Contractor Q&A: Employee Onboarding


Words: MASONRY Magazine 
Photo:  Welcomia

Editor’s Note: The employee onboarding process is a crucial part of hiring. We talked with two mason contractors in the hopes of shining light on this critical practice and describing their experiences. We’ would like to thank Brandon Harstell, Paul Cantarella Jr., and Melonie Leslie for taking the time to talk with us.   

What does employee onboarding look like for your company?  

Brandon Hartsell, Project Manager, Gates Construction Company:  The two main goals on the first day should be setting expectations and introducing objectives. Employees need to have crystal clear ideas about what their job duties and responsibilities are. Once we have the expected foundation in place, we start slow — paper plans, nothing digital, computer off.  

I want the new hire to understand the process before we unload the technology part of the business on them.  

•    Make the new hire feel a part of the culture 

•    Where to find information and who to ask 

•    How to get the job done 

•    Learn the values of our company 

Paul Cantarella Jr., President of Cantarella & Sons Inc.: New employees will sit down with the job foreman and go over general safety and specific jobsite safety issues after they have read our safety manual.  

Melonie Leslie, General Manager, G & G Enterprises: Most of our new hires come from referrals from our current employees. They can be applicants with no experience in the masonry industry or have significant experience in our industry. Either way, employees complete a new hire application packet which includes their contact and tax information as well as an interview. In addition, new hires will also receive a pre-employment drug screen, training and time card. 

What type of training sessions do new employees have to go through before they start work?  

Brandon Harstell: We have a Project Management folder, which has the following:  

•    NCMCA Training Literature  

•    MCAA Training Literature (each online session I could download is in the folder)  

•    BIA Tech Notes (all are on file for review)  

•    TMS Tech Notes  

•    Product Submittals  

•    Every product we have ever submitted can be found in this folder. It is very useful for new hires to look through this folder. I always have great questions, which come from the review of this area.  

•    Hands-on Training  

  • Paper plan takeoffs to start (1-2 weeks)  
  • Then we move to the integration of the paper takeoffs into our estimating software  
  • Once grasped, we will proceed to using the digital takeoff software  
  • It is very important for me to make sure all new folks understand how we handle each area of the Project Management process before we move forward.  

•    I encourage questions. My door is never closed.   

Paul Cantarella Jr.: We are union, and the BAC does 99% of training. Additionally, they will join in on any onsite training that we provide. They are required to read and fully understand our safety manual procedure before stepping foot on the jobsite.  

Melonie Leslie: Each new employee receives training on our safety rules and polices, our drug and alcohol policy, silica training, PPE, emergency response plan, heat illness awareness, SDS and overview of the types of equipment they will be using and accessing. 

How long does onboarding usually take?  

Brandon Harstell: This could depend on our new hire. I gauge length by response from the new employee.  

Paul Cantarella Jr.: It can take a half an hour up to a half-day. Whatever it takes to make sure the new employee understands the company’s safety standards procedures.  

Melonie Leslie: The onboarding process for us varies based on the level of experience the new hire has. If the new hire has significant experience on a certain topic and we’ve confirmed their knowledge, we can then just review our specific policies. However, if they have no experience, we spend more time on the training and also supplement it with on the job training. 

Who is responsible for onboarding?  

Brandon Harstell: In the office, I like to get everyone involved. I want the new employee to feel as though anyone can be approached with a question or concern. I have guidelines I go by, but we all have a different view on certain situations.   

Paul Cantarella Jr.: The job foreman is responsible for new employee training.  

Melonie Leslie: I am responsible for the majority of the onboarding process. However, I also work with my foreman to make sure they address the specific needs of each new hire based on the new hire’s prior field experience. 

What is the most important thing a company should know about onboarding?  

Brandon Hartsell:  

•    Attract and retain good people  

•    Engage employees   

•    Build trust and alignment  

•    Forge connections  

•    Encourage open communication  

•    Decrease turnover  

Paul Cantarella Jr.: It is one of the important parts of hiring new employees, so that both sides are on the same page and both know what to expect from each other. For us, onboarding means showing the new employee that nothing is more important to us than their safety and them making it home at the end of the workday to their families! Secondly, they are being taught that we don’t cut corners.  

Melonie Leslie: Onboarding is not one-size-fits-all. It needs to be tailored to your specific company, based on the polices and equipment that you use. Additionally, it’s important to note that onboarding is just the beginning. Most times, it really is just the start of the long-term training and re-training each employee should receive. 

What is the most important thing an employee should know about onboarding?  

Brandon Hartsell: The bottom line is communication. By effectively orienting new employees, an organization communicates that it values its employees, wants them to be engaged from day one, and is willing to do its part to make the working relationship a positive, productive one. Also, new employees who have a good experience are better able to communicate their value and worth to the company and demonstrate an eagerness to succeed. We are an extended family and we want our new people to see and feel this.  

Paul Cantarella Jr.: It is important to be on the same page as the company and it plays a role in keeping new works safe!  

Melonie Leslie: Employees should understand that onboarding gives them important information they need to know to perform their job safely. They should pay attention to the training and ask questions.  They also shouldn’t be afraid to ask for additional training or follow up training. 

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