For nearly a decade now, the roofing industry has experienced a significant shortage in its workforce. After the housing bust in the mid-2000s, the availability of a skilled labor force took a sharp nosedive and things have been difficult throughout the home improvement space ever since. In a recent survey of roofing contractors regarding workforce challenges, many “voiced some frustration with increasing costs of finding and keeping quality people.”
One of those frustrations is tied to the cost of maintaining their labor, with nearly three-quarters of respondents reporting an increase in that cost since 2018. And more than two-thirds of contractors reported a “lack of qualified workers” to be their top challenge, the most widespread issue for them.
Skilled labor is still hard to find in 2020, and businesses across the roofing industry are struggling to make ends meet with fewer quality workers on site. While a nationwide increase in the number of qualified roofing workers at your disposal would be the ideal solution to this problem, thankfully there are other, more immediate ways to cope in this difficult climate. If you’re feeling the worker shortage in your business, here are a few ways to handle it.
Recruit more people from more places.
The high majority of roofing contractors said they recruited most frequently through employee referrals, with the second most common method being asking family and friends.
While you might trust your current workers and (hopefully) your family and friends, neither is a sustainable pipeline for actual growth. And—as you might have already encountered—it can cause issues since referred employees might show up expecting special treatment. If you’re having trouble finding enough applicants or maybe want to improve the overall quality of the ones you do get, the first thing you should do is widen your recruitment radius.
- Expand your search geographically. As long as your new employees can make it to your home improvement sites, does it matter where they live? Consider recruiting from adjacent counties as well as yours to find more people.
- Consider applicants with different backgrounds. If you reach out to applicants from further afield, you will be more likely to find qualified and suitable people for the job. This approach isn’t necessarily meant for unique needs that require specialized experience. But chances are you could manage existing labor for that and bring in others to handle more general tasks.
A sure way to better your chances at higher caliber employees is encouraging and welcoming a diverse workforce. To increase diversity, you should already be taking applications from people of all backgrounds. Ensure your job postings make it clear you will consider people of all types, and especially those not traditionally in the roofing space, like women or maybe even general laborers. Progressive thinking will serve you well during the application process. I will also have wide-reaching ramifications into the quality of workers you attract and the impact your work can have on the communities you’re helping improve. Not to mention, diverse workers bring diverse ideas, disciplines, and potential to your workforce. New ideas are rarely in high supply.
Don’t recruit alone — you might not be the most qualified to do so.
Like anyone in the home improvement space, you’re very likely doing the work of many different people all at the same time. It’s unrealistic for contractors to do everything their company needs doing as it seeks to grow. One way to ensure you are not going to burn out and that your talent, experience, and skills are put to the most efficient use possible is to delegate appropriately. A streamlined recruitment process is an essential part of any business, and particularly useful for professionals in the residential roofing industry who struggle with worker shortages.
You can get help with recruitment by hiring a human resources professional or taking on HR tasks yourself (but we already know doing even more is likely a bad idea). Knowing where to advertise is a solid first step. Make sure to post your jobs across several platforms.
- Construction Jobs is a great example of an online job forum for you to consider that can reach many with little work on your end.
- Running print ads is certainly an option when you’re confident your potential pool of candidate is reading that paper.
- Paying for virtual assistance with job advertising from online professionals
- Asking other pros in your area for their recommendations on how best to advertise for jobs.
Offer potential employees on-the-job training — and stir up some excitement with other benefits.
Let’s face it: A solid career track in home improvement is not as enticing to young people as it used to be. And that’s okay. Like other industries, it’s important that you show up and offer value to recruits that’s above and beyond their pay.
From work fairs targeted at high schoolers to those for the general public and labor-focused events in your area, there are many opportunities to recruit. Show up at these events with a training program in mind. Young people may be more drawn to giving you a summer or even their first few years out of school if they feel you’ll nurture them and teach them the ins and outs of roofing. Experience still plays a major role in improving the quality of any workers, and young people get it. On top of a salary, providing them specialized training—like they could get in an apprenticeship—could be invaluable.
And that’s not the only non-pay benefit people are looking for. From paid time off to flexible hours and help with insurance, you can go as far as you like into offering your recruits reasons to join you. Yes, there are costs involved and only you know best how to weigh those against the benefit of finding the quality candidates you’re hoping to attract.
Meet your new roofing workers where they are: online.
Speaking of young people, they often determine their trust in a company based on its online presence. From your website to your social media platforms, keep things tight and up-to-date to lure in more quality candidates.
Use social media to advertise your job postings. It costs far less than hiring an HR professional since most social media platforms are completely free. Again, the biggest challenge in this space is finding time to do it, not to mention the time to study up on emerging trends and maintaining these platforms. You would certainly lock these down much more efficiently—and effectively—by handing them off to someone else. Whichever way you choose to spruce up your online presence, be sure it’s not a task you let fall through the cracks.
Save time and money with technology developed specifically for your work.
If you’ve already tried to boost your application numbers with the steps above, it might be time to consider some deeper alternatives to optimize your roofing business.
Technology often comes to the rescue for productivity in the home improvement industry, and that’s especially true in the roofing space. Many forward-thinking construction brands are now using high-tech products and processes to save time and money on jobsite labor.
You can certainly save yourself some time by investing in construction management software, and depending on your confidence level with other technologies, you might even be able to implement other automated technologies across your building projects to require fewer builders on-site at any given time. For instance, companies like JobNimbus make it extremely easy to keep track of your roofing projects, your recruitment efforts, and your actual tasks. In short, tools like these are designed to help keep tabs on your current workforce, like what they should be doing at any given moment (and what they’re actually doing at any given moment). But it’s also widely used within the roofing space to keep all of your ongoing work organized. The man-hours you’ll save from an upgrade like this will lower your need for more people and therefore make it easier to recruit the fewer people you still want.
Another great example of this is the potential you gain from partnering with a company like Modernize for lead generation. From dramatically reducing your canvassing costs to quickly increase your sales pipeline, you’ll be able to refocus your energy on recruiting workers to do the job you’re most knowledgeable in: roofing. That means you won’t be burning hours trying to recruit canvassers or figuring out how to wrangle your employees to manage them. And it means you’ll be filling your sales funnel with digital homeowner leads without spending your time launching and managing marketing campaigns. Products like Modernize Appointments allow homeowners to book appointments online that fit within your schedule and the areas you want to work in, resulting in less Sales time for you and your team. With less work directly tied to leads, your company will need less man-hours for that task, and you’ll need less recruits.
In the end, optimizing your recruitment process isn’t an overnight change. Slowly, though, you can make changes that will have real impacts on your future growth.