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Real Issues. Real Answers. Attracting top talent

In each month’s Real Issues. Real Answers. survey, LBM Journal editors ask readers to share a business challenge they are struggling with. For the past few years, the most common challenge facing companies in our industry is attracting, hiring, and retaining good people. As we ended 2020 and the many challenges and opportunities the year brought to our industry, we wanted to know our readers’ recent experience in hiring for different positions, and their insights into attracting top talent.

Question 1

On a scale of 1-3, how difficult is it for your company to fill the following positions? 

Real Issues. Real Answers.

Question 2

Attracting top talent continues to be the #1 challenge facing our industry. In your view, what is the secret to attracting good people to join (and stay with) your company?


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Responses from full-line lumberyards and specialty dealers

“Having a secure place to work. Pay well and have growth opportunities.”

“Pay a competitive wage and show your new hire they are part of a team and not just a number.”

“Just keep hiring!”

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“Always be on the lookout. Look for great service in any environment.”

“Wages are always the most problematic part of finding the help you need, but the morale at your yard is the next step. If you don’t have the morale, a new hire won’t last long.”

“Pay them well and provide good benefits.”

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“The pay offered to our prospective employees has been the #1 reason they walk, followed by the amount of time it takes to respond after an interview.”

“Competitive wages and enticing benefits. Benefits that will keep employees on the job, and raises, which are very far and few these days.”

“A culture that appreciates the person and their work regardless of their role.”


“We struggle with adequate training and incorporating the new employees into the culture fast enough. However, we hired over 100 employees with a 40% turnover. This is mostly in the production areas.”

“Having solid vision and strong core values that radiate throughout organization.”

“Good people have options. Offering competitive incentives with avenues for career growth is the secret. I am a fourth-generation LBM salesman and estimator that has been involved in the industry from a very young age. I will be leaving the industry a few weeks from now as my wife and I started a successful drafting and design service as an avenue for me to leave the industry. Without purchasing a company outright, I have not found avenues for career growth at any of the companies that I have worked for. I posted $2.4 million in sales last year, have worked with the most demanding contractors in each market that I’ve worked, and am definitely hitting a ceiling.”

“While attracting, training, and retaining top talent it is so very important to communicate openly, honestly, and regularly with your employees.”

“Pay and benefits help attract people, but the environment they work in, feeling appreciated, and knowing they can build a career keeps people loyal.”

“There is no one thing to do—you need a varied basket of incentives and the employee will attach themselves to what is important to them.”

“A family environment, and a focus on culture and development opportunities.”

“Making the current people feel valued, creating a culture where the employees have a say in how things are done.”

“Focus on the people is equally as important as focus on the customers.”

“Good compensation and benefits, good working conditions, chance for advancement.”

“Strong social media presence, and partnering with customers who are strong with theirs, and tag your company. It shows a strong environment/culture that people want to be a part of.”

“Up to date on younger generation trends. Specific goal-oriented training and education.”

“I believe the first step in attracting top talent is by having an engaging job posting, one that will hook the prospect and want them to pursue the opportunity. Next, know and understand what individuals want from their career today: potential earnings, benefits, opportunity for advancement, and quality of life. As much as a candidate is selling themself, you must sell your business. You want to make it appealing, have a dynamic training program in place, embrace and engage in technology and most importantly, lead by example. I believe most individual are capable of learning and being trained, but it’s how we as owners present our business and the life that we put into it that will make it appealing.”

“Flexibility, family-friendly environment, year-end bonus, and retirement.”

“Generous vacation time.”

“Creating a good culture to retain great staff and attracting new staff. If we can’t retain staff, then why bother hiring new staff who are going to leave?”

“While I haven’t yet figured out the secret, competitive wages, along with vacation and health insurance benefits are proven incentives to getting them in the door.”

“Treating the employees with respect and leading them not directing them.”

“Most of our leadership comes from within. We try as much as possible to continue to build bench strength for all positions. Finding labor in a tech-based market is extremely difficult. People don’t want to build loads, drive trucks, or run equipment, when they can go to an air-conditioned office in their pajamas and slippers, and have all meals and snacks catered to them. The pay scale for beginning tech jobs has severely hindered our ability to find good employees to work in our yards.”

“Hire good people at entry-level positions and develop them yourself. Hiring the second generation of current employees has had some success also.”

“Empowering people to make mistakes, take risks, and not to fear losing their positions. Don’t micromanage them.”

“Finding someone with a good work ethic who wants a career not a ‘job.’”

“Ascertaining the right mix of knowledge and interpersonal relationship skills.”

“Show them the value your company has to offer so the starting wage isn’t the only thing to look at.”

“Hire personality, attitude, and work ethic. You can train the rest.”

“Successful company history, along with a number of benefits and work flexibility.”

“Pay, benefits, work environment.”

“Hours worked. We start at 48-50 hours per week.”

“Hiring for attitude and not aptitude. Treating them like family and taking care of them financially when possible (bonuses, etc.) and also listening. The old adage applies…no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. This is especially important with the younger generation.”

“Benefits, competitive salary, in-house avenues to expand learning. Be open to career advancement.”

“Good interviewing skills to separate the wheat from the chaff and then good training, pay, and benefits to retain them. We also mainly add associates via college recruiting, so we hire them before they get bad habits elsewhere.”

“Culture and innovation.”

“We have the best results when recruiting someone who has some experience in the industry, has a great attitude along with a need to learn and grow. Lastly, we sell our company as being an ESOP which allows our employees to have two retirement accounts.”

“Giving someone the chance to contribute to something larger than themselves—the mission, vision, and values of the company. Of course, those have to be great or it won’t work.”

“We have to be constantly looking for individuals who will meet our needs and fit into our culture. Fortunately, once on board, we have had great success retaining our employees.”

“The ‘attracting good people’ part is persistence. It’s not a secret; always be looking. The ‘…and stay with’ part for us has many aspects: treat everyone with dignity, remove the underwhelming as soon as possible because the good, overwhelming ones don’t want to stay where incompetence and non-performance is condoned. Give them skin-in-the-game, create a performance-based compensation system.”

“Stability in the workplace along with a good benefits package.”

“Maintaining a positive, healthy, safe, and stable work environment. If your staff wants to be there it shows and makes it much easier to attract new staff members. Positive word of mouth is a huge drawing card. Working in the LBM industry is a tremendously rewarding career path with no limits.”

“Properly train and empower employees to grow and accept new responsibility with company for long tenure.”

“Company reputation, capability, and a good rewards plan. Be known as a place where employees can thrive.”

“Finding quality of character is the most important thing. Values, ethics, and integrity with grounded, Godly values produces the best people. The rest can be learned to a degree and these types of people want to learn and do good work for themselves and their families. They appreciate employment and are loyal by nature.”

“Treat them well, listen, and react to any reasonable needs or wants.”

“Give them a future. We are a 100% ESOP. It’s a great way to have a great retirement package. Give them all the tools and education to progress and grow personally and professionally within the organization.”

“Hiring the right people when they are available. Rarely do we find great candidates when we need them. This year we took advantage of attracting great people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.”

“Pay well. Provide a competitive benefits package. Respect and appreciate those who work for you.”

“Decent starting pay, good benefits, and a culture that promotes growth and stability.”

“Building the best place to work, best culture, and above-average pay and benefits.”

“A strong social media presence has helped recruit new talent.”

“Take your time choosing the right people even if it does not fit the timeline.”

“The people we recruit are those wanting to come to a smaller town that is less stressful. They have to want to build relationships, as that is what our SWOT is built around.”

“When you recruit and are interviewing, be honest. Describe the job accurately as well as your company’s expectations and rewards.”

“If there is limited advancement, then say so. If the job is out in the weather, say so.”

“We are a smaller yard but believe in a set of values that are similar to family. We pay well and are not greedy with our growth.”

“The ability to demonstrate a unique culture that fosters career opportunities and advancement within the organization.”

“Take care of the people we have, and they will be our best ambassadors.”

“Right now, our benefits and pay are among the high end in our market.”

“Extremely difficult at this time. Looking outside our industry. Forced to settle on a great person without experience, as a great person with great experience in our industry is basically unavailable. Becoming far more retail centric as lumberyard experience is not available.”

“Hire from within wherever possible. Develop from the bottom. Reward those who are hungry.”

“We have to be continually searching for young, smart people everywhere we go and attempt to recruit them into our company and industry. Establishing, strengthening, and communicating our culture to our people is the most crucial aspect of both recruiting and keeping the best people.”

“You have to find people who have a desire to become better and take extra pride in their job. To find this you can’t be afraid to hire entry level and weed out the bad to find the good.”

“Treat them like you want to be treated.”

Responses from wholesale distributors and manufacturers

“Competitive compensation; competitive benefits package, ability to contribute in a way that makes an impact.”

“We have been fortunate to have some longevity with our hires. Our process is to vet qualified candidates by their resume, call qualified candidates for a 20-minute telephone interview, invite them in for a face-to-face interview (or Zoom meeting). If they make the cut after that, we have them take three online tests: basic math skills, basic Excel skills, and a personality profile. If they make the cut, we invite them for a second interview with a larger peer team.”

“Maintaining growth thus providing opportunity. A strong company culture and benefit package. Transparency at all levels of the organization. Ongoing educational opportunities to help staff grow their careers.”

“We retain employees with competitive wages and the ability to earn extra on specific behavioral and performance incentives. This creates the desire to seek employment with us.”

“Hire for attitude and make your culture and people the top priority. A team that feels engaged and appreciated is a team that wins. There is no magic to this…if managers and leaders leave ego at the door, the team will gel.”

“A good company culture, treating employees well, setting high expectations and following through with them through open communication.”

“Communication. Try to make sure that they understand the job requirements, future opportunities, and compensation.”

“A good work environment, thorough communications, competitive pay, continuing education, and multi-position capability.”

“Have a great employee support and engagement program. Pay decent wages with the best benefits. Make sure they are supported and truly feel they are part of the business and are a valued asset to make the business successful.”

“A fair total compensation package to include benefits, time off, flexible working conditions.”

“Once we get a solid candidate and can share our benefits package, it usually is a slam dunk. We have been in business for 75 years and still employ people with over 50 years of service. 40% of our employees have been with us for more than 10 years, and 23% have been with us for more than 25 years. Finding drivers has been one of the hardest positions to fill. Our drivers are retiring, not leaving for other jobs. We also have had trouble with entry-level warehouse jobs, finding young people who can pass a drug test. Yet state governments legalize some drugs which makes it even more difficult. That, coupled with the federal government subsidizing unemployment compensation, really takes a toll on small businesses.”

“Be clear on their role, how they will be judged, and their growth opportunities. Also be transparent in communicating the company’s goals and objectives.”

“Aggressive pay to onboard them, backed up with a positive work environment with growth potential. When people up-skill, we need to be liberal with compensation increases.”

“Healthy hourly pay and a signing bonus for those who we definitely want to keep.”

“Positive culture, a dynamic team, continuous improvement, and evolving products and services.”

“Attracting top talent is difficult. Only one team gets to draft #1. Developing talent and coaching to win with the 20th pick overall engages team members.

Engagement through leadership requires clear direction and communication of vision and goals. When your team believes what you believe, they are invested and committed.”

“In today’s market, to get someone to move from their current employer to you for the same or similar job, pay must be above market average. For promotional hires, you need to have a good pay and benefits package, talent with the ability to assume increased responsibility is competitive. We tried hiring bonuses of $6,000 and this was not effective in attracting warehouse associates.”

“You have to hire great people, even though the cost is high. In turn, they help recruit/attract great people. Low wages attract less talented/motivated people. It’s a simple formula.”

“Flexibility is a deal-breaker for many applicants I have seen, both in hours and working remote. Also, opportunity for advancement is important.”

“We have a culture of ownership at all levels within our organization. We also combine that with an attractive compensation and benefits package.”

“Be the best place to work. Easier said than done, but it starts with the right culture.”


Hundreds of readers share their insights for this every-issue feature. Have a Real Issue? Contact

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