How to Cope with the Worker Shortage in the Pond Industry

The phone is ringing. People are out there spending money. All of a sudden, it seems like everyone who had ever thought about wanting a pond — both residential and commercial — suddenly wants you to build it, tomorrow! Sales are through the roof. Clearly, the economy is back.

But, just there’s one problem. There is a serious shortage of qualified technicians — not just in the pond industry, but also throughout most of the trades out there.
If you were hoping for a silver bullet that would allow you to immediately hire as many workers as you needed, I am afraid that you’re going to be a bit disappointed. While there are no instant answers to the worker shortage, there are a few strategies and ideas that might just help attract help in the not-too-distant future.

Workers tend to be attracted to companies that appreciate and award good performance. Every employee needs a sort of carrot dangling in front of them to increase productivity. Likewise, your workers want you to know they’re doing a good job.

The point is pretty simple. Create a system that rewards performance. If they work a bit harder or more efficiently, they earn a bonus. You’ve likely heard the age-old advice, “Reward performance you want repeated.” How does that help recruit new workers? Good employees are currently out there seeking out companies that both appreciate their work and provide rewards for outstanding performance.

Consider a Wage Hike

Increasing your hourly rate may not be as costly as you think. Several years ago, I was doing some consulting for a services company. Most companies in their area were paying workers $18 to $25 per hour for the same service. My client company was paying their workers $35 per hour!

To retain employees, 55 percent of contractors believe there should be more opportunities for advancement, in addition to increased employee engagement and more on-the-job training. The growing role of technology on the jobsite was also cited as a means to attract the next generation of workers to the construction workforce. — Source: 2019 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index 

I asked how he could afford to do that. His reply surprised me a bit at first. He explained that paying the highest wages in the area not only attracted the best workers, but also came with other benefits as well. His higher-paid employees were more efficient, seldom called in sick, grumbled less, were responsible for a limited number of callbacks, and were more respectful to both management and the customers. Turnover was down, which also which minimized the need for training (and the associated expense). Simply building a workforce he could count on more than made up for the extra dollars he was paying. It definitely makes sense when you think about it.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Let’s face it, not everyone excelled in high school. I, for one, did not wake up to the fact that I was going to have to make a living one day until I was in the middle of my junior year. Guess what? There are a lot of quality individuals, myself included, who woke up late.

So, where are they? Many are in the retail or food industry, or perhaps employed at a place like Walmart. I’m sure you have walked into a store and were immediately impressed by a certain employee. Maybe they went the extra mile to be friendly, helpful and respectful. When my wife and I run into an individual like this, we always turn to each other and say, “I’ll bet that person is not here the next time we come!” Clearly, others will notice their work ethic and attitude and consider offering them a job.

Whenever you run into someone like this, hand them a business card and tell them how much you appreciate their attitude. Tell them to give you a call if they ever consider changing careers. I know some contractors who have done this, and they ended up getting calls months and sometimes years later. The principle is simple: Hire for attitude and train for service. Finding new workers in today’s market is a job in itself.

Foster a Family Environment

Higher-paid employees were more efficient, seldom called in sick, grumbled less, were responsible for a limited number of callbacks, and were more respectful to both management and the customers.

Family is special. When you were growing up, you probably had at least one special friend with whom you wanted to spend as much time as you could. Why? Because you felt loved and accepted.

How many times have you heard someone say the place where they work is like being part of a family? Family works hard together, relaxes together, meets each other’s needs and is willing to lay down their lives for each other. Really great work families are hard to find, but when you do find one it’s really, really special. It’s a group you want to be part of for a very long time.

This begs the question: Are you a good company to work for? Is there a family environment? Do your employees want to be there? Family environments attract others who want this type of relationship. When you found that first special friend when you were young, I’ll bet it wasn’t long before there were other kids in your neighborhood who joined the gang, too. A true family environment attracts employees who are also seeking out family.

If you create this family environment, pay above-industry wages and benefits, recognize and reward outstanding performance, and surround yourself with others who have great attitudes, you still may not find new employees as quickly as you need them. But doing these things will certainly attract new employees over time, and I would be willing to bet that most workers of this caliber will also stick around for an extended time. After all, happy employees often talk about their jobs around their friends. They just might want to work for you, too!

Tom Grandy has more than 35 years of experience in industry and small business. He is the founder of Grandy & Associates, a firm that holds seminars, two day workshops and one-on-one consulting for business training. Grandy & Associates also writes articles for numerous trade publications. Tom routinely presents at national and state conventions. For more info, go to 
www.GrandyAssociates.com or call 800/432-7963.

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