I have just returned from the summer meetings of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). What an amazing group of contractors. It is inspiring to see the work that both the NRCA staff and Board of Directors do every day for this industry.
I was inspired by many of the working meetings. There was a trend during the discussions of working together to elevate the professionalism and reputation of the roofing industry to consumers and in the construction trades overall. The push was to continue branding the roofing industry as an excellent choice for career path. The passion of the roofing professionals during the meetings to build collaboration and deliver solutions was amazing.
One of the committee meetings that I attended was Workforce Solutions. The goal of this committee is to deliver solutions for recruitment and retention of employees while elevating the reputation of the industry to attract people to roofing. In small groups, we worked on ideas of how we can help roofing contractors recruit and retain talented individuals in their companies.
As many know, there is a shortage of labor and it is hard to find the most talented employees. But in listening to the contractors in the room, retention really came down to one key word, respect. All agreed that the best way to retain and develop loyal, long-term employees is to focus on respect. As the industry looks for labor solutions, it is clear that diversity will play an important role. Whether it is different ethnicities, genders or ages, the face of roofing is changing and these new demographics are expecting and demanding a whole new level of respect.
As the Chairperson for National Women in Roofing (NWIR), I hear the concern every day for the respect level paid to women. With the demand for labor and the supply low, women are finding a lot of interest from all trades looking for help from the rooftop to the office. But, this new labor force is looking for more than just dollars. They are looking for a collaborative environment that allows for flexibility, challenge and advancement.
We are hearing the same from the Millennials. It is not always about the salary but other factors play a role. Is there more beyond the work day? Is the company committed to the community? Is there a cause? Flexibility and challenge also play a key role and they want to understand the career path whether it is up on the roof or in management.
Last but certainly not least, the roofing industry already has a strong Hispanic culture that is making a difference in the professionalism of roofing. The backbone of our industry often has English as a second language. What are we doing to retain the hard-working crews that make up over half of our workforce. According to the NRCA board members, again it is all about respect. Treating each and every employee equally and caring about their lives, families and making sure they get home safe every day.
Retention can be boiled down to treating others as you want to be treated. For the companies that are not embracing diversity and understanding the needs of these diverse groups, they will lose good people to the companies that do get it. Now is the time to focus on your culture and make sure it is one of respect that will help recruit and retain employees for a long time.
Heidi Ellsworth is owner of HJE Consulting Group and a partner in RoofersCoffeeShop.com. See her full bio here.