By Megan Salzano-Birch—For several years now the flooring industry has dealt with a shortage in labor, particularly in the area of qualified flooring installers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has seemingly exacerbated the situation by causing a shortage in office-level labor as well. Dealers across the country have cited limited applications—and an even smaller pool of qualified applicants—of which to tap for their needs.
FCNews spoke with several dealers who are tackling the labor shortage head on to gauge their strategies for finding and retaining qualified candidates.
“We’re always looking for good people and work hard to take care of and support our team so we don’t lose them. It’s about respecting your staff—installation and store staff alike—viewing them as critical parts of your team and valuing them. It’s about giving them opportunities to grow, whether it be growing professionally or growing their income or growing their responsibilities—helping people to be successful in whatever way they define success. It goes a long way. The other key is to always be hiring. If you wait until you need somebody, it’s too late. If you’re always looking and you find someone good, just hire them and figure out how to make it work. You’ll be better off for it.”
—Adam Joss, Vertical Connection Carpet One Floor & Home, Columbia, Md.
“We are trying everything we can to find good people. It’s like mining for gold these days. We have to go through a lot of coal, but when we find a good one (and we have gotten lucky a few times lately) we do everything in our power to bring them in. I think what attracts people is our reputation, our stability and our rate of pay. We have raised our minimum wage in the past year by $2/hour. We also offer all the benefits most companies offer—from health care to 401(k) retirement plans. I think our culture helps, too. We are a family business and we treat each other like family. We appreciate all of our work family and I think they feel that.”
—Susan Hadinger, Hadinger Flooring, Naples, Fla.
“There’s two components to think about here: the sales division and installation. I’ve evaluated larger corporate companies—McDonald’s, Menards, etc.—where you see a younger generation coming in. In flooring everyone is over 40. There’s something those large companies are doing to attract a younger generation. I think that’s the key to the overall shortage. Once you get one or two younger people—students or undergrads or people that are looking to get in and learn the trade—they have friends you can tap, too. Once you have a network of five younger people there’s a snowball effect. But you have to get that new generation into the flooring industry. Use newer generation content, like -tiktok. You can’t just do a newspaper ad for hiring people anymore.”
—Jason Potts, RIC Flooring, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
The installation game has changed. Installers have the upper hand and are taking back control. The days of 1970-1990 wages are over, and rightfully so. In order to justify higher prices for installation (so you can pay your installers more), you need to encourage and support education and certifications. An installer who passes the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Test through the CTEF should be paid more than someone who has not. This also justifies a retail store charging more for that certified installer. We host free trainings all-day: Schluter, Ardex, Sika, etc., days. We host CTI tests. It’s time to get behind installers instead of in front of them.
—Deby Winter, Carpet & Tile Warehouse, Vero Beach, Fla.
I own an installation company. I was hiring experienced people or those with some experience, and I kept running into the same problems. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
- Keep positive people/get rid of negative ones (no matter how good they are).
- Train an inexperienced workforce.
- Give young people a chance; they might surprise you.
- Don’t just hire men.
Once I did this and stuck to my plan, I’ve gone from four decent employees to eight great employees.