Building service contractors reach a critical point in their growth in which they begin to receive request for proposals (RFPs) for large contracts. The clients with 3,000 square foot buildings are no longer chased and coveted. A BSC evolves and with their evolution comes the challenge of bidding on and securing contracts for large buildings or multiple buildings for one client.

The day will come when you are awarded a contract for 600,000 square feet of building which you must fill with competent employees in no less than thirty days. But where do you find 50 to 100 people immediately? How do you qualify them? How do you train them simultaneously? The challenges make up a lengthy list at best.

Let’s set the scenario. Your company has been in business for nine years and has a strong client base. You service over 70 accounts. The largest one (which accounts for much of your gross sales) is 200,000 square feet. You have a solid team of part time employees servicing your accounts. Things are comfortable and running somewhat smoothly.

Your salesperson has been networking through multiple avenues this year and building strong relationships. A national property management firm is impressed by your salesperson, your company, and is dissatisfied with the contractor cleaning a chain of 95 banks. The postman delivers an impressive looking packet. You are cordially invited to submit a proposal to service these 95 banks.

Jump ahead. Competitive pricing, impressive references, striking presentation, you are awarded the contract. You start in 30 days. To service all 95 banks, you will need 80 new employees. There are a variety of workforce planning methods that can prepare you for this scenario. Let’s explore some of them:

"Pre-Need" Hiring – Pre-need hiring is when you hire an employee for a particular job a month or more before you actually have a permanent placement for them. By increasing your hiring time, you increase your chance of getting quality people because you have a longer sourcing period. You have also increased the odds that a good performer will be available during your search. If your company has done some pre-need hiring, you should have a small pool of people to fill some of your immediate openings for this new contract.

"Evergreen Jobs" – Evergreen jobs are jobs that are continually open despite our continuous search. This may be a qualified supervisor for a geographically undesirable location. Thus you need to switch into a continuous search and hire mode. You hire qualified candidates in the area regardless of whether there is an available position at the moment. Should your new contract have a bank in a hard to reach area, you may have someone on standby to service the account.

"Ramp up"– Some jobs have a longer learning curve than others. This is generally not the case for janitorial positions unless you have a special facility (such as a hospital). New hires will have a long ramp up time before they are productive. As a result, applicants need to be sourced, screened and hired well before they’re needed.

Finding the masses
Regardless of the method you choose, upon being awarded such a large contract, your first step is to assess your time limits, the financial situation for the compensation and recruiting, the flexibility of those budgets and the market constraints.

Your company should have an employee referral program in place; it’s a standard practice for all businesses. Most programs are passive in which current employees are offered a bonus if their referral is hired by the company.

When it comes to mass hiring of nonprofessionals, you have to go where they are. You must be available to them so they can get to you. A continuous recruitment campaign may include the following:

1. Classified ads in local papers and publications

2. Contacts at local clubs, schools, churches and organizations

3. Employee referral rewards

4. Internet advertising

5. Inserts in monthly employee newsletter

In the case of a BSC needing 50 or more employees at once, a temporary employment center may be set up. If possible, place a full-sized ad to attract potential workers to your employment center — the large pool of people will be worth the added expense.

A hotel conference room, a trailer or empty warehouse will suffice. This provides an environment where the staff can be dedicated to the immediate recruitment process without any distractions. Crucial planning is important, as potential employees will form their first impression of your company during the process.

Key components with off site hiring and interviewing are the following:

1. Make sure the location is set up properly and conducive to the task at hand. This includes legible signs (bilingual if necessary) which tell the people where they need to go; what they need to do and how long their wait is expected to be.

2. Have all your materials ready.

You don’t want to run out of forms, beverages or chairs.

3. Make sure your staff has a good understanding of the procedures and the entire interview process, including making the job offers.

Once all the information is collected, the interviews are complete and the employee is hired, send a follow up letter to each applicant that was not chosen. This letter is to thank them for their time and efforts and leaves a positive impression about your company. Always keep a list of the qualified candidates that were not hired for future opportunities.

Advanced planning is a crucial element in mass hiring. Workforce planning can make an unexpected hiring spree run efficiently and successfully. Prescreening venues for employment centers, keeping ads on file with your local papers and continuous promotion of employee referral programs will all benefit the company at "crunch time.”

Keep your human resources staff abreast of workforce trends and industry processes. An educated staff with up to date resources will serve you best.

Also, never stop looking for your next employee. You are presented with opportunities every day to hire potential employees.

Jamie Van Vuren is president of Bee Line Building Service & Supply, a second generation family business serving the Chicago area.