If you were at the Fall Conference in Philadelphia in September, or at the Technology for Contractors conference in Park Slope, UT, last June, you probably heard presentations by Michael Matalone.

Michael Matalone, who had a feature article in last month’s Toolbox about finding and keeping talent, is an expert on exactly that subject: talent. He owns and is president of a recruiting company called XP3 Talent. He came to the conference to explain how contractors can find people and then how they can develop the people they have so as to make employees both more productive and likelier to stay.

Industry-Wide Challenge

It’s not just CCN members who need to know about recruiting and retention. The whole residential construction industry, at all levels—homebuilding, remodeling, maintenance and repair services such as plumbing, HVAC and electrical—now finds itself short of people and scrambling to recruit.

Finding salespeople has always been the big challenge— it’s an ongoing struggle filling a position that’s that important with turnover that high—but in many parts of the country you go to find a technician or to hire a crew and they’re just not there, they don’t exist anymore.

The problem’s serious enough that the National Roofing Contractors Association is launching a major initiative—the biggest project the group has put together in decades—to train roofing installers and build a database of trained and certified production personnel who can take those skills and certifications from one employer to the next. NRCA is putting a lot of resources into it.

Train the Trainer Or…

We found out about Michael Matalone through CCN member Window Nation, which had employed him to turn around its sales recruiting process, that is, to find the best candidates and train them in a way that ensured far higher levels of retention.

When we contacted Michael, we wanted him to speak to CCN at conferences about recruiting and retaining talent. He did and I was impressed, as were other members.

The reviews of his presentations were tremendous. So we discussed with him the idea of putting together a three-day program for CCN members that would train them in how to recruit and retain, and follow it up with on-going coaching from Michael.

Then it occurred to me that that approach contained a likely flaw. Namely, that contractors might take the time and trouble to learn how to hire, but then not have the time to execute, i.e., become their own recruiter.

Beyond Train-The-Trainer

Recruiting is something contractors need to know. But even while they can get good at it, the reality is that the typical owner already has about five full-time jobs, and when you add recruiter, hiring manager and onboarding specialist to the rest, you diminish the chances of successful recruiting.

So we reconsidered and instead proposed a strategic partnership with Michael and his company. Essentially how it will work is that CCN will make resources available to Michael so that, instead of or in addition to simply training contractors in how to recruit, he can actually do the recruiting for companies that want this service. CCN and Michael Matalone’s company will become equity partners. We will offer his services either way, that is, Michael or someone from his company will come and train owners in recruiting, or someone from XP3 Talent will do the hiring and training.

Active Recruitment

Up to now, contractors who needed someone would typically put an ad out on Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, or Zip Recruiter and hope for resumes.

The ways things are, that’s going to be a tough way to find people, because many contracting companies are looking for installers and salespeople, and in some markets just about every company is looking.

The name of the game now is find the people who are already working and maybe not even actively seeking employment elsewhere. Because that describes just about everyone.

So how do you reach them?

You do that by active and continuous recruiting. I don’t mean calling up someone at another home improvement company and saying, hey do you want to come work for us? That kind of talent poaching can easily backfire, because other contractors in the market will start doing the same to you and it’s not going to feel real nice.

But casting a wide net via social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn puts you in touch with the people who work in this business and might be open to going somewhere else.

Other industries have done this forever. Friends of mine in businesses such as finance, for instance, find themselves approached by headhunters all the time. That’s how people move from position to position. They weren’t looking for a job but someone contacts them and suddenly they’re leaving the job they have and going somewhere else.

It’s time the contracting world starts to operate in the same way as other industries. At some point soon there won’t be any choice.