7. Provide Training
The No. 1 challenge in today’s climate, says Brandon, is the absence of people who know the industry. “The reality is there’s a lack of qualified talent,” she says. “There are very few who can hit the ground running.”
This is a particularly important consideration when bringing in young talent. “Stop throwing them in the deep end and then wonder why they can’t swim as well as [you’d] like,” says Shepley. “Tailor training to their style. Increase feedback on job goals and performance.”
Training also is key to creating a career path that makes employees want to commit to the industry and to a company. This is crucial for millennials, Brandon says, since they were raised in an environment focused on competition and achievement. “If people feel like they’re not challenged, that’s when they become disengaged and start looking elsewhere,” she says.
Outside training can come in the form of tuition reimbursement or by contributing toward gaining certifications, Misura says, such as in supply chain logistics, finance, or Six Sigma. Executive-level programs can be an alternative to getting a full MBA.
In-house programs are another option. 84 Lumber’s wellknown management training program has participants spend time in every department, gaining an understanding for each role. Shepley Wood Products has a “Bootcamp” for its new hires that walks them through every part of the company. Sometimes they will hire a talented person without a position in mind, put them through training, and then determine where their potential is best utilized.
“We work hard at personalizing our employee relationships,” Shepley notes. “People want to matter and want to work for a company that invests in them and values them.” It also means you’re not limited to hiring from within the industry. “We also plan on recruiting good ‘raw material’ talent and helping them grow and develop,” says Shepley. “We depend far less on trying to find ready-made candidates with years of experience.”
Indeed, Mark Barnard stresses the need to look beyond just the traditional avenues, expanding searches to top business schools, particularly as an aging workforce creates more voids in the executive suite.
8. Invest in Technology
Crucial to the recruitment of millennials, and even older generations, is keeping up to date on technology, including arming sales staff with smartphones, tablets, and software; any dealer still using pen and paper as a primary tool for sales and takeoffs is not only inefficient, it’s a dinosaur to potential recruits.
“As hiring managers, we need to allow for it and incorporate it into our businesses,” says Mark Barnard. For example, one truck driver he spoke with appreciated the tablet system he uses on the road that allows the company and customer to track deliveries in real time, send receipts, etc., keeping the full team and customers in the loop.
This also includes communicating with them how they prefer. Millennials often choose texting over phone calls, for example, so perhaps internal communications can be tailored to their needs. Of course, salespeople of any age will need to adapt to what their customers want, but it’s worth noting that younger builders also may feel the same as their counterparts in LBM.
9. Be Responsive
Still, don’t allow technology to eliminate a personal touch and communication, particularly with your hiring process. Applicants who submit resumes through online portals but then hear nothing, not even a “No thank you,” may adopt a poor view of the company. It takes away from that personal, human exchange, Harold Barnard says.
Mark Barnard agrees, noting that this lack of communication— and the poor impression it creates—can come back to haunt a dealer should that applicant eventually work for a competitor, a customer, or a vendor.
10. Be Flexible
One non-financial benefit that many age groups crave is flexibility in work schedule, allowing the freedom to go to a doctor’s appointment or pick up a kid from school while making up the time later or earlier in the day.
Though such a setup won’t work as easily for some areas of the operation—such as delivery drivers—dealers should consider flex time policies for sales and executives.
“Building products is slow to the party with this,” Brandon says. “And that is in large part because most people in the industry haven’t gotten the pressure from employees who are expecting more. But as more millennials join, they’re starting to feel that pressure. A company that is able to get ahead of it is going to beat you.
“Millennials are getting us back to what matters—work is important but your life is also important,” she adds. “We have a work-life balance problem, but millennials are pushing companies to look at things in a different way because they’re changing the rules of management, saying, ‘Yes, I’m driven by money but I’m also driven by freedom.’ They’re forcing companies to adapt to a new way of working … a way that will be better for us in the long-term.”
11. Create a Team Atmosphere
Employees, particularly millennials, want to feel like they’re a part of the team and that their contributions are valued.
Some of this comes from allowing for staff to feel part of the process and that their voices are welcome and heard. One of Harold Barnard’s clients, for example, has a committee approach to management versus a top-down structure, in which team members are brought in to share ideas.
“Better-quality companies are better-communicating companies,” Mark Barnard says. “Good communication is always a benefit for your employees.”
12. Never Stop Looking
No matter whether you’re hiring or not, maintain a pool of potential recruits, from inside or outside the industry. Every industry conference, every Twitter or LinkedIn interaction is an opportunity to spot potential talent.
“The key is constantly networking with people,” says Fruman. “Whether or not you need to hire a specific position, you should always be talking to people and networking. If we have someone who has a lot of energy and is passionate about the industry and the right culture, we will find a way to bring them into our team.”