It’s Hard to Find Good Help

This entry is part of 6 in the series September 2021

It seems that “Help Wanted” is posted everywhere these days; from billboards to hand-written signs and everywhere on websites seeking to help employers who are hiring. We hear it discussed at surveying society meetings, around the office, and in casual conversations on the street.

Some people try to place blame on the government for handing out unemployment compensation and others just cite an anomaly in the economy. It appears that employers are going to have to “step up their game” by offering more wages and a better compensation package in order to attract the personnel that are needed.

What can a surveyor do to get qualified staff—and just as important—what can they do to keep the quality people who come to work every day with the intent to provide outstanding service?

It would seem to behoove the surveyor; whether in their own personal, private practice, or a department leader in a large firm, or one who works in the public sector as a division chief who makes hiring decisions, to seek out and hire the educated surveyor-in-training. There are those who have had success by doing what was the standard practice in the past: hiring the unqualified and uneducated and training them through the apprenticeship program.

Many who started their career that way did well. I’m one of those who came through the school of “hard knocks” and it worked well for me, but sometimes those “hard knocks” leave bruises and permanent scars for the surveyor who oversees their work.

One of the firms that I worked for in the past, had the policy of hiring any “warm body” that could hold a rod. At one point, there was a young man with no experience assigned to my crew. This kid had long dirty blonde hair and ripped up jeans (before that was a popular style). When he started working on the crew and had access to black magic markers, he would write the names and logos of popular hair bands of the ‘90s on his blue jeans. I had never heard of Dokken until I saw that written on his jeans. Then he topped if off with some florescent orange paint—just for show. He was just plain stupid. I couldn’t even teach him how to perform simple tasks, he just got in the way.

After several warnings about his lack of respect for company property and making lewd gestures in public, I had to take him back to the office one morning to be fired. We had already wasted a few weeks of trying to make a “purse from a sow’s ear” and it was just a waste of time—this guy was not going to make a good surveyor. That’s the only way to deal with some troublesome employees. It’s like taking a splinter out of your hand; it may cause some pain to remove it, but it must be removed. If it is allowed to stay and fester, it eventually causes more pain and can even cause infection to spread.

That same firm also had a strange method for disciplining bad behavior. On one particular occasion when there were issues with the party chiefs not maintaining their work trucks, they called all of us into a meeting. We had five crews running then, so all five party chiefs were called into a meeting room in the office to discuss some ongoing issues.

Some of the items were general in nature and more of a reminder of what needed to be done, but then the chief of surveys started criticizing how the trucks were dirty inside and out. Then he threatened to take the vehicles away from the party chiefs. (We were allowed to drive them home and from our houses to the job.) I questioned whether they took a look at the van that I had been assigned and whether they found it regularly dirty or if trash was found inside. The answer was, “No.” I felt that I was being unduly lectured for an alleged offense and suggested that the offending parties should be dealt with separately.

When the “cream rises to the top” and you notice who the quality staff are, how do you keep them? They should be thanked every chance you have to show your appreciation for their good work. We all like to be complimented and every opportunity should be taken to recognize excellent efforts.

There’s a common misunderstanding that each employee should receive the same kind of treatment. In fact, every employee should be treated fairly, but each one should be treated differently. Each should be treated according to their performance. Some people need a lot of praise for their good work and some need a stern reminder daily about what is acceptable. With a lot of effort, good people can be found and retained, but it does take some focused attention to the matter.

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It’s Hard to Find Good Help” Comment

  1. I ‘ve been in the Construction and Land Surveying industries since 1995. Their was and it continues to be hard to find good help. I acted as a Project Surveyor and as a Superintendent for the General Contractor because their was no one with knowledge. Most people don’t want to train and or mentor coworkers. I have meet a lot of people who are in positions of supervision without the basic skills and knowledge to do the job, but some how they are there and can’t teach what they don’t have knowledge of. And we need to start talking about $$. Wages are to low, a person can start at $15-20/hr at a construction company. I see ads for $12/hr as a rod man and $17-20/hr for a Party Chief. These companies charge $400 for a lot survey and wonder why they can’t find help. You can get a job at a store without being in the heat or cold weather and do the same $12/hr. Money is very important to discuss and its just hurting the surveying industry avoiding the talk.

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