Texting, emails and instant communication have changed the speed of how businesses operate. Need something? Click online and there it is. Unfortunately, there’s no magic quick-fix place when it comes to finding good employees. In fact, finding tradespeople gets harder and harder.  And it’s not going to change. In 2016, CareerCast rated the top 200 jobs in America, and roofers ranked 161st. Roofing is hard work and not a glamorous trade. There’s no line at your door looking for a job as a roofer. Like most scarce commodities, you’re going to fail unless you’re diligent, work hard and make finding workers a priority. Complaining about poor help is a favorite activity of contractors but few do anything about it. Here are some ideas you might find helpful.

Mind the Minimum

Know the minimum hiring wage for your area. Not the federal or any other government’s minimum wage law. Rather what’s the living wage for your area?  What do you have to pay per hour to find a person with a driver’s license, who can pass a drug test and will show up every day? You can bet it’s not $10 an hour. The livable wage is also what it takes to have an employee who has enough income to have transportation to work, and the money to replace a bad tire on his or her car. In most areas of the country, this wage is $12 to $15 an hour and if you pay less, you’ll have challenges. You can research your area at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by calling a few warehouses and service stations, and asking what they’re paying.  I had a contractor who found out that fast food paid $1 an hour more than his starting pay, plus you received free meals. 

Build the Bench

Make sure there is an application on your website and a pitch that sells your company. People look for jobs after hours. Capture applications 24 hours a day and respond quickly if you receive a good one. Good employees are a hot commodity and you need to swoop them up quickly.   Even if you don’t have an opening, if the prospect looks good, reach out to them and tell them you’ll call them when something comes up. If possible, build a backlog of candidates.  

Change your Hiring Culture

Don’t let existing employees get in the way of expanding your workforce.  It’s everyone’s responsibility to look for people and it’s everyone’s responsibility to train people. Create a culture of learning and pride, not a culture of ‘it’s not my job and hide.’ Good people make everyone’s job easier. Be mindful of supervisors who seem to never train or have any good people that work under them. Not everyone you hire is a reject.  

IRE Session TH18
Title: How to Find, Train, Motivate and Retain Employees
Speaker: Monroe Porter, president of PROOF Management Consultants
Date: Friday, March 2, 9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Room: Tradewinds DEF

At a roofing foreman training class, I asked a group of foreman to work in pairs and determine what a new recruit would need to know at the end of the 30 days — and they could not do it.  They were embarrassed by their inability to articulate what success what look like. Well, if you can’t tell me what I’m supposed to know at the end of 30 days, it’s reasonable to assume I’m going to struggle. 

Real-Time Reviews

Review new employees with their direct supervisor. Discuss what the recruit has learned and what they need to absorb in the next two weeks. Spread the responsibility around. It’s amazing how quickly someone will learn when accountability is thrown into the equation. With a little help, supervisors can learn to enjoy training people. We all like to help others. It makes us feel good. Establish a coaching environment. Coaches work with people to establish expectations.  Seagulls show up, squawk and dump on people.  Coaching is a pre-event activity. No matter how hard you try, many people are going to see post activity input as criticism and shut down.  No one likes to be told what they did wrong.  

Gone are the days of not training someone else so they won’t take your job. If today’s supervisors can’t train those around them, they’re going to be in for an unhappy career. The foreman can’t do it all himself. Make sure your supervisors understand this and are committed to building an organization. Try to identify people within your company that make good trainers. Sometimes the most gifted craftspeople are not good trainers. They simply don’t understand why other people don’t grasp things the way they do. My dad was a naturally gifted carpenter and mechanic. I’m not. He would give me instructions and I didn’t have a clue as to what he meant (and there was no YouTube to show me). He just talked louder and I looked dumber. 

Sorry, there is no magic button to push to make people magically appear. If there was, I would become a zillionaire by selling them. Building an organization takes time and commitment. There’s no such thing as instant organization building.