Scott Hartmann, a seasoned LBM industry veteran with a solid track record of success, provides thoughtful answers to readers’ questions.

Aging in Place

“We’re struggling with what to do with an aging member of our yard staff. He’s a great employee, but can no longer do the physical part of the job—and he isn’t a candidate for sales or clerical work. We hate to let him go, but aren’t sure where to put him to justify the payroll expense. Thoughts?”

Signed, Struggling

Dear Struggling,
Know that as our industry ages, and our industry is old and challenged to retain good employees, this issue is not unique to you. As I think of Anson Dorrance, I do have two thoughts.

- Sponsor -

One, good employees are hard to find and retain. How you treat this situation will have an effect on this employee and also the rest of your staff.

Secondly, take time to talk to this employee. He may be feeling the same way about his ability to keep up with the job.

  • Tell him you are concerned about him. He likely agrees the job has become too difficult for him.
  • Ask him what his plans are. If he is not yet prepared to retire, what else in your company could he see himself doing?
  • Is it possible he could do the job he suggested? If so, give him a shot. You probably have little to lose business wise and you will endear yourself to your staff and perhaps customers.
  • Might there be any other appropriate positions within the industry, but outside of your company, where we might find a fit? Make a few calls for him. It’s the right thing to do.
  • If it is clear he can’t do any other job, and/or suggests a date forward to retire, I would bend over backwards to support a mutually-developed exit plan for him. Even if necessary, find safer busy work for him during this interim period.

And Anson Dorrance? He is the famous and accomplished women’s soccer coach at the University of North Carolina, with numerous NCAA Championship titles to his credit.

He figured out early that one of the keys to success on the playing field—if not the key—was understanding that how you treat one member of the team affects the playing effort and loyalty of every other team member. I believe the same holds true for us in business.

Stay Updated

Get our email newsletter with LBM industry trends, data, new products, and best practices.