Your hiring and firing practices should be structured around skills and performance, not industry rumors.

Over the last several years, the word profiling has been used by the news media to infer discrimination. You can read or hear about profiling at airport checkpoints and police arrests with Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, etc.

Webster’s dictionary has several definitions of profiling but none of them refer to discrimination against anyone. Nonetheless, since that meaning has become acceptable, let’s look at our own industry and what we should now call “construction profiling”:
    1. Any violation of the EEOA (Equal Employment Opportunity Act);

    2. Noncompliance of jobsite hiring quotas; and

    3. Use of the word “they” instead of he, she, Tom or Mary.
America is called the land of opportunity and I’m sure all of you agree that’s exactly what we want to preserve for ourselves, our children and every other citizen. Item Nos. 1 and 2 are familiar to larger contractors, especially those who receive government contracts or have been cited for discrimination concerning hiring, promotions, layoffs or firing.

Although this construction profiling still exists, it has greatly improved since the EEOA was passed in the mid-’60s, establishing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can easily review your own hiring, promotions, layoffs and firings to make sure you are in compliance.

Item No. 3 does not involve discrimination or breaking any laws, but it certainly is a valid description of construction profiling. Throughout my many years of consulting with in-house contractors of all trades, use of the word “they” is the underlying reason for not hiring certain groups of people.

1. We will not hire any of those 18- to 20-year-old kids. They are not worth a tinker’s dam!
  • They don’t show up for work on time.
  • They don’t take care of tools or materials. They think money grows on trees.
  • They have all of the answers. You can’t tell them anything.
  • They came from broken marriages where there is no discipline. They never learned about respect.
  • They never had to do chores or any kind of physical work.
  • They don’t know anything about construction.
  • They think the world owes them a living.
  • They hang out with their buddies using drugs or drinking booze.
  • High school dropouts are the worst. If they couldn’t finish school, what can they do?
Would you agree that use of the word “they” in this context would classify as a construction profiler? All of those negative situations are true and have happened, but not by every young person. There are definitely more good kids than bad. Haven’t you hired 18- to 20-year-olds who are still with your company and doing great?

By using a singular name like Tom or Mary, you would not discriminate against every young candidate for employment. When I hear these comments, I always ask, “What about your own children? Are they not worth a tinker’s dam? Are they all alike?”

We’ve always called that “protecting hidden scars” because every time a contractor has a bad experience with an employee, he ruled out hiring another like that one. It’s easy to understand why a lot of potentially good employees never get hired.

2. We don’t want another woman in that position. They create too many problems.
  • Married women with children at home: They stay home when one of their kids is sick and their critical tasks do not get done. They spend too much time talking to their kids on our company phone. They will quit and go with their husband if he changes jobs.

  • Single women, especially the attractive ones: They disrupt our workplace with all the men gawking and trying to “sneak a peak.” They create tension at home for the married men whose wives are worried about infidelity.

  • Divorced women with children at home: They cause all the problems mentioned above. We call them “double jeopardy.”

  • They can file sexual harassment charges against an innocent male employee even if nothing ever happened. This costs us serious legal fees as well as disrupting our accused employee’s marriage.

  • We’ve tried using women on our jobsites but they don’t want to climb, they can’t lift anything heavy, and our male employees waste time socializing with them.
Using that word they concerning hiring women is definitely construction profiling, but it is also a violation of the EEOA and the federal law requiring 6.9 percent of a contractor’s payroll to be women performing traditional “man’s work.”

Here again, all of those negative situations are true and have happened, but not by or to every woman. There are far more capable productive and dependable women than negative.

3. We will not hire another retired military person.
  • They think the world owes them a living.
  • They are in no hurry to get anything done.
4. We tried using those college graduates with construction management degrees.
  • They don’t know the ins and outs of jobsite production tools, equipment or materials.
5. We do not promote our craftsmen or jobsite foremen to top management positions.
  • They are very poor at paperwork and don’t even know how to spell properly.
6. We will not re-hire former employees who quit or were fired.
  • They carry a grudge and create a negative atmosphere for our good employees.
The saddest part of this construction profiling is that there are no ill intentions; these are comments from competitive profit-making contractors whose business suffered from one employee’s conduct. Unfortunately, many of those negative “they” stories did not even happen in their own companies. These stories are passed around like gossip on our jobsites, in the bar, at conventions, etc.

Basic Management Principles Can Help: We will never be able to stop all of these damaging rumors, but you certainly can put a damper on the ones you hear by asking if any of the following “dirty dozen” basic management principles are relative to the story:
    1. Do you use an exit interview with an employee who quits? Do you discuss these with every employee involved?

    2. Do you have a posted chain of command? Do you and your entire management team respect and abide by it?

    3. Who does your interviews and hiring? Do they use a written checklist to ask the critical questions? Were they trained to hire?

    4. Do you use a written checklist for orientation?

    5. Do all new employees read and sign your company policy to be certain they know and understand your rules?

    6. Does every employee who does not have a full-time supervisor negotiate a written job description with a detailed scope of work?

    7. Do you use a database skills inventory? Do you review it monthly to assure proper training?

    8. Do you assign a 90-day mentor to newly hired or newly transferred employees?

    9. Do you discuss and document above- and below-expected performance with each employee when it happens?

    10. Do you have regularly scheduled wage reviews with each employee?

    11. Are all of your supervisors properly trained in human relations and coaching skills? Do they always wear a smile?

    12. Do you offer and discuss flex-time options and virtual office opportunities?
We will always have negative situations in this industry, but you do not want to exclude any good employee from your payroll on a profiling basis. There is an old saying that one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel. This simply suggests that you remove the one rotten one and enjoy the rest of the barrel.

By initiating and following these management guidelines, you will eliminate that profiling word “they.” Your records and memory will justify hiring, promoting, laying off or firing Tom or Suzy because of his or her performance, rather than what someone else has done in the past.

Accept the fact that there are good and bad employees in every category; avoiding any construction profiling will guarantee that you will have the best.