Nailing Down Talent
How To Successfully Hire WorkersAngie Lewis, Writer
Finding skilled workers is becoming more and more problematic for many roofing contractors. According to the 2019 Construction Outlook Survey released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), more than three-quarters of respondents expected to hire more staff in 2019. However, 78% reported difficulties filling salaried and hourly craft positions and 42% believe that hiring personnel over the next year will continue to be hard.
The current labor shortage is drastically reducing the number of potential prospects. In the third-quarter 2019 Commercial Construction Index report from USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 61% of contractors said they’re struggling to find skilled workers. That number is up from 54% in the previous quarter, indicating no signs of waning.
The effect of the workforce shortage impacts your day-to-day operations through higher costs, longer completion times and higher bid prices. So how can you attract, hire and keep qualified workers in the current state of the industry? Consider these tips:
Market & Recruit
A well-written job listing will help attract the best employees. Talk directly to the type of person you want to hire, list the qualifications you seek and explain what’s important to your business.
When writing the job description, be specific about the type of work your roofing business does so you can attract people who are skilled and comfortable in those areas. And if you’re willing to teach someone the necessary skills, be sure to mention that too.
Jim Johnson, head coach for ContractorCoachPRO advises taking your listing a step further by creating your own recruiting platform and making it part of your website.
“Have multiple job postings for everything you’re hiring for,” he says. “Include some videos with employee testimonials, your company culture and what you’re all about. And then market it. Market that website. Market it on Google, market it on social media, market it, market it, market it.
“Really, truthfully, you’re a sales organization, you’re a marketing organization, you’re a contractor — you’re all those things. But in the big scheme of things, you’re a recruiting company. If you change your perspective that way and recruit great talent, all the rest is going to be easy. You’ll change the whole [methodology] of what you do as a contractor.”
Johnson says you should always be looking for talent as you’re walking around every single day — anytime, everywhere.
Look For Specific Characteristics
A good roofing employee should be able to do more than hammer nails and carry bundles of shingles. He or she should also have characteristics that can help your company stand out from the competition, including:
- Being a fast learner – You can train someone to carry out specific skills, but you can’t teach that person to be a better learner. New employees — even those with experience — should be willing to learn and adapt to the way you do business.
- Being tech-savvy – Many roofing businesses use construction apps (including Atlas RoofSwap!) on the job. Your crew members should be able to pick up these new technologies.
- Professionalism – Employees need to put customers at ease. If someone isn’t courteous and professional on the job, he or she could cost you referrals and reap bad reviews. Your crew represents you and your brand. Hire roofers you can trust to leave a good impression on homeowners.
- Safety awareness – Roofing has one of the highest fatality rates of all industries. One person’s disregard for proper safety could put your whole crew at risk. Ask potential candidates plenty of questions to see how well they know best practices and only hire those who take safety seriously.
- Positive attitude – Roofing is already hard work, so you don’t need a negative employee adding to the everyday stress. Antagonistic people can quickly crush crew morale, which could result in sloppy work, unprofessional behavior or even high turnover. Hire someone who can go with the flow and be a positive influence on fellow workers.
Johnson cautions that you should never hire someone during an interview.
“Resumes, I personally think they’re garbage,” he explains. “They’re usually inaccurate and embellished. They’re very time consuming for me to get through and great candidates can be missed. The best salesperson I ever hired in my entire life was a Pizza Hut delivery guy. The guy sold $6.3 million in residential sales in 2017. He’s been in it for 19 years now. So, great candidates can be missed by just relying on resumes.”
Once you’ve found the right person, you want him or her to accept the job. Salary is an important factor, of course. Find out what your competitors are paying and — if you can — match or beat it.
Money isn’t everything, though. Most people also want a sense of job security. Explain why your company has a good reputation and how it can offer stability.
Plus, talk about other things that make your company attractive, such as taking on unique projects, participating in philanthropic opportunities or having an excellent benefits package.
And after you hire someone, do things that will make him or her want to stay.
“No one does anything without incentive,” Johnson says. “And incentive is not necessarily money. Incentive can be a lot of different things. It can be a reward — a gift card, a trophy, all kinds of stuff. Or it could be plain old recognition.”
These types of incentives will remind employees that they’re valued and respected members of your team, which in turn increases their level of commitment and builds loyalty.
Help Educate Potential Hires About The Trades
As a contractor, you know the financial, leadership and entrepreneurial benefits of working in the roofing industry.
Volunteer for speaking opportunities at local high schools to educate students about the value of pursuing a career in the field. Or participate in a trade show, such as the CareerExpo and SkillsUSA Championships hosted by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA), which allows you to meet students interested in trade careers.
Some high schools and community colleges have apprenticeship or co-op work opportunities as part of their vocational training programs. Getting involved with these institutions gives you access to people who want to work in a trade and allows you to offer them real-world experience, which could result in a position with your company.
As budget cuts continue to reduce the size of the U.S. military, veterans must transition to civilian jobs. What these motivated men and women lack in roofing experience, they make up for with other valuable qualities, including trainability, discipline, reliability and teamwork and leadership skills. Many national organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Labor, have programs that help vets get the training and experience they need for their next career.
"To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace."
Invest In Your People
Countless surveys show that workers leave a job because they’re unhappy and don’t feel appreciated. To help with employee retention, invest in your people by providing continuous training.
The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) offers one such opportunity. Through the organization’s ProCertification program, workers who demonstrate substantial knowledge and skills can earn certifications in specific roof system installations.
“In the past, a roofing company would go to a job fair in their local community and try to present a career in the industry as one that’s truly professional,” explains Reid Ribble, CEO of the NRCA. “However, there was no way for [a trade worker] to become a master roofer. They could become a master plumber, master electrician or master carpenter, but there was really no professional certification for them to reach that same status in the roofing industry.”
By the end of 2019, the NRCA’s ProCertification program will have certifications available in six disciplines. Eventually, it will offer a total of 18.
“If roofing workers stack enough of these certifications on top of each other, they can achieve master status, as a master low-slope roofer, master steep-slope roofer, master service technician or master solar technician,” Ribble says. “That’s a powerful tool that we didn’t have before to recruit workers.
“It’s a long-term, transformational shift away from making the roofing companies the primary to making the working roofer the primary. And that’s a big shift, but it’s the one that actually provides the quality assurance that customers need.”
The NRCA is taking steps to get the ProCertification program recognized nationally. However, Ribble cautions that this push will not affect the licensing of roofing companies.
“We believe that, as a national association, it’s up to our state affiliates to make the determination locally as to whether or not they want a licensing program,” he says. “Some states do, other states do not. Some of our members do, other members do not. We don’t want to have a restrictive approach to people entering the roofing trade.
“But what we can do is create standards for roofing workers. Because, let’s face it, putting on an asphalt shingle roof in Georgia is no different than putting an asphalt shingle roof on in Wisconsin. You might treat the underlayment at the eaves different because of snow and ice, but for the most part, that roof goes on the same.”
The Bottom Line
Hiring workers is one challenge — keeping them is another. So while following one or more of these tips can help you build your business, you must also create an environment where your employees feel valued. After all, they determine the success of your jobs, which means your company’s reputation is only as good as the people you hire.