E.M. Duggan

The Right Stuff: Recruiting and maintaining top talent

Aug. 15, 2017
Recruiting and maintaining top talent is the main goal for any contracting company. Achieving this takes a clear business philosophy, and execution. CONTRACTOR looks inside the action plans of three plumbing and mechanical companies.

We hear terms like great fit, perfect complement and ideal candidates bandied about when talking about the recruitment process. The fact of the matter is that with a seeming shortage of skilled workers coming down the pipeline, companies are ensuring that the hiring decisions made are the right ones, and understanding that keeping these employees is just as an important process.

“We’re looking for employees that demonstrate the values and core competencies of our organization, have the passion for the industry and love being a part of a driven company that is striving to be the best,” said Tom Palange, director of marketing, J.C. Cannistraro LLC, Newton, Mass. “What’s most important is to ensure that the candidate is a right fit, both for the position and the organization.”

According to Len Monfredo, LEED AP, executive vice president operations, E.M. Duggan, Canton, Mass., “When hiring employees, E.M. Duggan tries to make sure the personality of the employee fits with the culture and personality of the company; everything else is trainable.”

In Colorado, for example, Sunshine Plumbing Heating Air’s President Susan Frew said that the state has close to 10,000 new people arriving every month. Outbuilding and the real estate boom is out of control, so there is a substantial shortage of technicians in residential construction, commercial construction, new homebuilding and service. The philosophy put into action at Sunshine Plumbing Heating Air, Henderson, Colo., must be an attractive one.

“We look for experience, of course, but one thing we do that is different than most interviews is that we test for ‘are you a giver or a taker?’” said Frew. “We are very generous people, and we support our community, many non-profits, serve at the food bank, hand out necessary bags to the homeless from our trucks. If a potential hire cannot demonstrate a ‘giver’ value, he will never fit in with our culture. Takers end up getting ‘de-selected’ very shortly by the rest of our team.”

Finding the Right Stuff

Okay, so how does a company get there? What are some action items to help go from philosophy to execution of hiring solid employees?

Since 2013, there has been a building boom in Boston, which has kept E.M. Duggan busy, for example, “The trade unions have been key in helping us get and keep skilled workers, plus we offer extensive training programs within the company,” said Monfredo.

Having said that, businesses need to constantly follow the trends of the nation and make things relatable to future generations, said Monfredo. “This information can help us understand our workforce and create a corporate culture that appeals to the younger workforce. Implementing the latest technologies into the business is key, and it keeps us on top of the game, but it also speaks to the younger generation of employees, which helps us recruit and maintain them as part of the Duggan family.”

Cannistraro has a robust recruiting program that reaches out to potential employees in a variety of different formats and locations. Its human resources team travels throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions to career fairs at top engineering universities. It also has an active “Careers” page on LinkedIn and its corporate website where candidates can get a sense of our culture and apply for a job directly.

“Perhaps the most successful, long-term recruiting tool, however, is our co-op program,” said Palange. “We welcome in anywhere from 15 to 20 co-ops each school semester, working in project management, estimating, coordination, facilities, IT and HR. In 2017 alone, we’ve already hired five full-time employees directly from our co-op program, many of whom worked with us over multiple co-op terms.”

According to Sunshine’s Frew, “We use the traditional methods such as Craigslist and Indeed, but we run our ads a little differently. We say, ‘Do you fit in here?’ Are you valued? Appreciated? Heard? We also have won ‘Top Places to Work’ by the Denver Business Journal, so that tends to bring people in the door,” she said.

Notes Palange: as the company has grown, it has expanded its recruiting process to include more than just a series of interviews. Depending on the position — coordinators and designers, for example — certain skills assessments may be required to ensure that the company’s standard criteria are met. All candidates for office positions now complete the Predictive Index (PI) behavioral and cognitive assessment to help the company — and the individual — understand their natural tendencies and how their personality profile fits in with the role and the team in which they work.

“There are no right or wrong answers, but the assessments allow us to build stronger teams using proven data rooted in sociology,” said Palange.

Maintaining the Good Ones

Keeping excellent employees takes just as much effort as it does to find them. For instance, maintaining the family-friendly atmosphere past leaders instilled in E.M. Duggan’s 126 years of existence, it is the norm for employees to stay at the company for decades and make it their last place of employment.

“As a fifth-generation, family-run company, we strive hard to meet employees needs by offering training and good benefits,” said Monfredo, “plus we are big believers in promoting from within. We also keep up with state-of-the-art technology for those in and out of the field, to make their jobs easier and safer.”

Another big factor for E.M. Duggan is keeping up with generational trends. “For instance, we recently upgraded our offices to give it Millennial feel. We moved most of the employees under one roof so that all three trades can work together as a team. We also want them to take time to play together so we recently built a game room, in addition to our in-house workout facility.”

Cannistraro’s leadership recognizes how important it is to attract and retain talent, so the company offers a lot of great, creative perks — starting with a strong benefits’ package the includes healthcare, dental and 401(k) options, and employee benefits, which include things like bonus programs, paid community service days, a charitable contribution benefit, tuition reimbursement, year-round flex-time, team building activities, and free access to neighborhood facilities like a rock gym and yoga studio.  

In the year ahead, Cannistraro is investing in a more formalized training program for its employees that places an emphasis on individual skills training and career planning.

At Sunshine, the worth of the employee is reciprocated through some of its benefits. The company offers prizes and trips for reviews, including a trip for two to Mexico, free boots twice a year, financial planning services, legal shield services, days off for volunteering, unlimited personal time off — without pay — tool allowance, weekly bonuses for performance, and health club memberships.

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