Beyond the Build


In Construction, Should You Hire for Technical Skills or Communication Skills?

I say both, but that’s the short answer. Here’s how I got there.

For me, Saturdays in the fall often involve at least a little bit of college football. While I was watching last weekend, I thought about how important communication is on the field. A quarterback might be blessed with tremendous athletic ability and have intricate knowledge of every play in the book, but neither does him much good if he doesn’t call the play correctly in the huddle.

It’s the same nearly all of what do as business leaders. Technical skills are undoubtedly essential for long-term success. But I’m not sure that as far as essentials go, an aptitude for communication shouldn’t rank right up there with technical know-how. If you have a head full of knowledge but can’t relay it clearly, then what exactly have you accomplished?

It’s my opinion that a focus on communication should filter into Human Resources. Many companies make hires based solely on a person’s technical merit. This can be a problem if it turns out that the new hire has trouble interacting with clients and co-workers. If a person is unable to manage client expectations or motivate team members, suddenly all of that technical knowledge doesn’t seem so important.

Over the years, we’ve hired English majors who have gone on to become terrific construction managers. That’s because they are attentive to detail, they’re leaders and, most importantly, they know how to communicate. We want folks who can throw the ball deep downfield, and also make sure there is somebody there to catch it.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.