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As the Kansas City Chiefs complete another NFL season with a victory in Super Bowl LIV, NFL draft speculation is in full swing. Sports pundits and fans passionately debate how teams should approach filling out their rosters. In sports (and in business), there are two types of recruiting: recruiting for need (working to fill a specific position on a team) and recruiting for talent (acquiring the best available talent on the market, regardless of need).

In the NFL, that might look like the Bengals picking up Heisman-winning quarterback, Joe Burrow, over a pair of Ohio State standouts, Chase Young and Jeff Okudah. The Bengals’ dominant need is for an elite passer. In some years, teams have the choice of picking base off of either need or talent. For example, what does a team like the Patriots do with the 23rd pick? Do they pick based off of best available talent or do they look for a potential heir apparent to Tom Brady?

In the construction industry, that could translate to a Hall of Fame-worthy chief estimator who has been an asset to their organization for the past 20 years. Does that person retire or stick around for another couple of years? Does the company have a succession plan in place for both scenarios?

For construction companies, choosing talent over need might involve scooping up a skilled estimator who has come on the market even though a company is not hurting for estimators right now. Or a company might invest in a skilled project executive or senior project manager who can help mentor promising project engineers and assistant project managers so that within just a few years, they have a full roster of highly skilled project managers. In the long run, building a strong team can only benefit a company, while waiting to recruit until the team has a pressing need can be very costly.

The Cost of a Bad Hire

In a candidate-driven market, all hiring decisions should be made as quickly as possible to ensure the continued interest and availability of a strong candidate. But when a company has an urgent need, it increases the likelihood that a hiring authority will rush the process and cut corners to fill the position—even if the person they hire isn’t a great fit. No big deal, right? How much could one hiring mistake cost?

Consider this: In June 2017, the 49ers drafted and signed Reuben Foster to a four-year, $9 million contract with $7 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $4 million. After many off-the-field issues, the 49ers released him in 2018, just more than a year after drafting him. One bad hire cost them millions of dollars.

According to London-based branding agency Link Humans, a bad hire can cost a company $240,000 in wasted recruiting, hiring and onboarding efforts. And that’s just the monetary cost to the company. It doesn’t factor in the amount of time a manager wastes on hiring and training the wrong employee, or the negative impact on the team’s morale and the success of the project.

Recruit and Retain Talent
The construction industry is still enjoying a strong market. Many companies are so busy reaping the benefits of the present that they’re not planning for the future. But here’s the truth: the market is going to correct itself. And when it does, the best thing for a company is for its leaders to have put in the effort to stack their team with strong, loyal talent that will help them coast through the headwinds. That translates to keeping an eye on the market and recruiting top talent when it becomes available, even if the company doesn’t have a current need.

And of course, recruitment doesn’t stop when a new employee comes onboard—companies must make sure they have strong onboarding and retention programs in place to keep their employees happy and fulfilled. If not, when other companies come calling (and with talent in scarce supply, they will come calling), those exceptional employees will move along for a better opportunity. 

Construction industry leaders should find a place on their teams for exceptional candidates who can add value and strengthen the company culture—they’re worth the investment and the effort to keep them there. That way, when the market corrects, companies won’t have to worry about need; they’ll be fully stocked with talent.

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