Who Said Talk is Cheap?

The Construction Pendulum has swung, and so has the Communication Pendulum.

by Colm Allen

Colm Allen

Colm Allen

When exactly did the recession start? For us, it was September 2008. I’m not sure when it ended, but one thing is for certain, in our business it’s definitely over. Like most companies, it was a very difficult 6+ years, but it’s a different story today. The market is so hot now, that when we approach passive candidates, they are seeking a 10% to 20% salary increase just to consider making a move. We are hearing of signing bonuses (remember them), extra vacation, work from home, etc. all being requested by candidates whose salaries slipped during the recession by as much as 30%.

The availability of great construction managers is almost nonexistent! Even average candidates are being courted by great companies, and we’re hearing the same old line, “I need a warm body.” It’s like 2005 all over again, except the difference is — it’s just going to get worse! As of the first quarter of 2015, we were on pace to add around 400,000 jobs, but the construction industry requires approximately 1.4 million net new employees to meet the current 2015 demands. You don’t need a PhD from MIT to figure out where this is all going. The industry will have a talent shortage for many years to come. The result will be issues with deliverability, quality, and safety.

To further complicate things, as the Millennials and Yuccies (as in “young urban creatives”) become the employee majority, they’ll change how we communicate in the workplace, and those of us born before the 1990s probably won’t have the desire nor the tech skills needed to keep up. This generation of professionals talk to each other in a way that’s sometimes hard for the rest of us to comprehend. In fact, they barely talk at all. They text, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Kik, Periscope, Yik Yak, Tumblr, Whatsapp, and Meerkat rather than have a face-to-face talk. They let their thumbs do the talking. If you don’t understand how social media is used as a communication tool by Millennials, this might help you out. Evan Spiegel, the 25-year-old CEO of Snapchat, explained how his app was used by 100 million daily users in May:

“But today . . . pictures are being used for talking. So when you see your children taking a zillion photos of things that you would never take a picture of, it’s ’cause they’re using photographs to talk . . . And that’s why people are taking and sending so many pictures on Snapchat every day.”

Verbal communication skills appear to be a receding art form. And yet, they are so desirable these days. Business is not won by texting. Conflict is not resolved by email, leadership is not delivered via Instagram. In our world, technology is a tool to automate repetitive transactional functions, but the “business of business” is best done through the ancient art of relationship building. A literate intelligent candidate can share their skills by a multiple of 5x in a company by becoming a great mentor and team builder. You can’t do that on Vine.

The same lack of connection can be said for our industry, executive search. Any recruiter with a LinkedIn license can shoot off an email “seeking an estimator for a great client.” Just about every company in New England needs an estimator right now, and every estimator knows this. Unless the candidate is actually talking to your recruiter, he or she is not really in play. Period. If you are lucky enough to get the attention of the right candidate, you also better be prepared to tell a good story. Again, communication is key.

What I’m suggesting is that the best recruiters use data and all the tech tools above to research and source candidates, but then actually pick up the phone and call passive candidates and move to in-person meeting. Please don’t misunderstand; we love technology, and it’s helped our industry tremendously, but we get paid to share with you things that can’t be found on a candidate’s Twitter feed.

The fact is, we all have to get with the times and understand how technology can improve efficiency and collaboration, but the best recruiters marry that process with old-school relationship building. It doesn’t matter if you are an agency recruiter or HR manager, this is what is going to be required of all of us to connect with the best talent in a very competitive environment.

Recruiting is all about asking good questions and listening. It’s simple: The best candidates will tell you how to recruit them if you actually engage with them on a personal level.