Looking to fill sales, admin, and production positions? If your home improvement company is like many, you’re struggling to find people to put in those slots, and experts don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Short-term trends, such as an overall unemployment rate dipping below 4 percent, work against it. So do long-term trends, such as the number of workers in construction trades who are aging out and the lack of appeal construction careers hold for today’s young people.
The effects are industry-wide. A report last year from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows “95 percent of contractors had a moderate to difficult time finding skilled workers for their job openings in the second quarter of 2017.”
Not Sticking Around
Construction companies are paying more in an effort both to attract and to keep people. “Wages have skyrocketed for construction workers since the start of last year," writes Svenja Gudell for Forbes, "far outpacing the steady wage growth for all workers over the same period, as clear a signal as any of the depth of labor shortages home builders face as they struggle to ramp up building amid rising costs."
Gudell cites U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics showing wages for construction industry workers—rising at a rate of 2.5 percent last year—now “growing at 3.8 percent per year.” But even with companies clamoring for workers and willing to pay more, the fastest way for employees to get a raise is to switch jobs.
So, many are doing just that. At the moment, employee turnover in America is higher than it’s been in the last 10 years. For company owners, increased turnover means more positions to fill, and more time and energy spent recruiting.
Love The One You’re With
If you’re one of those company owners who always looks outside to fill critical positions, take a minute and think: How much attention are you paying to the talent within? Recruiting from outside rather than developing existing staff is akin to spending all your marketing dollars to generate new leads, when you have a database of existing customers who may need your services or know someone who does.
A talent acquisition strategy focused entirely on recruiting new people can have the unintended consequence of driving existing staff away by sheer neglect. People who feel stuck in their jobs will start looking elsewhere, or, if not actively looking, be open to whatever opportunities arise. Promoting from within may not add an extra body to your payroll, but it does keep people around longer. And the more who choose to stay, the fewer you’ll need to replace.
Promoting from within also helps keep employees engaged, and companies with employees who actually enjoy working there have far higher retention rates. Engaged employees are "committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being,” according to Engage for Success.
Yet, while the link between engagement and retention is clear, only a minority of construction company owners seem to look there. Cyndi Mergele points out that while retention is “the most cost-effective method to alleviate a worker shortage,” it’s also the case that “only 39 percent of construction firms measure employee engagement.”
How will you know whether or not people like working at your company unless you ask, or they leave? (If you need ideas, here is a list of ways to measure employee engagement.)
Long-term Employee Development
Tech entrepreneur Adam Foroughi explains why he often prefers “to cultivate people internally and advance them when the time is right” vs. hiring a recruiter to find someone from outside: Motivated employees 1) “work harder,” 2) stay longer, and 3) adapt better to new roles.
“When you bring in somebody new, they don’t necessarily know the culture and won’t know the company’s best practices from the bottom up," Foroughi says, "and unfortunately that can sometimes spell dissatisfaction or outright failure.”
But if you’re counting on workers to step forward and declare their ambitions, you may be waiting a long time. If you want to take advantage of the talent you have, the only way is to be proactive.
First, how do you know potential top performers? There are ready indicators. “Studies have shown that the main predictors of job performance are having strong problem solving ability, high levels of industriousness, and the ability to handle stress,” notes Business Insider. “Assessing candidates for these skills is key to both a successful hiring process and long-term employee development.”
Long-term employee development means formulating a plan that offers those who work for you: 1) opportunities to advance within your company, and 2) the training they need to be successful in taking hold of those opportunities.
Create a plan to identify and develop the talent of every person in your organization. And don’t be mysterious about it. Sit down with employees one-on-one and ask what they’d like to do, where they see themselves going, and how they might get there.
“Help identify any additional education, training, or experience they may need, and outline a timeline and milestones to hit in order to achieve their career goals,” advises Kendall Jones. “As you map out a career path with each employee, determine what resources your company can contribute to their success.”
That might be an in-house training program, apprenticeship or mentoring programs, or tuition reimbursement. “Offering training opportunities to your employees shows you have a vested interest in their professional growth,” Jones says.
Unified Recruiting Strategy
With a long-term employee development plan in place, your ability to fill open slots within your organization improves substantially. “Deciding between the two methods needs to be done on a case-by-case basis,” writes blogger and recruiter Kelly Cox. “There will be times where you have a current employee who will be a perfect fit for a new vacancy, and equally there will be times where you will need to look elsewhere. Even if you think you have someone in mind for a position, it can be worth looking at external sources just to see how that person compares to the competition.”