Ask any roofing contractor right now and they will tell you it is hard to find workers. According to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, 89% of firms report difficulty finding people to fill hourly wage jobs and roofing contractors are no exception to this trend.
This labor shortage, along with the ongoing supply-chain issues facing the industry, means roofing contractors are facing unique challenges on multiple fronts. It’s hard to hire new people right now, which is why your focus should be on retaining the workers you have. Our company, Overson Roofing, is facing all of the same issues any other roofing contractor has faced, but the labor shortage has not hit us as hard since our hiring strategy has been to hire people full time and do everything we can to keep them here.
Good contractors are an investment in your business, and business owners should do everything in their power to find the right people and keep the right people. Here are a few tips to help ensure you retain your employees during a labor shortage.
Hire Full-Time Employees That Share Company Values
So many roofing jobs are filled with independent subcontractors, and for many people, working as an independent subcontractor is a great gig. However, we believe that roofing companies and roofing contractors find a much more stable work environment when you hire them full-time with your company.
Being an independent subcontractor tends to swing dramatically month to month when it comes to job availability. One month you could be up to your eyeballs in roofing work and the next you could have no work at all. In our experience, many roofers eventually get tired of not having that security. Hiring your employees full-time means there’s going to be a paycheck for them and a job to do every day of the month. Bringing on full-time employees helps establish a level of commitment for both parties and fosters stronger professional relationships. Your roofers are incentivized to do a good job and you are incentivized to keep finding your team more work so there is always a job to do.
Retaining good roofers is obviously a worthwhile goal for any roofing business, but to retain good roofers you have to hire good roofers. This means looking for people that align with the values and needs of your roofing company. For example, our company does not hire inexperienced roofers. This creates a short-term hiring barrier for our company but helps us in the long term since, when we do hire people, we know they are experienced enough to do a job right and do it right the first time.
Since we trust everyone we hire we also rely on our contractors to help us find new roofers. Many of our new employees are hired based on referrals from our current employees. When you set high hiring standards, the people that stay tend to share those same standards and recommend people with the same work ethic.
Investing in full-time employees is a bigger commitment than hiring independent contractors, but if you commit long term to your roofers, more often than not, they will commit long term to you.
Create Pathways for Advancement
Give your roofers an opportunity to grow professionally at your company. Good talent will stay if they can move up the company ladder. Give your employees the opportunity to apply themselves and become better assets to your company. One of the reasons I think we’ve been able to keep our best talent is because they’re constantly challenged and rewarded for doing more. We have guys that started as crew members, moved up to foremen and supervisors, and then started managing supervisors. Hire the right team then put that team in leadership roles as they improve.
Growth is not just giving someone a promotion, it is also giving them the tools to educate themselves and become specialists in their fields. Give your employees the time and resources to take training classes. This means not only training them yourself but also giving them the opportunity to obtain certifications. All of our supervisors are certified and specialize in a particular roofing style. Our tile guys only work on tile roofs, shingle guys only work on shingle roofs, and our foam guys only work with foam. Give your team the chance to master their crafts. They will be more likely to stay with you if they know the company is invested in their professional growth. “The definition of an expert is to know more and more about less and less.”
Provide a Benefits Package
Roofing is a tough job, which is why if you want to retain good roofers you have to make sure you’re looking out for their future. I would strongly recommend providing your full-time employees with 401(k) and medical benefits. Roofers work in a physically demanding and potentially dangerous job, so you need to ensure your crews’ long-term physical and financial health are being looked out for. Give them options for healthcare and retirement and educate them on those options. These options give roofers security and keep them on your team.
Supply-chain issues and the labor shortage have been difficult challenges for the roofing industry, and one of the best ways to avoid dealing with a labor shortage is to retain the best talent that already works for you. Give your roofers security, a chance to grow, and a chance to learn and they will be less likely to find new work. Invest in your employees and they will continue to invest their skills into your company.