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Understanding the Unproductive 3 'S' Cycle of Hiring

Article-Understanding the Unproductive 3 'S' Cycle of Hiring

EyeEm/Alamy Stock Photo Two construction professionals shake hands over a blueprint for a project
In times of tight labor, it’s easy to fall into an endless pattern of bad hires and quick turnover. Here’s how to recognize the symptoms.

It's no secret that one of the toughest challenges facing many businesses is labor. Even amid news of a pending recession and layoffs in the tech sector, finding and keeping good employees remains a top concern within the commercial and residential construction and design industries. 

Statistically, the news is getting a little better—the National Association of Home Builders reports that open construction jobs declined from 423,000 to 371,000 in October with the slowdown of the housing market. But labor is going to continue to be a challenge for several reasons. For one, housing inventory remains low, even as the market cools. At the same time, various reports point to remodeling remaining fairly positive. And, of course, all industries are continuing to deal with the aging out of skilled laborers without enough new workers starting construction careers to replace them.     

Many industry leaders have reacted to the challenges with wage increases to stay competitive. This is a good start, but it's not enough. To truly achieve meaningful and long-term change, you need to understand the 3 Ss—scarcity, settling and setbacks—that make up the frustrating cycle at the heart of most of your hiring challenges.  


Scarcity is the lack of enough suitable applicants to choose from. Macroeconomic and industry-specific challenges, of course, contribute to this. But another factor is that, beyond large corporations, few construction companies have an internal recruiting and hiring expert to turn to when a job posting doesn't deliver enough good candidates. 

It's often exacerbated by involving team members in the hiring process when they don't truly understand the psychology of hiring. That lack of knowledge causes them to make mistakes that lead to candidates pulling themselves from consideration, ghosting interviews, accepting counteroffers, no-showing on the first day or leaving in the first 90 days.  


It's not surprising that scarcity leads to settling. When we don't have enough good people to choose from, and we don't know what else to do to get different results, we settle for hiring the "best" candidate that applied, even though we probably wouldn't use the word "best" to describe them in any other setting.  

Settling is what you do when you feel like you don't have any other option. You often justify it by telling yourself, "a body is better than nobody," or convincing yourself that you have to make it work because there is no one "good" out there. 


Once you've made the hire (even if you know you've settled), you may feel relieved because the position is filled. But it's easy to overlook that when you settle, you and the new employee's manager now have to spend more time, energy and money to train this person than if you hadn't settled. This not only results in less time for the manager to support and encourage other team members but also less time and energy to work on things that could save or make the company money. The manager's extra time, and the wasted time of the new employee in need of extra attention and training, costs your company money.  

And the worst part? After all that time, energy and effort, the result is often a disappointing hire or turnover.   

This is where the frustrating cycle starts all over again, and you, your manager and the remaining team members end up more exhausted with each go-round.  

This is my first column for Informa Markets Infrastructure & Construction. If you'd like to avoid this tiring cycle or break away from it for good, stay tuned for future columns covering tips on better recruiting, hiring and retention strategies. 

Rikka Brandon is a nationally recognized building industry recruiting and hiring expert and best-selling author. She helps building industry business owners and leaders solve their recruiting and retention challenges with strategy, best practices and access to experts. Whether or not you're looking for in-house training and coaching for your team or an expert to provide consulting, you can learn more at  

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