Even amid talk of a slowing economy, people are in demand but, depending on the market, there are fewer and fewer people available. In the Washington, D.C., area, for instance, we have low unemployment, and everyone wants to work for the federal government.

When it comes to personnel, every contractor is our competition. With so few people in the labor pool, we’re all scrambling. And you have to not only add people, but you’ve also got to figure out a way to keep the ones who’ve been with you satisfied and happy.

Start Early

One way to find people is to change your recruiting mindset. Instead of waiting until you need a person immediately, post ads for positions you will eventually need to fill. The problem at many companies is that it’s September, and if you think you’re going to need salespeople or installers in October, you look in November.

The time to look is now. If you look in November, you may get lucky and find someone. But how good is your luck going to be when every company is looking at the same time?

Putting a process in place will yield predictable results. Put some feelers out. We look especially for people who are dissatisfied with their current job situation and want to make a change. But you can assume if they’re experienced people who are looking, that yours is not the only company they will contact. They have choices.

And if you’re paying as well or better than anyone else in the area, that doesn’t automatically make you the company they want to work for. A good compensation plan is important—you won’t be taken seriously without it—but it’s just one piece. Building your appeal around it, our company learned, is not productive. Saying you pay better than anyone else is like saying you have the best warranty or use the best materials. It’s a given. You can’t hang your hat on that.

Offer the Intangibles

What appeals to people is the part of the job that’s less visible. Take flexibility, for example. It’s hugely important. This will vary from department to department (There’s not a lot of flexibility available in production). Allowing people to adjust their work hours around the demands of their personal lives has great appeal. Work from home can work. The pandemic proved it.

And we’re starting to toy with the idea of a four- versus five-day workweek with longer days but one fewer of them. People would much rather work 10 hours a day, four days a week, and have almost half the week to do other things. For people under 30, this is a big one. You need young people willing to get into the business. They are the future of your company. And they look at things differently.

Then, here at Maggio Roofing, there’s training. And with training there is the prospect of travel. Our people like having the opportunity to go to Certified Contractor Network’s conferences around the country, enhance their skills and meet other similar people. They know—and let me know that they know—we invest in them. For instance, a new salesperson we hired in his 20s with a background in civil engineering, saw our ad and took the job because we have a training program.

Benefits Are Back

We left our benefits intact during the last recession. We plan to do the same this time around. Among contractors, we might be in the minority. Scrambling to lower overhead, many contracting companies might be tempted to reduce benefits, including health insurance. I understand why—benefits are expensive.

We have a healthcare plan and, like most companies today, we do not pay for all of it. When you’re hiring, this is going to be the second question that serious job candidates will ask about your company (right after compensation).

We also have a 401(k) with matching. In addition, we give someone who starts at our company 120 hours of paid time off the first year. That could be sick days, personal days or vacation. We offer paid holidays. All this is now part of the hiring conversation.

Culture Matters

The best new employees will be drawn to your company by its culture. That’s defined in large measure by what it’s like to work there. You and I know that when employees leave the office for the bar, they’re talking about work. And if they’re saying that it’s an awesome place and fun, that they like coming in every day, then whoever else is in on that conversation will wonder: Is that company a good fit for me?

You want your people talking up your company. That’s how you’re going to get your best new employees. Current employees are the most credible information source on the subject. If I tell a job candidate we have a great company, what else would they expect me to say?

A final point: You can only offer top compensation, excellent benefits and a great place to work if you can pay for it. And you can’t pay for it if you don’t charge enough. QR

Scott Siegal is the owner of Maggio Roofing in Washington, D.C., and also owns the Certified Contractors Network. You can learn more about CCN by going to the website contractors.net.

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