BROADVIEW, Ill. — Construction firms know the importance of building and maintaining a strong workforce, but the unpredictable nature of the construction industry presents a number of challenges. Among them: recruiting and developing qualified talent, coping with labor shortages and high employee turnover, ensuring worker safety, and navigating ever-changing legislation.

In October, The Unified Group — a national association of independent HVAC commercial contractors in the industry — held its inaugural Human Resources Forum in Rosemont, Illinois, to address these ongoing issues and work together to find solutions.

Rita Craig, president of Florida-based Top Tier Leadership, kicked off the first day with a discussion on building a high-performance work environment, including trends in human resources, branding a company, managing talent, training, development, and performance management. Human resource managers from several Unified Group member companies shared the onboarding process at their companies, as well as the innovative ways they are recruiting into the trades. For example, Vermont mechanical contractor VHV Company has implemented a highly successful accredited apprenticeship program to provide standardized training for employees and other industry professionals.

The second day began with a presentation from Bill Judge, a founding member of the Drug Screening Compliance Institute. He provided attendees with information on the impact of medical marijuana in the workplace, as well as advice on revising the language in company drug policies. Later in the day, group members shared the technology they use to become more efficient, including DocuSign for signature collection, various benefits management systems, Kronos time and attendance tracking software and Paperless Pay. A breakout session followed, where members shared the greatest challenge they currently face and worked together to explore solutions.

“The breakout sessions are what I love about the forums,” said Gretchen Riddle of A&G Piping in Fort Worth, Texas.  “It’s a chance to talk about real challenges and get good, relevant feedback."

On day three, Brian Martinenza, Jr., of Service Unlimited Inc., and Shantel Bradley, of Standard Plumbing & Heating, reviewed the information and equipment they gather when an employee leaves their organizations. The session concluded by examining the benefits that member organizations offer to differentiate themselves in their market.

“This was a great forum, and one of the best HR-focused meetings I’ve attended in my career,” Bradley said.

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