If you have more roofing projects than you have qualified workers to complete them, here are some helpful tips for finding, hiring and keeping the right people.
The old saying that “good people are hard to find” has never rung truer than in today’s construction industry, where a multitude of projects are generating an unmet demand for skilled labor.
Several factors have contributed to this unprecedented labor shortage, which you’re no doubt experiencing as one among many roofing companies hiring.
In this article, we’ll take a look at finding roofers looking for work, hiring roofing crews and retaining experienced roofers once you’ve found, engaged and trained them. This discussion might also serve skilled workers who are looking for roofing companies hiring or roofing subcontractors looking for work.
How to Find Employees for Your Roofing Crews
Gone are the days of simply posting a “Help wanted” or “We’re hiring” sign in your window or on your truck, although doing so certainly couldn’t hurt!
These days, you need a much more focused, targeted approach that can help you attract and find either experienced roofers or people with the right qualities and work ethic who are eager to learn the trade.
Ideally, your marketing should include both passive inbound and active outbound tactics. Inbound tactics would include posting those signs mentioned above as well as creating the kind of work environment that your current roofing crews will be proud to refer their friends to.
No matter what our profession, we all tend to surround ourselves with likeminded people and colleagues. Your own staff could be your best source for finding talent, one that many companies tend to overlook. Consider developing an incentive program to reward employees for their referrals.
Does your current website include a “Careers” section with an up-to-date list of job openings available? Be sure to include instructions on how to apply, and make it easy, perhaps with an online application form. Also be very clear about what the position involves, what benefits your company offers and describe any potential opportunities for future advancement.
Here are seven outbound tactics to help you find roofing employees for your business.
Tap into local apprenticeship and co-op work term opportunities.
Start educating high school students about the potential the trades can offer.
Find out where your best employee prospects hang out and approach them there.
Consider joint ventures with similar, non-competing employers.
Contact local employment agencies and organizations that place vets or promote women in roofing.
Learn from what your fellow roofing business owners are doing.
Approach people who frequent supplier stores and ask for referrals.
Now let’s look at each of the above tips in greater detail.
Tap into local apprenticeship and co-op work term opportunities. Many high schools and community colleges are incorporating apprenticeships and co-op work terms into their vocational training programs. Young people enrolled in such programs have an obvious desire to learn a trade and eventually work in it. Why not align yourself with such an institution and provide them with real-life opportunities?
Start educating high school students about the potential the trades can offer. Although it’s slowly changing, most students today are still being encouraged to pursue a university degree, rather than learn a trade. There’s a public misconception that a university degree will lead to greater prestige and money than a vocational degree. This is unfortunate because many who graduate from university are burdened with crippling student debt and grim job prospects.
As a professional roofing contractor, you’re well aware of the immediate need for skilled labor and you also know firsthand that owning a roofing business involves entrepreneurial, management, leadership, financial and other skills beyond the strictly technical.It’s a challenging and rewarding career. You need to get into the high schools and start educating students about the potential. Why wait until the next career night? Contact your local high schools and colleges and offer to speak to their students.
Find out where your best employee prospects hang out and approach them there. Think about the leisure activities your own crews enjoy in their off-time or ask them. Some roofing business owners have had great success in handing out “help wanted” flyers or postcards at local amateur sporting events such as soccer or ball games, bowling or golf tournaments.
Consider joint ventures with similar, non-competing employers. Team up with similar, but non-competing, companies to share the cost and effort of recruiting. A joint venture might include a seminar at a local building supply store or even a computer webinar “career night”.
Contact local employment agencies and organizations that place vets or promote women in roofing. Contact local employment agencies to offer a “get paid to learn a trade” program. Never overlook organizations like “Be a Hero Hire a Hero” that match veterans and employers to the benefit of both or the National Women in Roofing Association, where employers can advertise their job openings.
Learn from what your fellow roofing business owners are doing. Read and heed this story of two young roofing contractors in Jacksonville, Florida who successfully met the challenge of finding, training and keeping top-quality employees for their roofing crews. You’re sure to find a few actionable ideas to include in your own recruitment and retention strategies.
Approach people who frequent supplier stores and ask for referrals. One of the best ways to hire new roofing employees is to talk to the people who come in and out of supplier stores.
Great! You Found Some Promising Candidates. Now What?
Roofing skills are relatively easy to teach a person who is willing and eager to learn them. No doubt you have already developed extensive in-house training programs to teach those skills as well as to educate your roofing crews about worker safety on the job, customer service and your other expectations.
However, when screening or interviewing a candidate to join your roofing crew, there are so many other qualities you need to consider. After all, this roofer is going to represent your company and his or her work will have a direct effect on your bottom line results.
Here are some characteristics to look for before you hire someone to join your roofing crew:
Ability to learn/adaptability Whether you’re looking at a novice or an experienced roofer, that person needs to demonstrate a willingness to learn or perhaps even a willingness to “unlearn” old habits acquired elsewhere. The roofing industry changes quickly, with new technologies and products being introduced regularly. Any candidate who seems reluctant to change or learn will not be a wise or profitable long-term investment.
Positive attitude Roofing is a dangerous business. An employee who is, complaining or unhelpful can have a negative effect on co-workers’ morale and could possibly lead to some shoddy workmanship. Poor customer service and high employee turnover are other potential issues that could result. During an interview, watch for red flags such as criticizing or badmouthing an employer, co-worker or fellow student. Pay attention to body language and other non-verbal cues, but don’t mistake introversion or an obvious language barrier for a negative attitude.
Strong work ethic/professionalism Apart from the physical labor involved, roofing demands a high degree of self-discipline to arrive on time, act professionally and to get the job done right. Roofers must respect the homeowners as well as their property, or they will cost you in lost referrals and poor online reviews.
Safety-consciousness According to statistics compiled by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) in 2016, one in five worker deaths were in construction, with falls responsible for 63.7 percent of the total. Those were just the fatalities; injuries sustained and survived were not included.
Any roofers you think about hiring must be serious about safety, for their own sakes as well as their team-mates’. Safety helmets, harnesses and other equipment must be properly used and maintained. Be sure to ask about any past accidents or safety issues they may have experienced.
Comfort with technology Roofers looking for work must be willing to learn how to handle current technology and adapt quickly to emerging ones. More and more, the job relies on using devices for communicating with suppliers and homeowners, measuring, estimating, ordering materials and using various apps. If your employees can’t keep up with the requisite tech, you may soon find yourself at a competitive disadvantage.
Now That You’ve Hired Them, How Can You Keep Them?
The huge demand, short supply and competition for skilled workers is so great, it’s not uncommon for companies to poach roofing crews. Offers of higher pay or better benefits can be hard to counter but there are other ways to promote loyalty and reward performance.
Create a sense of family or team spirit Many roofing companies are family-owned and operated businesses but, even if yours isn’t, it’s still important to make all your employees feel like members of a team whose efforts and contribution are valued and appreciated. When people are allowed to make suggestions, offer constructive feedback and feel trusted and listened to, they develop a sense of belonging and company loyalty.
When your employees look out for each other and share responsibilities, you’ll see positive results in their performance, personal growth and potentially in your profitability.
Provide positive feedback and growth points regularly Annual reviews are essential but everyone needs praise and constructive criticism at the time when the actions deserving of either are actually happening. Share customer kudos and concerns with your staff members, so they know what you’re hearing and what people’s expectations are.
When you need to address a negative situation, focus your attention on the employee’s behavior or action, rather than his or her personality and try to find something positive to comment on as well. Watch your word choices, too. Rather than say, “You should have done such and such,” you could say, “Next time, I’d recommend that you handle it like this.”
Ask for input and ideas, suggestions and solutions Your roofing crew is on the front line of your business, often the ambassador for your company and the liaison between you and the homeowner. These employees will likely know before you do if something’s not working as it should or if some process could be improved.
Solicit, encourage and reward their feedback to keep it coming.
Provide training and opportunities for advancement The best employees are the ones who want to learn more, do more and make more of themselves. Give them all those chances. Perhaps you could offer an incentive for an experienced roofer to mentor a novice. Or send an employee to a personal development conference for his/her own interest and growth.
If you have an experienced roofer who’s thinking of quitting, maybe he’d be happy to stay on in a new capacity, such as in-house trainer or safety consultant.
Challenge your staff to think of new ways to improve your business. You might be very surprised at what they come up with.
Offer rewards other than money While money may motivate some people, there are intangible rewards that can be just as effective. Flex-time and recognition programs are particularly well received. A day off or a gift card for dinner can be a powerful incentive and fun reward for those who go above and beyond in some way, while inspiring others to raise the bar on their own performance.
Roofing contractors who have worked with IKO products, services and sales reps often comment on how they feel listened to and valued. We’re proud to have made them feel a part of our family business and we hope that these pointers we’ve just provided will help you attract and retain good people, too.
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