Personnel systems provide vital support for the most valuable parts of a remodeling company: its employees. This system should include:

  • Outline for recruitment/ hiring
  • Employee handbook
  • Job descriptions
  • Performance appraisals
  • Outline of career path
  • Payroll and benefits management
  • Annual retreat or planning meeting
  • A personnel system should define a company's needs, find the best person to fulfill each of those needs, and retain those employees. David Crane, owner of Crane Builders in Nashville, Tenn., uses the DISC personality profiling system to make sure new hires fit the company culture. In the early stages of applying DISC, he brought in a facilitator to help his 11 employees understand how to communicate with one another based on their profiles. “Finding a different way to communicate helps rescue someone you think is a lost cause,” he says.

    Handbooks are also an important personnel communication tool. Crane's handbook covers a range of issues including time sheets, personal leave, vacation, social security, jury duty, voting, harassment rules, dress code, performance evaluations, and work orders. He updates the 75-page manual yearly and goes over it during the company's annual retreat to ensure that employees understand the changes. He also provides a list he calls “The Crane Way.” It notes 35 large and small attributes that help define the company's culture. Besides the larger personnel issues of no drugs, alcohol, or smoking on jobsites, The Crane Way covers detailed production items such as painting all six sides of interior and exterior doors, priming all exterior wood, and turning off the HVAC system when hardwood is being sanded.

    Providing Feedback Virginia Hall, senior professional in human resources and a member of the Society of Human Resource Management, says small companies should have a basic outline of the process they use to hire, and that having job descriptions is important for hiring, even if the description is a just list of tasks. Hall says that although it is difficult for small companies to have a career path for each position, it is good to have an outline of sequential responsibilities based on time in a job and proven performance. “If you have such planned approaches, then it's not a crisis when you need to quickly hire someone because you've advanced employees through the ranks,” consultant McCadden says.

    Performance appraisals are essential, Hall says, because they define expectations. “Most conflicts come down to communication,” she says. Tony Collins, president of Custom Design Works, in Newport News, Va., conducts goal-setting meetings in which he and individual employees come up with written goals. “The goals are not tied to a pay raise, but it could lead to that,” Collins says. He checks with them every two months for an update.

    For example, a delivery person didn't know how to choose wood products, causing lead carpenters to become angry at him over his purchases. “He didn't know the types of crown molding, so at each review I assigned 10 molding profiles he needed to learn,” Collins says.

    These meetings also include personal goals. “I'm as interested in improving [employees] for the company as improving [employees] for themselves,” Collins says. “I tell them to think about their marketability if they improve their skills and abilities.”

    Crane and Collins both conduct annual company retreats, and Crane constantly markets to his employees. He gives them dinner certificates for their anniversaries and hosts quarterly family events. He has also hosted pizza parties at jobsites so all employees can see the tangible results of their work.

    A personnel system should also include processes for managing payroll and benefits. Hall says small firms that outsource this process or use brokers should still understand the basics about benefits and make sure they follow labor regulations.