Greg Wilkes (00:00):
The construction industry can be a tough business to crack from cashflow problems. Struggling to find skilled labor and not making enough money for your efforts leaves many business owners feeling frustrated and burnt out. But when you get the business strategy right, it’s an industry that can be highly satisfying and financially rewarding. I’m here to give you the resources to be able to create a construction business that gives you more time, more freedom, and more money. This is the Develop Your Construction Business podcast, and I’m your host, Greg Wilkes.
Greg Wilkes (00:34):
Welcome back to the podcast, and if you’re watching on YouTube, great to see you on here. So today, I’ve got a special guest, Stephanie Buck from Eclipse Consulting. So it’s great to have you here with us today, Stephanie, appreciate you joining us. So Stephanie has got a wide range of experience, and this is why I wanted Stephanie on board because she’s got experience in a few ways. One, in growing businesses herself. She’s had a lot of experience doing that, but also she’s worked with some of the leading global organizations to help them with their HR and strategy and also some smaller ones. So I thought she’d be absolutely perfect today to talk about how we can grow a business, talk about recruitment, and some HR issues because I know a lot of construction companies may struggle to deal with that. So we’re looking for Stephanie’s wide experience and expertise on here. So Stephanie, great to have you. Maybe that was a bit of a rough introduction. Stephanie, maybe you’d like to tell us a little bit about what you’ve been working on over the last few years.
Stephanie Buck (01:30):
Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It’s good to be good to chat with you this morning. Yes, I’ve been working in consultancy for a number of years now, but been working with businesses in, I started off in the commercial world, so I was a commercial director, worked from the growing end of the business. Hand in hand was sort of client attainment and client acquisition and that sort of thing. And as I sort of made my way through the commercial side of things, I realized that I had a good connection with people and managing people and solving people related issues and dilemmas within the business. So I was a decent manager, man manager as well. So I kind of naturally transitioned into the world of HR, which was a minefield. It was another area of growth for me. I actually went on and did my master’s in human resource management and then sort did a HR director’s role, but always in that commercial capacity. But then moving into consultancy, one thing I learned really quickly is being a business leader or being a business owner doesn’t make you a great manager or doesn’t make you someone who wants to necessarily manage people or deal with the people issues. So it’s always good to have somebody that can take the reins from that end of the business, and that’s sort of where I come in.
Greg Wilkes (02:59):
Fantastic. Yes, that’s absolutely brilliant. Now I’ve got experience of working with Stephanie, which is why I wanted her on the show. So when I was going through a massive growth phase in my construction business, Stephanie was absolutely key to helping me make sure I had all my documents in place and helping me bring the right people on board, interviewing and all sorts really. So there was huge training we got from Stephanie in being able to do that. So I know that she’s going to be of massive benefit to those who are listening today who are looking to expand their construction businesses and potentially bring people on board and do it the right way because sometimes it can feel like a little bit of a minefield when you start taking people on, especially if you haven’t done it before. So, Stephanie, you know that those listening to the podcast are in construction. That’s generally why they’re here. And listening to this, it’s really difficult in construction at the moment to try and find decent people. There’s a massive shortage of skilled labor out there. Maybe you’ve experienced that before across other industries too, where they’re trying to bring on the right people on board. So maybe just asking you the first mistake, if a business is trying to grow and they might be struggling to find the right people, what are some of the big mistakes that people make when they, they’re trying to bring people on board?
Stephanie Buck (04:14):
I had say a very common mistake, and you’re right Greg, it is across many different industries, but I have heard it before that in the construction industry, good talent can be a stumbling block, but a common mistake is actually focusing on the vacancy rather than what you need in that role. The trouble with a vacancy means that you’re a man down a lot of the time or you’ve reached a point where you need to be a man up already. So I’d say focusing on that vacancy can make you a little bit hasty in getting somebody in there quickly because time is money. You’ve either got somebody doing two jobs or you are having to do two jobs while you are trying to fill the vacancy. So, sometimes the urgency of filling that vacancy can supersede some of the more important factors, which are really nailing what you want out of that vacancy.
So I would say really specify the role. Make sure that you are detailed in what your business needs and what type of person you want to do that role so you can focus on who did the role before, what was really good about them and what actually didn’t work about them. It’s really important to update the vacancy based on who did it before and remove the things that didn’t work and add more of what you wish you’d have had in the previous person. So definitely focusing on the role more than the vacancy, slowing it down to make sure that you are hiring the right person can really help because getting the wrong person in, it’s just so costly. You end up having to start all over again or you’ll end up bearing with somebody who’s not quite right for the role and then causing sometimes a contentious relationship between your new employee and the manager, which can always end in trouble.
Greg Wilkes (06:13):
Yes, I mean I think that’s absolutely brilliant advice, and I’ve certainly made that mistake before when grand businesses, you’re just desperate to just fill a role, aren’t you? And then you think, you look and you make compromises and think, oh, let’s just go for it because that’s all that’s there. So just diving into that a little bit more, if there’s a vacancy there, I mean, one of the things that just comes up in my mind straight away when I think about this, I think, well, if we’re putting all this criteria on the ideal candidate that we want, is it going to make it even harder to find or to fill that particular role? What would you say to that? Is there problems with that, If we put too much criteria on board?
Stephanie Buck (06:52):
I would say yes, you need to be balanced definitely, because the more specific you are, definitely the narrower your candidate base becomes, but then with that, the quality of your can candidate base goes up. So there’s a lot of factors involved. When you’ve got a narrow specification, you’re more likely to get the right person, but A: they’ll take longer to find, and B: they’ll be more expensive.
And they will come with their own set of requirements as well. So what you’ll find is, yes, okay, I’m getting the right person who’s going to do this job well and who is going to be right for this role, but they also want things that I may not offer at the moment, and if I don’t offer them to everybody else, is this something I’m going to have to then am I opening a can of worms? So that’s definitely a consideration when you’re narrowing down, but I think you can avoid some of those little traps by being more specific but also keeping it wide enough, particularly if you’re a growing business, there’s room then for your candidates to grow with you.
Greg Wilkes (08:01):
Stephanie Buck (08:02):
So sometimes have the mindset that where do I want this candidate to be in two years time? Where do I want the company to be? So, therefore, what do I need this person to be doing in two years time? And then look at potential while you are interviewing, then you are talking to them about what they can do now, what they’ve done in their past job, what they can offer immediately. There might be a gap there, but it might be a gap that you can help them to fill and upskill them so that in 18 months to two years’ time when you’ve got your business goals, they’re actually there with you. Recruitment is about a growth journey for both parties as well.
Greg Wilkes (08:39):
That’s a really valuable point, I think. And I guess in some ways that would mean that potentially the remuneration that you’re paying is reflective of where they are now rather than where you want them to be. Obviously when we’re thinking of bringing someone on board, you want the ideal candidate there and then you think, right, they want to be absolutely perfect, but their skillset might be too much for you at that time. You might think actually where we want them to be might be in two years down the road and it means your remuneration is slightly less until they get there. So that’s a great way of think that.
Stephanie Buck (09:09):
Absolutely. And also a massive trap that a lot of my clients have fallen into is putting together the all singing, all dancing job specification, this is what I want, this is who I want, and then in comes that person into the interview room and their command in the same salary as you, because you’ve actually maybe elevated that role a little bit too much, and sometimes they don’t want very much money, but they want progression, they want autonomy, they want things that you’re not ready to give. So you’ve got to also be careful that you’re not asking candidates to come out of jobs that are suited to them to then come and work with you as a growing business that aren’t quite ready to fill all of their needs as well. So it is a balancing act. It really is.
Greg Wilkes (09:56):
I can see that must be really difficult. And I guess really thinking about that, the process, I mean, you tell us, Stephanie, if someone was looking to bring someone on board, obviously the worst thing you can do is wait till the last minute and then think, right, we need someone to start in a week or so’s time because absolutely desperate. How far in advance do you think companies should be thinking about this and planning their recruitment strategy?
Stephanie Buck (10:21):
Well, when I work with companies, particularly smaller growing companies, I work businesses that have got three people to begin with and 18 months working together, and they’re sort of pushing 9 to 15 people on board. Now, I always work with them with a minimum 24-month people plan, and that’s a minimum. Anybody who’s starting a business should have a plan in place for the next two years. If you are serious about your business and you want people coming on board to be serious about it, then put your plans on paper and include the people plan in that. So where are we going to be in six months time, 12 months, 18, and then 24 months. Once you’ve penned that, you can follow the plan and say, right, okay, so how many clients will we have on board? How much work will that be? So what manpower will that require? Okay, and then run a budget in line with that. What can we afford to pay these people? So I’d say a 24-month people plan will then give you one step ahead of your agencies so, you’ll know that they’re up and coming as long as you are working in line with your plan and things happen. Sometimes growth is accelerated unexpectedly, and sometimes it’s slowed down unexpectedly, but you can adjust the plan.
Greg Wilkes (11:39):
Yes, I think that’s absolutely key. So yes, that’s a really good point to think on board. I didn’t think you’d say 24 months in our minds. I guess that feels like a long timeframe, but time flies, isn’t it? Before you know it, all of a sudden it’s come around. So that’s really valuable. Now, obviously Stephanie, I know you’ve worked for huge global companies, and you obviously go into businesses as a consultant, and you are potentially looking to try and fix some problems that they’ve got. What’s the number one thing you look for? If you were going into a company and you were trying to fix some common problems that are going on within businesses with their people and whatever else, what is that number one thing that you’re looking to fix first?
Stephanie Buck (12:18):
That’s a really interesting question actually, because often as a consultant you’re approached when things are not where they need to be from a people perspective. But what I find almost a hundred percent of the time is actually the problem that I’ve been bought in to resolve is not the problem that needs to be fixed. So yeah, it’s really interesting. So I’ll of course go in and find the speedy resolution to the primary issue, because that is what’s niggling away at the business leader, the owner, the managing director, and they’re the person that needs to lead from the front. So, it’s really important for me as a consultant to reengage the leader. So whatever the issue is, I will make that the primary issue, but actually there’s usually an underlying niggle somewhere in the business that’s caused that issue and is about to cause another one.
So it could be conflict, it could be people are stretched, people are not managing their time properly, or it could be client complaints, customer complaints, a whole mind of things. But once we’ve resolved the main issue that I’ve been brought in to look at, I’ll then actually recommend that I go through a bit of a familiarization process with my clients. It’s usually two to three days of me getting to know the business through the eyes of the people and speaking to different people that work in different areas, somebody in admin, somebody who speaks to the customers regularly, somebody who’s out there on the front line delivering the work. And then obviously the business leader and I will then be able to put together a comprehensive report and say to the managing director, look, here is what’s working really well, and this is where your business is excelling, but here are your pain points and this is where you’re losing money. This is where you’re losing time, and this is where staff are becoming disengaged. And then we can work out why. It’s a really powerful exercise because it gives business owners and leaders an inside view to the business. There’s lots about us as business leaders that our staff just don’t want to tell us, but they think it every day
And there’s lots about the company that they wish was different because it would make their working experience better or more efficient. But again, sometimes we don’t have the time to listen to it because we are onto the next thing as the business leader. So, this gives us the time to stop and listen to all of the staff at once and then prioritize our plans for the business with a view to including and incorporating what the staff needs and what they want as well.
Stephanie Buck (14:59):
So yeah, that’s a really good way of finding out what to fix.
Greg Wilkes (15:03):
Yes, that’s really important, isn’t it? I guess as a business leader you think, right, I know what the problem is, or so they’ll probably come to you and say, right, yeah, this is the problem. It’s this person and that person. They’re not doing this and that, but really that person isn’t going to speak to the business leader and open up on potentially what the problems are they, so sometimes I guess having a consultant or an outside a third party that they can talk to honestly about things, you’re probably going to dive in and find out a lot more than what the business leader would know.
Stephanie Buck (15:31):
Absolutely. And it’s information that you can keep and revisit. And say, okay, well this is what, have a look at it six months later and say how different are things now that I knew this? So it’s very valuable.
Greg Wilkes (15:45):
Yes, a hundred percent. Yes, that’s good. Okay, so again, as we said, we’re talking that those in this podcast are in construction. The number one problem at the moment in construction is finding decent tradespeople. There’s just, as we said, a massive lack of talent out there. Is there any easy tips or nice easy things that people can implement? What do they need to be thinking about to attract the best talent out there, the best tradespeople, what would you say?
Stephanie Buck (16:14):
I would say be visible. Be visible, because people that are looking serious about making a career move and looking for the right thing for them, their eyes are open. So if you are visible, they will see you. So, utilize social media channels, update your website, put little posts out, even if I’m not the biggest LinkedIn user, but I will go onto LinkedIn and add my thoughts or add a like to posts that I think are quite valuable and quite worth hearing or I might share something. So just be visible. And that’s the first thing. Social media does a lot for us nowadays, a lot more than it did years ago and that we probably realize, but also your staff are your biggest adverts as well.
So, word of mouth is invaluable. So happy staff. If people say, well, I work here and this is how my work life is, you’ll be surprised how staff referrals are underrated, but they have to want to refer the company and refer their place of work on. So again, high engagement is very important and very key. And I’d also say don’t just share your vacancy. Share what you do for your staff. Share the benefit of being part of your work community. Because we live in a world now from a personnel perspective that people are really interested in what they are going to get out of their job.
No longer are we in the days of I’m here to work and do my job, and I’m grateful to be paid at the end of the month. People want to know what they’re going to get out of the job, not just the salary, but how is it going to enhance their lifestyle? What are they going to learn? What are the prospects, what will the working environment offer to them? So be really clear about what comes with the job, and it doesn’t have to be things that cost money. Be proud of the fact that you’ve got a fun working environment, be proud of the fact that you are an approachable leader, or that you allow people to make their own decisions. Small things like that can make it very attractive to work for your business.
Greg Wilkes (18:40):
Yes, that’s really valuable points there. So that’s good to think about. So no, that’s absolutely brilliant. And I guess you touched on it earlier, the power of social media and how you constantly want to be put in, especially if you’re looking for tradespeople, that this is a constant thing that wants to be done all the time. So, let’s imagine someone’s doing that. They’re using Facebook or Instagram or whatever it is, they’re potentially asking their staff to help find people too. What about other methods? Obviously, you’ve got sites out there indeed and all different recruitment websites out there. Do you think there’s any value in putting adverts out in these things? Sometimes they seem flooded with adverts. Are they still valuable? Do they work?
Stephanie Buck (19:25):
I do. I do think that there’s value in putting adverts out on Indeed, yes, there is the whole word of mouth and the social aspect, which I do think is valuable, but also people that are, like I say, seriously looking for work and they’re taking the fact that they want to make their next career move seriously will utilize sites like Indeed and Totaljobs and they will have a look. Also, by using those sites, you’ll be able to see who else is recruiting?
Greg Wilkes (19:56):
Stephanie Buck (19:56):
What they’re offering and whether what you’ve got on offer stacks up in comparison to what other people in the industry and sized and like-minded businesses are actually offering. So it’s a good way to just stay in the know and to find out how quick other vacancies are being filled because once you’ve got a live advert, you start getting metrics about how many CVs you’re getting and you’ll see adverts coming up and popping off and you’ll be able to sort of track how well your recruitment journey is going in comparison. So I just think there’s value in using those sites. It’s not hugely costly, but it’s another area you do get flooded with CVs. So that’s definitely one area where I think narrowing down and using some of the filters that you can get on Indeed and those sites to say, do you have two or three years experience in the industry? Have you ever done this or that? So make sure you put those filters in because it’ll stop you getting completely inundated. But I would say there’s value in using those sites.
Greg Wilkes (21:01):
Yes, that’s really useful. So yes, especially the point about using filters on that, so that’s pretty good. So let’s say, I know some people listening to this would’ve already tried Indeed before and Totaljobs are different ones and struggled with using them potentially. Maybe they’re just not very good at recruiting, generating a decent advert, all that side of things. So, some will potentially look to use recruitment consultants as a way of bringing on talent. What do you think about that? Because straightaway, as soon as you think of recruitment consultants, you think, well, that’s a lot of money. They’re going to go out the door there. What’s your initial thoughts do you think just recruit in-house and do it yourself or use a specialist?
Stephanie Buck (21:45):
I would say, I would argue actually that for a specialist role, recruitment consultants are worth every penny. Because usually when you are paying a senior salary or you want somebody who is highly experienced in that field, a recruitment consultant will do so much of the groundwork for you in terms of making sure the match is correct. Anytime we recruit in-house and do it ourselves, we are running a risk of some kind of mismatch because we are not specialist recruiters. Recruitment is an entire specialism of its own. So we know our business, we know what we want and we know how to interview. That’s about as far as it goes. So I think there’s a level of job where that isn’t always adequate, and anything above that level, I think recruitment consultants are definitely worth the spend because they do a lot of the groundwork for you in terms of matching.
Greg Wilkes (22:49):
Brilliant. And I guess they’ve got a pool of people that they’ve already got sitting on their radar, haven’t they, that are looking, that are currently working with them. So that’s useful. So obviously, cost comes into it, and I don’t know whether you know the answer to this EF or not, but let’s say for example, I wanted a high-level role of maybe a contracts or project manager, something like that in the business, which I know a lot do, that’s probably the first high level one. They go and recruit on a wage of let’s just figure out 50,000 pounds a year. Do you know what that would cost from a recruitment? I know it’s going to vary, but is there a guide on what should a business owner expect to pay for that sort of thing?
Stephanie Buck (23:26):
I’d say at the moment the average is about 20% of the salary, and that’s a low average. So I’m talking about outside of London, a local recruiter would be commanding at least 20% of the salary, and when you’re heading into London, you’re sort of moving up to about 30% of the salary. It can be quite hefty. And that’s because
Greg Wilkes (23:53):
Stephanie Buck (23:54):
Greg Wilkes (23:55):
I said that’s more than I was expecting. For a 50 grand role, you might be paying 10 grand out to find the right person.
Stephanie Buck (24:04):
Yes, recently I worked with a business who were paying, they were paying mid forties and they paid seven and half thousand for that role to take that person on. So it is definitely a heavy fee. Now, recruitment fees also, they come with a slide in scale rebate, so that person has to work out as well in order for that fee to be fully payable. So, obviously usually it’s if they leave in the first three months, you get the majority of that feedback. If they leave within six months, you get a certain percentage of the feedback and then sometimes they extend it all the way up to the first year of a salary, particularly if it’s a large recruitment fee. So this is where I would say to people, use the probationary period wisely,
Greg Wilkes (24:58):
Stephanie Buck (24:59):
And if you don’t know how to do that, get somebody in to do it. It doesn’t cost very much to get consultant like me and say, look, I’ve taken somebody on, I’ve paid a recruitment fee for them. How can I shape this probation, this three months probationary period to make sure that this is the right person for the role? What do I look out for? What are the red flags? It’s better to know that than to incur the cost later.
Greg Wilkes (25:23):
Definitely, yes. But especially if you can get that back, and I guess that means there’s some, can you negotiate with recruitment and consultants on how long that probation is or fees and things like that? Is there normally flexibility with them?
Stephanie Buck (25:37):
I would say go for it, because any industry recruitment consultants, they need the business just like we need the business, we need the candidates. So if it’s worth their while, then of course it’s a conversation to be had, look, I’d like to use you, I want to fill this vacancy, but at the moment 20% is over my budget. Can we talk about 15 or 17% of the salary?
Stephanie Buck (26:01):
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. So I would a hundred percent, even if they’re a top-level recruiter with over a hundred years in the industry,
Ask the question, say I’m a startup, I’m a growing business in the next two years, I’m looking to put out at least 10 vacancies, and I’m happy to have a conversation with you about repeat business, but we are going to need to talk about your fee because it’s above what I can pay. They’ll respect that a bit more than halfway through the job. You sort of start, I’m in an R and about the fee when they’ve already started the search. So I’d be upfront and try and cut a deal and do the same with the rebate. Say, what if this person doesn’t work out? I can’t afford to lose this money. Can we talk about stretching it? You’ve got a six month rebate, sorry, I need 12 and see what they say.
Greg Wilkes (26:48):
Yes, that’s good. Yes. Okay, that’s really helpful. So, obviously once you start this recruitment process, you are going to be getting a lot of CVs and resumes through. And for someone that maybe hasn’t done a lot of recruitment or got a lot of experience in that, it can feel like a little bit of a minefield. These resumes, you don’t really know what you’re looking out for. So what tips would you give Stephanie? Or maybe firstly, if they were just going to have a quick scan through, is there any red flags you should be looking for in a resume?
Stephanie Buck (27:19):
There are many, a lot of red flags, but it depends on who you are and what you are looking for. So for instance, a red flag can be their experience because they haven’t done what you want them to do. But, because they’ve worked for companies like you, we can often look at the wrong thing on the CV. So people will apply for the job because you are a construction company and where they’ve worked before is a construction company, and they kind of know a little bit about the job you want them to do,
But the match is in the experience. So, just because they’ve done the same job title doesn’t mean that that role was what this role is going to be. It might be similar. So, look at the bullet points that they put underneath their job title. What did they actually do on a day-to-day basis? So, that could be a red flag. It doesn’t make them a bad candidate, it can just make them not suitable for your vacancy. And, also how long they stayed in their jobs as well can be a little bit of a red flag potentially. People who are entrepreneurial, they’re ambitious and they’re always looking for what’s next for them. Don’t tend to stay in their jobs longer than two years because they want to keep moving. That doesn’t make them bad, but it does mean that you could invest a lot of time and money into them, and then they’ll possibly make that move again before they settle.
Greg Wilkes (28:49):
Stephanie Buck (28:50):
Greg Wilkes (28:52):
Like you said before, if you’re spending seven and a half to 10 grand to bring someone on board from a consultant and they’re going to go in two years, in my mind that would be a huge red flag potentially. If you are already thinking of a 24-month plan and now they’re gone again, that could
Stephanie Buck (29:09):
Absolutely. Yeah. So asking questions, asking them why they’ve left. I noticed you only stayed here for two years, why did you leave? Is really important.
Greg Wilkes (29:21):
Yes, okay, so that’s good. So, experience how long they’ve been in a role. Any other big ones, they should be looking for?
Stephanie Buck (29:28):
Gaps in employment. So if somebody’s been out of work, I’d even say six months is a gap that needs to be explained, to be honest. And this is where recruitment consultants come in really handy, because they’re very finicky. They’ll say, what were you doing for that four weeks? If there’s a month gap on the CV and people do, it takes a while to get the right role. So people are out of work for sometimes three to six months, but I’d say six months after that you need to know what that gap in employment in experience was all about really.
Greg Wilkes (30:04):
Yes, because I guess people could conveniently leave jobs off that they’ve been to, and it hasn’t worked out and it could be that sort of thing, I guess, couldn’t it? Not just that they haven’t been employed, but they’ve had roles that have gone wrong. Is that
Stephanie Buck (30:15):
Yes, absolutely. Yes. Or sometimes people’s lifestyle, they live their lifestyles in a way where they sort of want a bit of time out, they don’t want to work for a while and they’d sort of have gaps in. But if you want somebody that’s going to be a stayer and that’s here for the long haul, it’s important to know why there might be gaps, particularly if there’s more than one or two gaps, just to explore that a little bit more.
Greg Wilkes (30:39):
That’s absolutely brilliant. Yes. Thanks for that, Stephanie. So okay, let’s imagine we’ve got our pool of CVS together and we’re going to start the interview process. What are your tips for interviewing? So is it always a telephone interview first, then a formal one, or do you just go straight for a formal interview? What do you think the best practice is on that?
Stephanie Buck (31:03):
I would say definitely a telephone interview first because just a conversation answers a lot of initial questions and a formal interview is not always necessary to find out whether just the first round of elimination, it doesn’t need to be formal. So definitely go for a interview first, get a feel for the person, let them ask you a few questions and then explain to them a little bit more about the role that maybe is not detailed in the advert. And then once you’ve sort of crossed that line and think, yes, they’re definitely using terminology that I was wanting to hear. They definitely know things. So when you are having that telephone call, try not to give too much, try to just listen out for signs that they are going to know, things that you’d expect them to know and that they’re using the right terminology and things like that.
Greg Wilkes (32:00):
Yes, that’s good. Okay, so they pass the telephone interview. We’re happy to do the formal one. Now, formal interviews. I guess there’s different ways of approaching this and because you’ve worked for some big global companies, I’m sure they’ve got some quite intense formal interview procedures. So does a construction business owner need to be worrying about a real complex interview where there’s tests and a multitude of people have got to take the interview? I mean, just an example, when I was was about 18, 19 or so, I did a little stint of working for a IT recruitment company. Funny enough, I didn’t last long, and I just wanted to try it. And honestly, the interview process, there must’ve been about five or six people that interviewed me over the course of a day. It was so intense, it was just unbelievable. And I’ve never replicated that when I’ve been interviewing people. But what do you think best practices, there’s a business owner needs to be worrying about that?
Stephanie Buck (33:00):
I think that there’s no wrong or right here, businesses are, it depends on really what they’re looking for. I’ve got a client who, they go through something called PI profiling, the personality profiling and every single role that they put out has a profile. So, every candidate that applies for that role needs to fit very closely to that profile. So even if their interview is fantastic and it’s faultless and they’ve got all the experience and all the skills, if their profile doesn’t fit the profile of that role, that’s a huge stumbling block. It’s actually often a deal breaker with this business
Stephanie Buck (33:43):
Because they find
Greg Wilkes (33:44):
Does that work?
Stephanie Buck (33:47):
They feel that it does. And, also what they’re finding it is doubling the length of time it takes to fill their vacancies,
But, they’re also seeing more staying power in their candidates, and they’ve actually seen sort of a gradient increase in the candidate quality now that they’ve got.
Stephanie Buck (34:10):
So if you’re going for the cream of the crop, then yes, aptitude tests and personality tests and all of that will get you a different caliber of candidates. But it will, it’s timely. It’s very timely. And if you are a growing construction company, sometimes you’re still working out your business, your culture, what your business wants, and things like that. So, sometimes it can be a bit too early to start wrapping around too many of those specifics as well.
Greg Wilkes (34:43):
Yes, that’s interesting. So, if people might be listening to this thinking, right, well, where would I start on getting aptitude tests done? Is that something that you can find online or do you need to get consultants to help you with all of that?
Stephanie Buck (34:56):
It’s something you’d probably need to engage with a consultant. If a company that I work with said, look, I don’t do it for all my roles, but for this particular role, I really want someone who thinks this way, who thinks outside the box or who’s more objective or more subjective, it requires a type of person. And that’s sometimes a genuine requirement. Then I’d say, okay, well let’s profile them. Let’s profile the role and let’s profile the candidates and at least we’ll get a view of who we are looking at. And, consultants like myself have got relationships already with profiling companies and also we are trained to read those profiles and explain the profiles, people that are running the business and say, well, this sort of person will take a bit longer to make a decision, but the decision will be more well thought out. Whereas, this sort of person is very decisive but may be a bit hasty in their decision-making. So it tells you a lot about people, and I’ve had training on how to break down those reports.
Greg Wilkes (36:00):
Yes, that’s interesting. Yes, so I guess it’s not really a DIY move for a business owner if they’ve not tried that before. So that’s helpful. So, if we’re in the interview then, what would you say some of the top questions, I know again, this is a vary question, but what sort of questions should be generally asked in the interview ones that really get to the heart of what you want to know?
Stephanie Buck (36:23):
Okay, so I think that we all know that an interview is about whether that person can do the job, so that’s a given. So, all of your competency-based interview questions about how they would do the job or what they’ve done in the past to prove that they know how to do the job. But I think actually some of the value in making sure that’s the right person for you and for your business can be sometimes underrated. So, asking questions about what would fulfill them in their next job. So I’ll always ask candidates, what’s important to you in your next job, the next job that you take, what are the important factors to you about that job? Or sometimes, I’ll term it in a way so that you’re not putting them on the spot. If we were to offer you this job today and you were successful in your interview, but then tomorrow you were to get almost an identical job offer, same salary, same role, same management level, what factors would come into play in your decision between taking the two jobs?
Greg Wilkes (37:34):
Stephanie Buck (37:35):
And then they’ll start to tell you what their personal drivers are, whether they like to work in a small company, big company, whether they like to be micromanaged or whether they like autonomy, whether the location is an issue. Personal drivers are really important, I think.
Greg Wilkes (37:52):
And I guess that can be then used to do the sell back to them when you do want to pitch and make them an offer. I guess that’s a goal for you, isn’t it?
Stephanie Buck (38:00):
Absolutely. So that’s definitely, I think that can sometimes be missed. I also think it’s important to know what they find difficult or how they handle difficult things. So I’ll ask, when was the last time you had to deliver a decision that you didn’t agree with? When did your manager ask you to do something that you didn’t want to do? How did you go about doing that? Or did you challenge your manager and say, look, I’m not comfortable doing that either way. How did you deal with it?
So, just asking questions that’s a little bit unconventional. It’s also good to know what people think of themselves as well. So, I ask a bit of a trick question. I don’t know if I should say it on the podcast because it’ll no longer be a trick question, but I might ask, are you a good driver? And people are like, yes. And I say, okay, so why are you a good driver? And how they answer that question actually tells you a lot about what they think of themselves or what they think a good job is. If they say, well, I’ve never had an accident. I am quick and I get to my destinations quickly, or I watch the other people on the roads. That’s their personal perception, that’s their personal evaluation of how they’ve drive and how they’ve driven. But then other people will say, well, I’ve never had any points on my license.
I’ve never had any driving convictions. I’ve only got three faults on my driving test. And they go with all the factual things about what a driver should do rather than their own perception of what a good driver is. So, just the way that question is answered will tell you how that person perceives themselves as doing a good job. Will they go off and think, oh, I’m doing a great job here because, or will they think, let me check my job spec and see if I’m doing all those things on the job spec to work out whether they’re doing a good job and neither candidate is the right or wrong, but it’ll tell you how you need to manage them.
Greg Wilkes (40:02):
That’s interesting. Yes, that’s fantastic. So let’s imagine we’ve navigated the interview quite well, and we found our ideal candidate next step. I mean, I know I’ve made a mistake of doing this, just hiring people without getting a reference. What do you think about references? Because sometimes it’s difficult references, sometimes you just don’t get a lot back from other companies. So do you think they’re important to chase, and what’s your thoughts around that?
Stephanie Buck (40:29):
I do. I think references are useful because we need to remember that interviews are a planned and prepared conversation. So you’re never going to get the bones of the person to the bare bones of that person. More will come out in the time that they’re working for you, and usually, it’s gradual. So any sort of skeletons in the closet or anything that we may need to know about them from a work perspective, that’s a considerable red flag, will usually come out in a reference. We all know that companies can’t go around giving bad references, but they can give factual references that are informative for us and helpful for us in making our hiring decision. So, have they ever been subject to a disciplinary process? That’ll just be a yes or no question, but it’s useful to know what was their reason for leaving? Have they told you they resigned, but does the reference say they were dismissed? So I think for red flags, it’s very important that we ascertain that their previous employers are happy to refer them.
Greg Wilkes (41:43):
Stephanie Buck (41:45):
But, also it’s good to know the good stuff as well. Sometimes you get these shining references through, which just sometimes settle any anxieties that we got during the interview process because people are nervous and they don’t always come across as their best selves in interviews. So, sometimes a reference can back up any sort of doubts that we may have accumulated while we were interviewing them.
Greg Wilkes (42:08):
Yes, no, that’s really valuable. So yes, references are important. So let’s imagine now we’ve done all this, now we’ve done the telephone interviews, we’ve looked at everything, the CVs, we’ve got our perfect candidate, the references are glowing, they start working for us and it’s fantastic. We don’t want to lose it. They become such an important part of the business. So I often talk to my clients about how do we retain our staff. Absolutely key, isn’t it? Trying to build that loyalty in your staff. But you often find some companies have such a high turnover of staff, they just go through people like anything. So why do you feel that could be damaging for a business if they’ve got this high turnover, and what tips would you give on how we can build that loyalty and retain our best staff?
Stephanie Buck (42:54):
Absolutely. I’d say it’s damaging. A high turnover can be damaging because it can quickly become your culture, part of your culture, and a culture is something that just continues and it permeates. So then it can be difficult to get rid of. When you’ve got that culture, it becomes a mindset. People begin to watch it and think, well, if they’re doing it, then that’s maybe what I should do. So a high turnover is always caused by something. There’s always a reason for turnover of staff, and it’s really important to get to the bottom of what that is. And sadly, but very often we know what the reason is for the high turnover, but we may not be in a position to change that or we may not feel that we should have to change it. Sometimes we feel that, look, it’s not going to change and these staff are being unreasonable in their expectation, but there’s always a middle ground, and there’s always a better way that we can set and manage expectations as business leaders. And I think a common misconception is that our staff are okay, particularly our A players, our key players. They’re good at what they do. Yes, they get the job done, yes, but often they’re not. Okay, not a hundred percent. Okay. So it is about having those check-ins and those real sorts of shoulders down conversations and say, what’s going on? Tell me what’s going on, what’s not happening for you?
And, I find that those conversations work a lot better than even performance reviews and appraisals short, but often have those conversations, even if it’s 15 minutes
Stephanie Buck (44:36):
And sometimes in the structure of, okay, what’s working well, tell me what’s going well, okay, what’s not working? And then the star question is, how am I doing? What am I not doing because I’m busy. We’ve got this massive project coming on, I’ve been in meetings for the past three months and I appreciate actually what you’ve been doing, but be honest with me. Where have I possibly fallen short, or where could you have done with my input?
And those conversations, what they do is they prevent a buildup of resentment, and they keep you in the know of actually what’s going well and what’s not going well. Because sometimes it can be like a bombshell when all of a sudden somebody who’s supposed to be your star player, they explode and they say, oh, this isn’t right and that isn’t right. And you think, well, when were you ever going to tell me this? And this all dates back weeks and months. But having short conversations and opening that invitation for them to tell you what, and hasn’t happened from a leadership perspective is like gold dust. It really is. So that’s one way of not assuming they’re okay.
And another way is also to let them know what your plans for them are. And that’s not just your A players, that’s your entire staff team. Even if there’s only 2, 3, 4 or 5 of you or a hundred of you. Have a succession plan, say, look, this is where we want the business to go, but don’t stop there because they want to know what their part is in that journey and where that journey is going to take them. If you make it all about the business, then sometimes, although you are considering your staff, they need to hear that. Otherwise, they think, well, I’m just coming to work so that they can take the business far so that they can benefit.
Stephanie Buck (46:32):
But actually we want to be telling their staff, and this is where you come in and this is where I see you, and this is where I can see you adding value. Very important because then there’s something for them to stay for, something for them to consider when they’re deciding whether they’re in the right job.
Greg Wilkes (46:49):
That’s really interesting. I mean, what I noticed just about the two things you mentioned there is we’re talking about retaining people and straight away a business owner might think, well, I’ve got its pay rises and it’s bonuses and it’s this and that, but you didn’t touch on that at all. It was more about the feelings of people, wasn’t it just showing that you really care and want the best for your staff. So yeah, that’s a really interesting way of looking at it, Stephanie. So thanks for that. Really, useful. We’ve come to the end of our interview now. I really appreciate all your time running through that absolute gems of wisdom that the business owners are going to be able to take from this. Obviously, as we said at the beginning, sometimes HR can feel like a little bit of a minefield from putting the right adverts out there, interviewing and even getting the right contracts and documents in place for when you do bring people on board so that you are protected as a business owner. So because we need to navigate this minefield, Stephanie, how would someone potentially get hold of your company for a bit of advice on that?
Stephanie Buck (47:48):
Okay, well, you can contact me, have a look at my website, which is eclipze.co.uk, Eclipse with a Z. So yeah, have a look at us Eclipze Consultancy. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn as well. And I’ll happily have a conversation with you about what your business plans are, where you are now, and maybe putting a priority list in place for your growth. Like I said, I’ve worked with lots of bite-sized companies, many of which have doubled in size with having me on board for a year to 18 months, and it’s a real pleasure, a real joy to see. So yes, I’m there just for one-off advice or actually to help put a bit of a growth plan in place as well.
Greg Wilkes (48:29):
That’s fantastic. Well, once again, thank you Stephanie. Really appreciate it. And thanks for everyone for listening to the podcast. If you’d like to work with me to fast-track your construction business growth, then reach out on www.developcoaching.co.uk.