Painter's Corner: All Aboard

Words: Todd Fredrick

Jerry Painter

This publication recently contained an article about Employee Onboarding. The phrase employee onboarding is relatively new. When I first heard it a couple of years ago, I thought it was simply another way of describing the hiring process. After doing a short word search, I realized that it was describing a part of the hiring process.   I am still not sold on the idea that it is a part of the new employee hiring process. I imagine that some HR director conjured the term up to make their job sound more important position.   My earliest recollection of the hiring process was when a new hire filled out a W2 form and they were on the payroll. That was the process over 50 years ago at the start of our company. While we were small, that process was just fine. But as our company grew, we realized that a lot of people may be new to construction sites or they came from residential construction and had a different concept of safety and performance.   So, general safety rules were added for the new hire to read and sign to prove they were told the basic rules. Then it stepped up to a complete safety policy and time to make sure they understood.  We would love to hire people that come to work fully trained and knowledgeable of all aspects of our industry. Only in a perfect world you could expect that. So, along the way we began to realize that we would have to train and retrain our employees regularly to improve their life skills and their work skills.   We also began to see more litigation into every aspect of our business. Since OSHA was approved in 1970, every facet of safety in our industry has been modified or new regulations added. New materials, equipment, codes and standards also had a great impact on our industry and all employees must be trained for those changes also.  50 years ago, if you needed a new employee and you had a candidate, they could be onsite working the next day. Now you are doing well if you can complete the hiring process and drug testing in a day. We spend an enormous amount of time getting our many policies and programs written.   Several years ago, during a sit down about or project review with one of our superintendents, I realized there is something that is just as important as these company policies and programs. We were talking about his trouble getting the employees to do things a certain way and with a certain attitude. I asked if he explained the processes and techniques to do the work. He said that he always did but that “they just don’t get OUR COMPANY way of doing things.”   That is when it hit me. We had a company culture. Over the years we had developed an attitude and ethic we used toward the project, the contractors, subcontractors, design team, owners, suppliers and more importantly our employees. Very briefly it turned out we believed we were all on the same team to build and the project is more important than any of the parts.   The building will be there when we are all gone. This is what will give you and your company a good reputation in your area. You want to hear people wish you could have worked on their project or have other professionals seeking your help and advice.   We have always talked about a company having a culture of safety or of quality. One of the keys to getting all of your policies and programs accepted and working at the highest level is to have a STRONG company culture or as country boys will say “doing things our way.”   Your onboarding process should include your company culture or way of doing things. But once you get your company nature/culture planted into that employee and it becomes second nature, you may have created the most desired and sometimes hated employee there is.  The company man. ALL ABOARD.  Raise the line and come on around the corner.   
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