Kitchen & Bath Design News

FEB 2019

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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Page 59 of 103

Low unemployment and a lack of skilled workers have put the squeeze on available personnel for kitchen and bath dealers and remodelers. BY ANITA SHAW Hire Powers he U.S. economy is booming. Taxes on corporations and small businesses alike have been eased. Unemployment has fallen to just 3.7 p ercent – a 49-year low. And housing starts and resale numbers are among the strongest they have been since the economic downturn of 10 years ago. All have had a positive impact on the U.S. market, and it is doubtful that anyone would complain about a strong economy and positive business numbers. However, even the best of times yield challenges, and some are feeling more than a pinch. The construction sector – which includes home builders, remodelers and kitchen and bath professionals – is facing enormous challenges finding qualified personnel. Whether the need is for skilled professionals such as carpenters, tile workers and designers, or general support staff, companies in this sector are scrambling to fill spots in order to keep up with contracted projects (see related Editorial, Page 9). Due to the shallow employee pool, kitchen and bath dealers and remodelers have had to get creative with their hiring approach, looking to friends, other professionals, the internet, design schools and even other industries to fill the void. But, hiring is only one of the challenges, as existing employees con- tinue to be enticed by what might be available elsewhere. Conditions for hiring as well as tips for retaining existing staff were among the topics addressed in a recent survey con- ducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News. The survey, which polled 319 kitchen and bath dealers, remodelers and design-build firms from across the U.S. and Canada, showed that over 52% of those resp onding plan to hire additional staff in 2019 – if they can find qualified candidates. THE SEARCH IS ON So, where do industry professionals go when beginning a search for a new employee? An overwhelming number of re- spondents – almost 74% – said they turn to friends, employees and industry colleagues for referrals (see Graph 1). "I like getting referrals from a trusted source because it en- sures that the potential employee has shown themselves as a good candidate in the eyes of others," noted a Minnesota-based builder. "I've had people who gave a great interview but ended up being a horrible hire," reported a dealer from Florida. "Having a referral takes the guess work out of the choices you have." Getting a referral from someone who knows your company and how it op erates is a major bonus, noted several resp on- dents. Often, that person is a current employee. "Our current team members know our company culture, our values and our expectations better than anyone, so when they bring someone to our attention as a candidate for a position, they are usually a good fit," remarked an Indiana-based designer. "Referrals from employees have b een the most successful for my company," added a kitchen and bath designer from Maryland. "While background in the field matters, for my company, it's just as important to have them fit culturally and get along with all the employees." "Many of our employees have worked at other companies within the same industry and know of people who have the skills needed and recruit [for us]. This works well because you have a reliable referral, and the potential employee will have inside info on your company, so they will know [better] if it's a good fit before they are hired and trained," offered a New Hampshire designer. Other contacts within the industry are also a great source of referrals, noted respondents. "Referrals from industry colleagues result in trained can- didates who can contribute to our company much sooner, and they have realistic expectations of the position," explained a Michigan-based kitchen dealer. Compared to referrals, other options for seeking employ- ees paled. Just 24.5% said they search other companies within the industry for talent, while 24.1% seek out candidates from design schools and colleges. One kitchen designer in Texas noted that she likes to go to other companies when looking for new employees because "these are people who already know our market and just need a change of scenery." Pursuing design school graduates got mixed reviews from respondents. While some were enthusiastic about their fresh approach and trainability, others were disapp ointed by candi- dates' attitudes and work ethic. "Design schools produce new idea-minded people who are hungry to get out there and design," stated one Ohio-based designer. "We like to recruit from the universities," added a designer from California. "We can educate the employees better right out of school. There are no bad habits or work preconceptions that have b een formed. The work ethic is better and their en- thusiasm is difficult to match." "Design students have basic knowledge and tend to learn quickly. They also want to move up quickly and that ambition enhances their work ethic," concurred a South Carolina-based designer. "The only drawback is that, with this current genera- tion, many want it all now and are not always willing to put in the effort to do the menial stuff." A resp ondent from Oregon noted that, while her firm has been relatively successful hiring from the local college, many of T " Design schools produce new idea-minded people who are hungry to get out there and design." 60 Kitchen & Bath Design News • February 2019 PERSONNEL SURVEY

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