Smart strategies can help builders looking for ways to deal with labor shortages. 

In many building trades, finding qualified workers can be difficult. But by using some clever tactics, builders can make the most of industry resources to help them get the job done. The solutions can include leaning on resources outside the company as well as upgrading the skills of the workers already in place.

Use your labor well

First off, make good use of the employees you already have. Employees want to do a good job, and job satisfaction inspires them to share their talents and ideas to improve your company’s output. Cultivate loyalty with communication and trust, and—by all means—delegate.

“The smart delegation of decision-making can be a powerful productivity booster,” says Clark Ellis, principal of Continuum Advisory Group, a consulting firm to builders.

Invest in training when you can and trust your managers to make appropriate decisions in the field. “Employees who aren’t allowed to exercise authority appropriate to their roles usually start looking for jobs elsewhere,” says Ellis. With increased responsibility should come increased authority; allowing people to fix and learn from their mistakes is key. Let employees be involved in choosinghowto get the job done as often as possible, at all levels. Good employee relationships help you keep workers happy and productivity high.

Manufacturers are great resources

Not only do manufacturers know how to make their product, they are also often the experts on how to install and maintain them. These days, many manufacturers offer training and technical help that will allow you to upgrade the skills of your workforce. 

For instance, JELD-WEN’s website includes more than 200 videos on all aspects of window and door installation. The company has also collaborated with OSI, a manufacturer of construction sealants, for classroom and on-site training, leading to certification that qualifies contractors for upgraded warranties.

JELD-WEN Architectural Consultant Greg Pearson says that architects have also benefited from trainings led by manufacturers. “More of them are writing our installation protocols into their plans,” he says.

Dealer installation

It can be hard to keep every specialty on your payroll, but many dealers offer installation of their products. Installed sales can help fill the labor gap, but you have to know whom to ask. 

Not every dealer offers installation, but a survey of the top 100 dealers, the ProSales 100, found that about 35 percent do offer it. “The most popular offerings are for windows and doors,” according to Craig Webb of Webb Analytics, a consultant to LBM dealers. In addition, national lumber chains also offer installed framing, which can often replace the need for a framing contractor. “This can save a lot of grief for a midsized builder who doesn’t have the volume to keep their own crew or their framing subcontractor consistently busy,” says Webb.

The upshot is that you can find ways to bridge the labor gap: trusting and training your own employees, relying on manufacturers for their expertise, and using dealer-installed sales whenever possible. The labor gap is not going away anytime soon so it makes sense to adapt your company to best work with the resources available.

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