinhold encourages his employees to take time to go to their kids’ school events, plays or any function they have. “If we can show them that we care about them being involved in their families lives, they will in-turn care about being employed. I do not work Saturdays so they can have their time. Time away from work is more important than the time they spend at work. A happy and appreciated employee is the potential for a long-term employee.”

What’s the best advice to finding and then keeping a good employee? Be honest and be consistent in your actions. Reward your employees for doing their job and try your best to be a part of the team and not just the leader of the team. Listen to their point of view and their ideas.

Meinhold sums it up well.

“Show them you care about them,” he says. “Money only buys short-term employees.” FBN

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