Filling labor void requires multi-pronged approach

Home Columns Al's Column Filling labor void requires multi-pronged approach

laborIn the ever-evolving landscape of the job market, reminiscing about the past can offer valuable insights into the present…

The year was 1984, and I received a phone call that would shape my career trajectory. Shaw Industries offered me a position that came with a promising wage of $5.25 per hour—quite the leap from the $3.75 I was earning at the time. Little did I know this opportunity marked a turning point not only for my professional life but also for the industry. Back then, a higher wage was the enticement needed to secure talent. Fast forward to today, and the significance of wage competition remains as prominent as ever.

As of May 8, 2023, the average annual pay for an unskilled worker in the United States is $38,934, a testament to the evolving expectations surrounding compensation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a staggering 4.3 million voluntary job departures in December 2021 alone, underscoring the monumental gap left in the labor market. The number of job openings surpasses the number of new hires, indicating a fervent search for talent.

Unlike past waves of attrition driven by job-hopping, the present departure trend is marked by individuals seeking entirely different paths or opting for a temporary hiatus from the workforce. The desire for work-life balance has taken precedence, as many individuals seek respite from the demands of the job market.

Retention strategies

The paradigm shift in job preferences and the competitive labor market have pushed employers to redefine their strategies for attracting and retaining talent. Offering large sign-on bonuses, higher starting wages, flexible work arrangements and remote opportunities are now the norm. Traditional companies find themselves challenged to match the allure of these enticing offers.

I recently attended an advisory meeting at a college that highlighted the potential of collaboration in steering the industry’s future. Representatives from diverse sectors of the flooring industry—local retailers, big box workrooms and unions—came together to support and shape a new floor covering installation program. This collective effort embodies the power of unity and collaboration.

The road ahead calls for a collective effort in showcasing the flooring industry as a skill-rich career pathway with promising financial prospects. Bridging the gap between potential talent and industry opportunities is crucial in addressing the installation crisis. Witnessing the collaborative spirit in action reinforces the potential for change and transformation when we work together.

The journey from wage competitions of the past to the collaborative efforts of the present reflects the dynamic nature of the flooring industry. As we navigate the evolving job market, it is imperative to adapt, collaborate and continuously innovate to ensure a prosperous future for both the industry and the talented individuals who shape it.

The time is now to set the bar high, recruit in-demand talent, require and expect quality training and education, secure wages that reflect skill sets so we can elevate the installation profession in the floor covering industry. This will be the only way to combat the installation crisis.

Kaye Whitener is director of operations for the Floor Covering Education Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting recruitment, training and retention of floor covering installers. For more information, email

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Aug. 28/Sept. 4, 2023

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