Hiring the best
This article is the first in a five-part Your Profits: People series. See related content on Page 66 in the Retail Glass section for an article about common hiring mistakes and horror stories. In the September issue of Glass Magazine, learn about interviewing techniques, and read through reader-submitted interview questions for specific positions in part two of our Your Profits: People series. In the final three parts of the series, running in the October, November and December issues, read about background checks and drug testing, training to retain employees and incentives.
Officials from companies large and small in all segments of the glass industry have one thing to say about hiring: experienced people are near impossible to find.
"I talk to industry people every day who say there's a labor shortage," says Nathan Haffke, lead franchise development director, Glass Doctor, Waco, Texas. "But there are good people out there. They are just working for somebody else."
David King, manager at San Jacinto Glass of Houston, agrees. "All the good glaziers or glass people are already working," he says. "We'll get 40 applicants, take the best one or two, and try to train them the best we can."
Officials from contract glaziers say project management and estimating positions are the most difficult to fill, because they require industry knowledge and experience. For auto glass shops, managers say technicians are the hardest to find for the same reasons.
John Bohn, owner of Spring Hill Glass & Mirror, Spring Hill, Fla., says it's challenging for retail shops to find employees that have glass industry and residential installation experience. "The residential work, particularly showers, takes some expertise," Bohn says.
Fabricators face a tough hiring environment, because a slowdown in nationwide manufacturing has led to a decrease in the number of people moving into the manufacturing sector, says Jim Wendorff, vice president of human resources for Viracon of Owatonna, Minn. "As Viracon grows, we are in greater need for talented people. ... There are not enough people with specific glass experience for some of our key positions, such as coatings and engineering," he says.
King says good drivers also can be hard for fabricators to find.
Managers in all segments say the best way to avoid a labor shortage at a company, even in the most hard-to-fill segments, is to treat employees well. Satisfied employees stay longer, want to move up in a company and will help recruit new employees through referrals.
Word-of-mouth is the most powerful recruitment tool, industry professionals say. Current employees, in particular, can be the best headhunters.
"They are familiar with the type of company we are and know what's expected," says Thomas Huff, manager of the Delaware operations for Mr. Go-Glass in Dover.
Job satisfaction is critical with employee referrals, managers say, because an employee won't recommend a company to their friends and family members unless they are happy. "Create an environment where people want to work. Word travels. If you have an opening, call your best technician and say, 'who do you know?'" Haffke says.
Giroux Glass, Los Angeles, relies almost solely on employee referrals for new hires, says Bob Burkhammer, general manager. The company became employee owned two years ago, and employees take ownership in the business' success, he says. "All of our employees are partners in the company. When we need a project manager, we just ask around the company for recommendations. They want the best people and they take pride in their recommendations," he says.
Word-of-mouth goes beyond employee recommendations. Networking with suppliers and other companies in the industry can also yield new hires. And companies that create a good reputation in the community that treat employees well have less trouble recruiting applicants.
Wendorff says Viracon has confronted labor shortage challenges by becoming an "employer of choice for an immigrant population that has come to our state. These individuals have helped us fill our job openings, and we have programs in place to improve and build skills, so people can move into positions of greater responsibility."
Huff also suggests working with community and civic organizations. "We belong to groups like the Chamber of Commerce. We will go there to get the word out that we're looking for people. Those folks know a bit about our organization and are able to refer the types of people who might be a good fit."
Other recruitment techniques include advertising-online, in local newspapers and through billboards-and looking to local community colleges and high schools for applicants.
More than money
The best way to face the labor shortage is to reduce turnover by making sure employees are satisfied. While pay and benefits are a large part of job satisfaction, glass company officials say they are far from everything.
Employees rarely leave just because they will get more money elsewhere, Haffke says. "If you treat people like they are tools, the first opportunity that comes where they can change their situation, they leave-not because they're getting a better offer, but because they want to feel respected."
While Glass Doctor strives to pay its employees better than competitors in the market, it also focuses heavily on motivating its employees to grow within the company. Glass Doctor developed the HIRE program, Hire Individuals Recruit Entrepreneurs, to help employees become franchise owners. "You have to create an environment at your company where people want to come and work for you," Haffke says. "In our interviews I can say that no one pays better than us. And, I can say, 'we have a program here to help you own your own business.'"
Viracon has executed several improvements to keep employees more satisfied, Wendorff says, including work shift options that allow employees to work a schedule that best fits their needs, as well as a profit sharing program. "Each quarter we meet with all employees. Having our employees engaged in the organization and feeling that they are important to the success of the company is key for the retention of good people," he says.
When turnover does occur, managers should identify the reasons why and if anything could have been done to keep the employee at the company.
When in doubt, don't hire
One of the biggest mistakes managers can make is to hire employees just to fill space, the warm body syndrome, says Michelle Valdez, head of human resources for Walters & Wolf, Fremont, Calif. "This tends to be one of the biggest mistakes I've seen in my HR career. It comes from lack of foresight and vision, not because a manager has their head in the sand, but because they're so busy and buried in work. They're down three people and stressing, so they get into panic mode, post an ad and hire, hire, hire, looking for people that pass the 'fog the mirror test'," Valdez says.
Desperate hiring decisions can lead to employees unsatisfied with their job and managers unsatisfied with job performance. Valdez recommends managers assess their current staffing situation and think about where the operation will be in 30 days, 60 days and six months before making hiring decisions.
Companies can also avoid additional hiring by cross-training current employees to perform additional jobs in different aspects of the business. Mr. Go-Glass cross-trains employees to work in both the automotive and retail glass segments, Huff says. "Being cross-trained in our sales and service staff, as well as our technicians, puts us in less of a position to have to go hire someone. We have seven locations. We'll even move staff to another location for a day if their location is slow. That tends to not put us under quite as much pressure."