Consider how time has evolved certain roles within organizations. For instance, 40 years ago, corporations staffed full-time safety professionals to lead and support their endeavors in the life safety arena. Today, that same role continues to evolve, with the incorporation of risk management as an overarching theme. Similarly, information technology’s speed and trajectory has rapidly morphed the human resources position, which was once often relegated to the margins of simply maintaining hardware, to that of a niche position that complements the financial, risk management and business development roles, handling everything from the company website and social media sites to data security. Often, the term “human resources associate” evokes images of a stodgy paper pusher who either helps process required paperwork during hiring or shows up on that fateful last day of employment. While this imagined job description may be an exaggerated stereotype, it is no longer enough to drive proactive and progressive strategies. Instead, today’s successful corporations require a talent director.
An essential goal of every company should be to cultivate human capital. With the prevalence of human resource issues surrounding the industry and the perceived inability to find experienced employees, it would be grossly negligent not to execute a plan of action centered around finding and retaining talent.
Consequently, construction businesses should closely examine every aspect of their human resources plan. Figure 1 illustrates the life cycle associated with furthering employee growth.
Whether it relates to the company’s image among those in the candidate pool or the way in which managers, supervisors and associates are continually developed throughout their careers, it quickly becomes apparent how vast and complicated the human capital component of a strategic plan can be. Unfortunately, too often, the steps of human capital development become side projects of other roles within an organization instead of a main focus. Aspirational goals on planning day eventually seem to be distractions from what is perceived to be the real work, like project and finance management, leading to procrastination or total neglect of those goals.
In comparison with corollary positions in corporations, this does not mean the talent director becomes the owner, manager and sole practitioner of all things human resource-related. Just as safety is everyone’s job, everyone owns an aspect of the people-growing goal, but the talent director is the champion of the cause. They serve as the driver of this critical initiative and live people-focused on a daily basis. They provide the cadence to which the organization marches, relative to specific items within the human resources world.
- Organizational recruiting—Whether they actively participate in college and high school recruiting or delegate specific team members to participate, the talent director heads the process to maintain routine contact rather than simply showing up when there is an employment need.
- Personnel development—Working with managers and associates to tie organizational goals with real-time personnel development and training targets is an essential role of the talent director.
- Training—Rather than create a blanket training program, the talent director identifies internal needs, which not only shores up deficiencies, but provides real education on new trends and thought leadership within the industry.
- Professional development—Acting as the dean, the talent director creates the curriculum, identifies the subject matter experts (internal and external) and, most importantly, creates accountability to drive adherence to training and education standards.
Talent development is not just for mega-organizations. While establishing what seems like a full-service university within a corporation sounds like a daunting task, consider instead the benefit of a well-defined, structured training program that is united with the company’s strategy and long-term wellbeing.
Many organizations manage the business from the sidelines, determining there is no long-term efficacy to be achieved from a talent director. Owners ask, “Will this work for us? Is the construction labor shortage a short-term blip, or is this just the tip of the iceberg? How will we pay for it?”
First, it is important to push the issue of talent shortages to the side for a moment. As a leader, ask yourself what type of corporation you want to lead. Do you want to put human capital at the forefront, securing real talent, or treat it as an afterthought, settling for mediocrity? Leading organizations not only state their vision, mission and core values, but integrate hiring, recruiting and professional development strategies that drive real action to achieve adherence to those standards.
As a result, they are not reactionary pawns to macro-level forces, and their employees are empowered to help with the mission. So many companies are well-intentioned when it comes to training and associate development, only to have seemingly more imminent projects trump this essential part of the human capital cycle. Think of how often training gets put on the backburner and performance appraisals are delayed because of a challenging project. Similar to safety leadership, the talent director must be regarded as essential and revered. If they are not viewed as a true partner to operations, estimating and finance, associates will not only discount the validity and relevance of the position, but may subvert the intent of the strategic initiative all together.
The construction industry continues to grapple with an ever-changing environment. As ways of leveraging technology constantly need to be reevaluated due to continual change in the industry, the human element remains the one constant in all organizations.
Companies that take an active role in owning and directing the talent development process will certainly surpass those that merely consult an outdated human resources handbook when a new hire is needed.