Managing people has always been a challenging issue, and many believe young people today are spoiled and don’t want to work. This is not a new opinion, and the following quote sheds some light on how others have felt:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”



Managing people has always been a challenging issue, and many believe young people today are spoiled and don’t want to work. This is not a new opinion, and the following quote sheds some light on how others have felt:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Some attribute the above quote to Socrates, others Plato. Both expressed their thoughts on the subject. What does this prove? Well, people have been bitching about other people and their abilities for a long time. The problem is that Socrates and Plato were not contractors with a schedule to keep and jobs to install. Complaining about the help is a contractor tradition, but it does not get the job done. Rather than complaining about the problem, start with a clear analysis of the crew and build from there.





Charting Your Future

For simplicity, we are going to build a chart for a company we’ll call Acme Contracting with 10 sample employees. We will use the simple chart in Figure 1 to determine our current employee skills. We can also use this graph to project what type of recruiting and training initiatives are needed.

The sample chart includes five categories. You can divide and grade your list in numerous ways, but remember to keep it simple. Starting with such an evaluation can help you understand where your company is now and what realistic personnel options are available in the future. Let’s review the chart and compare it to possible company goals and needs.

Quality improvement comparisons: Lots of companies and consultants profess the need for better employees and people management. The problem boils down to how a company can actually measure personnel development. One way is to list everyone you have now and then in one year see if the company’s personnel situation has improved.

Evaluating pay practices: Based on the chart, one might wonder if the company has fair pay practices. If all three apprentices have been employed the same amount of time, why is Sue paid less? Is it because she is a woman, and is this discrimination? If Mike is the apprentice with the most potential, why is he not paid more? What type of review process is the company using? If the future of the company is Mike, can we afford that the only way for him to receive a raise is to leave the company?

Meeting company goals: Suppose the company needs more foremen. The chart clearly shows problems in this regard. One potential foreman is Mike, who currently is an apprentice, so he will not be ready in the near future. Of the existing craftspeople, only Bart shows potential, and he does not have a driver’s license. Looking at these factors, it is obvious the company needs to do a better job of hiring people who one day might be foremen. Suppose Acme wanted to grow sales 50 percent over the next two years; their personnel situation obviously would not support such growth.





Figure 1. A sample personnel chart for the hypothetical Acme Contracting Co.

Recruiting and Training

From an emotional perspective, recruiting and developing people can be an enormous task. Only by taking a hard look at the facts and building a plan to overcome those facts can you realistically improve the situation. If you need more employees who one day might be foremen, you must hire people with that potential. If you need more employees who can drive, your recruiting practices should reflect that need.

All too often, desperation drives too many contractors’ hiring habits. Yes, at times you must hire people who over the long term will not be the best of employees. However, this does not mean that you cannot develop a more long-term oriented hiring track. A good personnel practice is to hire more slowly and, when required, dismiss quickly. If your company is a strong sales and marketing organization, you need to use those sales skills in recruiting.

Shortsighted recruiting practices can also impact your ability to promote managers from within. Today’s estimators and project managers face more complex computer and paperwork demands. If none of your field force has such skills or the potential to learn them, where will your project managers come from? Larger organizations should hire management recruits and immerse them into fast-track development systems.

Don’t let the difficult emotions of people management keep you from developing a realistic personnel plan. Start with the facts and work accordingly. Yes, it may not be easy; but contracting is about people and without them you are nothing more than a material supplier. Complaining about the problem only helps convince you that the situation is impossible. Quit your whining and do something. The solution may not be perfect, but by taking an aggressive approach you will improve both your company and your attitude.