Cast Your Net Farther in the Shrinking Labor Pool
Label them what you will: trainees, assistants, or, if nothing else, helpers. I have never been a fan of the term “helper,” unless it is connected with a specific trade category. Designating an employee as a “helper” in floor covering gives the impression that either the person cannot grasp the trade, or the installation company does not have the ability to train them.
It used to be easy to find trainable people, but not in today's marketplace. The economy is such that fast food operations are offering starting wages of $6-8 per hour, plus benefits. On top of that, take a look at the physical work we expect, not to mention the skills our trade demands. Examine our requirements: dependability; punctuality; lifting; bending; stooping; and being a universal pack mule while maintaining the balance of a ballet dancer. It is also of great benefit to have the communication skills of a U.N. ambassador.
While it may not always be of major importance to employers, our clients demand an appearance befitting a professional. To the list of physical demands, add the aesthetic requirements of work pants, boots, knee pads, and more than $1,200 in hand tools.
Those who have made it and can truly call themselves journeymen installers know it's worth it, but breaking in is an uphill struggle. What can be offered to increase our curb appeal? The first step is to understand that it is up to employers to offer a position that is desirable. We need to provide the perks, benefits and an enticing wage package. Training is something that is often promised, but rarely followed up on.
Generation X, the younger crowd, has often been tagged with the mantra "we want it all, with no effort." That is not necessarily true. I have found that Gen Xers are more likely to subscribe to a "help us and we'll help you" philosophy. It's all about reaching out and molding the type of employee that meets your needs.
Employers’ sights are often focused on acquiring younger personnel. Valid points may be a lower starting wage, a longer career life, and better adjustment to change. But with corporate downsizing and acquisitions, there is a pool of older workers available. These folks bring many assets with them. By virtue of experience, they are dependable, responsible and comprehend the complexity of multi-task situations.
Another overlooked resource for recruiting is the under-advantaged. Often, there are barriers that are difficult for them to overcome without employer flexibility or assistance. There may be language problems wherein a person can function well and communicate with co-workers, but could not be front line in dealing with customers. Transportation could be another special circumstance that needs to be addressed.
We are also seeing more and more women making their mark in all the construction trades. More often than not, the barriers keeping women from establishing a stronger foothold in the installation industry are based on outdated, impractical belief systems as they apply to “traditional” roles. Evaluating applicants on gender as opposed to their capacity as an installation professional in today’s job market is akin to committing professional suicide.
Create curb appeal for your company. Following through on commitments, being flexible, and providing good compensation can draw the workforce to you. When a project calls for a unique adhesive or trim molding, you search it out. When recruiting employees, you must do the same. You have a great opportunity for employment, so don't just stand back and wait for them to find you. The good candidate today will be your lead personnel of tomorrow.