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Recruiting snow staff

  • SIMA
- Posted: September 1, 2014
By Phil Harwood, CSP
One of the things I learned early in my career was that planning ahead for the snow season was critical. A key aspect of planning is recruiting qualified people. Going into the snow season without adequate staffing levels, both in terms of number of people as well as quality of people, is a recipe for disaster.

Review your processes.
One of the most common complaints I hear from snow contractors is that they can’t find good people. I’ve written extensively on this topic, and I have to say that my first reaction is to redirect the person’s attention to their recruitment plan. In most cases, those complaining the loudest have the most work to do with respect to their internal processes and documentation for recruiting. Commit to doing the hard work of elevating your recruiting process to meet or exceed industry best practices.

Move quickly.
There is fierce competition for qualified employees in every industry. The faster you can move in the recruiting process, the more likely you are to attract good people. Think about it. Are qualified people more likely to be proactively securing their places for the upcoming winter now, or waiting until the last minute? I think we can agree they’re more likely to be looking before the season starts. If this is true, you need to recruit earlier to attract the more qualified candidates. Only the leftovers will be available later in the recruiting cycle. Recruiting early, or even year-round, is a best practice in today’s environment.

What are your needs? Before you start recruiting, have a clear understanding of the positions that will be open and how many people you need for each position. This sounds simple, but any personnel discussions can trigger a larger conversation about the placement of people, strengths, promotions, disciplinary situations, long-term strategy and more. One person should be responsible for figuring out the available positions. Set a goal to have this done by the end of July.

Establish a timeline. Another best practice is to create a calendar of all recruitment items, key dates and accountabilities so the recruitment plan is transparent. We have developed a document for this purpose over the past several years, as we have been assisting clients with their recruiting efforts.

Conduct an internal search first.
When it comes to techniques for recruiting people for snow, it’s best to focus on your own people first. After all, they already work for you. Engage them in the conversation about their capabilities and desires. Don’t assume anything. Maybe you have a diamond in the rough. If nothing else, clarify what your employees’ roles will be for the upcoming winter, and what their wages will be. Industry best practice is to have each person sign a snow season agreement that outlines their position, wage, and any other expectations or incentives so there are no misunderstandings. My recommendation is to accomplish this task by the end of August.

Looking outside the company. To attract people from outside your organization there are many great ideas. One of my favorite creative ideas is to tap into referral sources for graduating high school seniors, such as coaches, counselors or principals, where the referral source is able to send you qualified candidates. This is just one of hundreds of ideas that are often overlooked. When traditional methods aren’t producing the results, it’s time for some fresh approaches. The key is to decide which to use, and then put them into action. Don’t be afraid to experiment; you never know what will work and what won’t.
Always be recruiting. Your next amazing employee may be someone in your family, a friend from high school, the guy changing your oil, the cashier ringing up your purchase, the security guard at the store, or the person standing behind you in line. Have business cards with you at all times, and have a story to tell. Get the word out via social media, personal contacts, free and paid marketing methods, and whatever other creative ways you decide to try.

Recruiting people for snow is a challenge. However, by having a solid recruiting plan in place before the recruiting season starts, you’re more likely to attract qualified people to fill the vacancies.  

Recruiting and hiring documents make for a seamless process
Once there is clarity on the positions that need to  be filled, there’s some important work to do before recruitment begins. For each position, there is a list of documents that should be reviewed, updated or created if they don’t already exist. These documents include:

Position outlines - These are documented details about the position, such as reporting relationships, prerequisites of prospective candidates, expectations, wage ranges, incentives, benefits offered, and any other information pertinent to the applicant or hiring manager.

Position marketing strategy - Documented details regarding how each position is to be marketed in order to attract qualified applicants, along with key dates for executing these strategies.

Position postings - Create posting language for those marketing strategies requiring copy. A well-written posting will attract 10 times more responses than a poorly written post.

Screening process - Documented steps and accountability for screening applicants. Hiring managers may not have the time or desire to screen résumés. With some simple guidelines, an administrative person may parse out the qualified applicants from the unqualified, at least on an initial basis. A good position outline will help with this task.

Interview questions - Documented questions to ask for each position, who will be conducting interviews, and what documentation is required for the interviewer to complete.

Offer letters
 - Prepared letters or more formal agreements for higher-level positions to obtain agreement in writing of important aspects of the employment relationship.

New hire packets - Prepared packages of all paperwork required for a new hire so the process is seamless, professional and foolproof.

Employee handbook - Either a complete handbook or a modified version for temporary seasonal employees.

Training process - Documented dates, agendas, materials, speakers and other details for all training elements.

Phil Harwood is president & CEO of Pro-Motion Consulting.
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