While many homebuilding executives cite entitled land as their greatest long-term barrier to growth, their number one short-term constraint is talent. At all staffing levels, be it a new trainee, mid-level manager or senior executive, builders are fighting to acquire the people who can help them maintain their current stellar performance. Most companies have the land they need; however, they lack the operational capacity to develop it.
How can builders free themselves from their operational constraints and acquire the right talent for their companies? The answer depends on many factors, not the least of which is the level of the potential employee. Though many talent acquisition factors are similar across experience levels, each tier possesses unique characteristics that warrant closer consideration.Entry Level
While some builders have successfully partnered with colleges that produce real estate, construction and industrial engineering majors, many have not done as well in establishing recruiting partnerships at the top business schools — both undergraduate and graduate. Most builders have also done an under-whelming job of promoting the success of their industry on college campuses such that when they do try to recruit at top business programs, interest in their companies is often limited.
Mike Grennier, head of recruiting for Pulte Homes, validates the need to aggressively target college campuses. "We have found college professors to be a major influence on students' career thinking and we want to get mind share early. At Pulte, we host an annual 'professor day' in which we bring in college professors from key construction/Real Estate schools and tell them the Pulte story, tour our R&D facility and let them hear from Bill Pulte about why home building [versus commercial construction] should be the career of choice for graduating college students."
How to win
Builders typically stay inside the industry for mid-level talent, yet it is the level in highest demand at the moment and can be the most difficult to find. Whether a company seeks talent inside or outside the industry, the key is to "go for the heart." Talking someone into a lateral move is a hard value proposition unless you get to the core of what makes up the person and find out what motivates him or her.
How to win
Tired of writing big checks? Going outside the industry is the way to go. Of course builders will need to backfill with experienced people in key roles like division presidents and land acquisition, but most other functional positions can be filled with talent from parallel industries. However, to succeed with recruiting from outside the industry, builders need to advance a competency-based approach to hiring and developing people (a topic that will be discussed in the next issue of GIANTS).
A competency-based approach is important because in almost every role inside a home building company, it's key to find someone who is comfortable with ambiguity, loves an entrepreneurial environment, is performance driven and has a down-to-earth demeanor. Other industries produce talent with these characteristics, but it is important to be able to identify them. A good starting point is to look to talent from highly decentralized businesses like hospitality/lodging, manufacturing, consulting firms and construction materials. In addition, people with a combination of experience from different industries can produce outstanding results.
How to win
Given the homebuilding industry has changed significantly over the years, large, diversified corporations that require the best in business talent are now dominating the industry. While the industry itself can be a source of good talent, relying solely on this practice may amount to nothing more than "shuffling the sheep." To truly raise the bar in finding talent, homebuilders must look outside traditional sources of employees to other industries or different college majors.
To attract talent from non-traditional sources, builders must also be able to articulate to entry-level employees why homebuilding can be a rewarding career; or to experienced performers from outside the industry why a lateral move into homebuilding can be more rewarding than riding out their time in a non-growth company. To attract such talent, homebuilders need to create a vision around the impact good employees can make, and ultimately, the great financial success they can achieve. Those builders able to achieve such objectives will win the war for talent. Those who can't may be left wounded in the trenches.
|Scott Petty is the Managing Partner, Construction Practice, for Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. For more than 50 years, Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. has been recognized as an executive search leader who every day solves critical business problems for clients. In 2004, Heidrick conducted 12 of the 16 Fortune 500 CEO assignments, demonstrating the company's position as a world leader in helping clients build top performing management teams. The company is actively redefining top-level search to encompass complementary services that help build strong companies and the leaders of tomorrow. Heidrick & Struggles' Real Estate and Construction Practice applies these same techniques to help builders find top management and board of director level talent.|