Last month, we talked about ways to keep your best and brightest on your team. Now, our attention turns to attracting talent back into a beleaguered industry. But first, we must answer a few questions: What type of individual would want to come into this industry, given the cycles experienced in the past decade? What skill set would he or she need to succeed? What can builders do, today, to begin laying the necessary groundwork for luring top talent back into the industry? Despite the hope of a recovery, builders will have to keep lean overhead—margin enhancement via price appreciation will be difficult to achieve.

Second, most people who lost jobs during this downturn have found other careers, and getting them to come back to your company will be difficult, at best.

Finally, the notion of visiting college campuses to speak about the glories of home building will be challenging. Many of today's college students have seen their parents' homes lose significant value and possibly have experienced the loss of a home through foreclosure. Working at a home building company is probably not high on their job-search list.

SO, WHAT CAN A BUILDER DO? 1. Focus on people with a passion for the business. In good times, many were attracted to the industry because it paid well. By nature, cyclical industries have ebbs and flows, but people who love home building will ride out these changes. Perhaps these folks did what it took to stay close to home building via consulting and other means during the downturn. When hiring restarts, go for passion first!

2. Find generalists, not specialists. You're going to need people who can wear many different hats—construction field manager today, land development superintendent tomorrow, customer service representative the next day. People skilled in multiple disciplines will be valuable in this weaker recovery.

3. Err on the side of being “understaffed.” Work volume tends to expand to meet the number of workers available. Said another way, give a person a job, a desk, but no specific job to do and chances are, in a week's time, he'll be busy. In a month's time, he's indispensable. Being busy and adding real value are more fun. So make sure growth is sustainable before doing any major hiring!

4. Go back to school. Done any college recruiting lately? You don't have to be hiring to be active on campus. Offering regular summer internships, becoming an on-campus speaker, having your local leaders serve on advisory boards of construction management schools or business schools—all this keeps your name out in front of your competitors. Universities are practically begging for this type of interaction, and you'll get a great inside look at some outstanding talent!

5. Give people a reason—other than money—to work for your company. If you can't answer the question, “What makes us different?” you're probably not. Job satisfaction is a huge requirement for the emerging workforce. They value personal time as much as they value money. If your firm hasn't instituted time off for charitable work, if you're lagging in reinvesting in your local neighborhoods, explore these avenues. People want to work for companies that make them proud.

The world of home building is only going to get more competitive as recovery materializes. Your ability to “out-execute” your competitors will depend on the strength and motivation of your local teams. Builders who are smart enough to be building team and culture today will, most likely, be the ones winning the economic battle in the coming years.

Steven Petruska is the former executive vice president and chief operating officer for PulteGroup, where he was responsible for all domestic home building operations. He may be reached at