Utility Contractor

SEP-OCT 2018

As the official magazine of NUCA, Utility Contractor presents the latest information affecting every aspect of the utility construction industry, including technological advancements, safety issues, legislative developments and instructional advice.

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18 Utility Contractor | September/October 2018 Workforce issues have been a hot topic recently, especially so in the construction industry. How would you rate the situation? Are contrac- tors able to find qualified employees? How is this changing over time? Nowlan: A very high percentage of small to medium-size companies (those up to 100 or more employees), including construction companies, depend on non- HR managers sharing HR responsibilities on a part-time basis. In CFA surveys, we learned that about 70% of these manag- ers have no formal HR or recruiting train- ing. Some of the shortage arises because these finance, sales, administrative and operations personnel are able to spend only a few hours a week on HR issues, and often, "high voltage" HR issues (ter- minations, injuries, benefits, etc.), crowd out recruiting duties. A majority of the HR manager group cited above, and a surprisingly high group of full-time HR managers in small to medium companies, are not aware of all the sources of employee and veteran referral sources they can go to for free help to get candidate resumes. Additionally, a majority of the HR man- agers are not proficient in evaluating mili- tary candidates based on their resumes, and often, in in-person interviews. This often leads to hiring the wrong candi- dates who leave the company or are ter- minated, or, overlooking the candidates who are qualified and who would make excellent employees. There are very few opportunities for an HR manager to get training in evaluating candidate military experience. In fact, only a small percent- age of HR managers receive any formal training in recruiting new employees – they generally learn by experience which can take months or years depending on how many people they are involved with hiring. Most part-time and full-time HR re- cruiters are over-worked and constantly under pressure to complete a long list of projects. Projects are often completed to an "adequate stage" without having time to complete them fully. So, when it comes to recruiting, managers often have to "fit in" the recruiting effort – a little here, a little there. There is little time for networking outreach to the referral orga- nizations (state, military, nonprofit) that will help by providing referral candidates IF they understand the company's needs adequately. Part of the problem is that company CEOs typically don't state clearly that hiring veterans, National Guard and Re- serves as a high priority. Without explicit clarity about hiring military candidates, staff will do their best, but often not fol- low through assiduously to do the net- working necessary to find military can- didates that match, especially in light of other pressing deadlines that have been identified by the CEO as high priority. What factors are leading to the shortage of workers in the construc- tion industry? Nowlan: Most companies advertise or post jobs without communicating much if anything about the company, its culture, and the career opportunities it offers. Veterans come from a rich and transparent culture in the military and most veterans are looking to have a career in a company that offers a value-centered culture and clearly stated opportunities for training and advancement. Compa- nies that make little or no effort to con- nect with veterans on their culture and career aspirations generally don't attract applicants. Most companies, including construc- tion companies, greatly undervalue the skills, experience and levels of responsi- bilities of military candidates – and wind up assuming that all veterans that they will attract are "entry level." This arises because HR managers and others don't know how to evaluate candidates effec- tively. We've heard many examples of veterans with very advanced skills and experience being offered entry level jobs when their track record should merit hir- ing into an advanced role with double or triple the compensation. Many veterans would rather take two or three part-time jobs while they look for a job equivalent to their skills, than take a full-time job where they have to start at the bottom all over again. In most states, when an active duty military person leaves the military, there is an average of 26 weeks of unemploy- ment benefits available. If they don't find a full-time career job within this period, most will take the part-time jobs just to support their families or make ends meet. In some states, the unemployment ben- efit is considerably less than 26 weeks. In addition to the 1.8 million veterans now in minimum wage jobs (not count- ing National Guard and Reservists), there are 200,000 active duty military transi- tioning into the private sector market- place each year for the next five years. Yet, most industries do little or nothing to communicate with these veterans (and Guard and Reserve members) about ca- reers they offer. Most industry associa- tions default to the view that "veterans will find us." However, this is shortsight- ed because the goal should be to attract the veterans whose skills and passions most closely connect with the indus- try so as to maximize the match. Often, any industry recruiting company that is launched, will feature only civilians in the pictures and speak only in terms of civil- ian experience (high school or communi- ty college) without referencing anything about welcoming veterans. Veterans and civilians need to be understood to be two different demographic markets. Without the benefit of solid informa- tion about attractive careers in the in- dustry, how will veterans learn about the industry? For example, there is not "Most companies, including construction companies, greatly undervalue the skills, experience and levels of responsibilities of military candidates"

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