Jeff Winn has a simple time- and money-saving strategy for recruiting and retaining field staff: he lets his bilingual lead carpenter, Steve Heredia, do the hiring. It's a logical fit, notes Winn, president of Big Sky Construction, San Jose, Calif. “Steve works in the field directly with these people, he's hands-on, he can see if they have any deficiencies or bad habits to turn around.”

Plus, by being fluent in Spanish as well as in English, Heredia has access to Latino workers, a factor that Winn says “turns the light on” both in the lean recruitment field and on the job. “The Latino population has the highest skill sets and they're more driven to work,” Winn asserts. Plus, “75% of our subs hire Latinos. Steve is able to communicate with them and pull off extraordinary jobs.”

Instead of placing help-wanted ads, Heredia relies on word-of-mouth networking, soliciting leads from subcontractors, suppliers, and others in the trade. This low-tech method delivers candidates who are backed by a personal recommendation, and lets Heredia screen them and discuss compensation before presenting them to Winn for the hiring go-ahead.

A final twist in Big Sky's hiring approach: Winn “leases” his employees through a professional employer organization (PEO), whose services include screening candidates for drug use and criminal records. So as a last step, Heredia accompanies the candidate to the PEO. Assuming everything checks out, he himself extends the offer and “gets them accustomed to the Big Sky culture,” Winn says. “That's how we're doing it, and it seems to work.”