Distributors’ perspective: Enticing the next generation

Home Columns Distributors' perspective: Enticing the next generation

October 26/November 2; Volume 30/Number 10

By Heidi Cronin Mandell

How do you motivate the next generation of workers to get involved in the flooring industry? Most people don’t dream of becoming a floor covering installer and these days taking pride in the craftsmanship seems to be gone. Although installation isn’t looked upon as a glamorous job, it still requires talent, a sharp mind and constant learning, problem solving, customer service and interpersonal skills. No installation is the same as the one before.

Some products are marketed as DIY, but a majority of floor coverings still require a skilled professional. Installers are the key to our trade.

Labor shortages are apparent today due to the strength of the economy and greater activity in the housing and construction markets. Forecasts show the construction industry needs to add more than one million jobs over the next 10 years. With 80 million young people out there, how can we level the playing field? How can we bring them into the flooring industry and keep them?

Six years ago the industry was faced with a downturn. Qualified laborers had to learn new skills or enter different trades to survive. Those who left our trade have not returned. Those who stayed are older and are starting to think about retirement. We simply have fewer incoming workers to replace those exiting ones.

In addition, construction and manual labor jobs are often viewed as undesirable due in part to the economic downturn. Ask anyone who graduated high school in 2008, 2009 or 2010, and he or she will tell you that teachers and parents discouraged students from going into the construction trades. At the time it was tough to argue with that piece of advice but we are currently in a situation where we have a shortage of workers for these “undesirable” jobs. In reality, most of these jobs are very satisfying—both intellectually and financially. The key to fighting this common misperception is to communicate the benefits to interested workers during recruiting efforts. Here are five things to keep in mind when you are recruiting the next generation of trade workers:

  1. Young people typically thrive on regular communication and enjoy collaborative efforts. Mentoring programs will encourage them to stay on board with your company.
  2. What matters to millennials differs from what is important to older generations. Younger generations grew up with and constantly use technology. They have never been without it. Appeal to their interest in the newest technologies by embracing them in your business.
  3. Company culture is important. Younger people seek jobs that come with perks and laid-backs atmospheres, which are common among high-tech firms. To appeal to this group we need to create appealing company cultures.
  4. Develop new recruitment strategies. Long-term employment forecasts are positive, so industries will be competing to fill entry-level positions. There will need to be a shift in how we go about recruiting the next generation.
  5. The construction industry needs to target the right group of young people for field positions, primarily those who just graduated high school. An older group attending a two-year community college program is an up-and-coming target group as well; this group has tried a career path or two and is ready to settle down.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates today’s learner will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38. This statistic won’t instill confidence in your recruitment efforts, but if our industry can think outside the box and mentor younger minds, they will see what we have to offer and we can combat this trend.

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Volume 30/Number 10

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