Navigating through the labor shortage
As labor shortages continue to affect virtually every industry and region across the country (including the countertop industry), many businesses are struggling to find skilled workers, or workers in general, to keep up with demand. So, what can you do to fix your organization’s labor issues and adapt to an evolving business landscape?
Maybe the most obvious move is to increase wages to attract and retain workers (we’ll talk more about this later). While it’s easy just to offer more money, it may not be possible for your business as it decreases profitability. On the flip side, you may need to weigh the risk of not increasing wages to retain workers, as it can potentially lead to diminished customer service, and eventually lower sales.
If you find that you are unable to offer higher wages, get creative with enhancing your benefits or incentive packages to attract and retain workers. Offer overtime opportunities, as well as bonuses for above and beyond customer service or solutions that increase efficiency and productivity. Even simple things such as company events (e.g., food truck at lunch, company picnic) or employee recognition programs can make a substantial impact. Employees are your biggest asset, and they work harder when they feel valued, so find ways to show your appreciation for dedication and hard work.
Being able to increase productivity of your existing team reduces the need to hire more workers and implement overtime hours. Productivity gains can come from adjustments to your operations and processes to increase efficiency. If your business is manually templating and fabricating countertops, fireplaces, etc., explore evolving to a digital process with digital templating and CNC. While the initial investment may seem overwhelming, your return on investment (ROI) and sustainable impact can be quick with being able to complete more jobs, decrease operational costs and much more with the team you already have in place.
Don’t underestimate the impact of small changes as well. Eliminating one step in a daily task or process (e.g., complete your digital file in the field and email back for fabrication) or just thinking of a better way to do a job (e.g., relocate needed tools and materials to the same area rather than spread out in your facility) can have an impact on productivity. You don’t need to go to the extreme of implementing lean manufacturing or obtain Six Sigma certification but saving even a few seconds may not seem like much, but when that happens several times a day, it adds up quickly. As previously mentioned, encourage cost-saving ideas from your team and reward them for doing so as part of an incentive program.
Cross-train your team
Cross-training your team is more than just showing everyone how to answer and transfer a call just in case your receptionist is on vacation. It is meant to cultivate the skills of your team, so they better understand the entire process and what it takes to keep the business running. It empowers your team to provide support from within your company in needed times rather than having to outsource or overload one department. In some cases, that “department” may be only one or two people.
For example, cross-train your installers, digital templators and programmers so they can fully understand and appreciate what goes into each process. If there’s a kink anywhere in that process chain, it can greatly affect not only that department, but more importantly the end customer. Many businesses agree that installers make great digital templators. Retain your veteran installers, along with their knowledge and experience, by transitioning them to digital templating and programming.
In addition to better team collaboration, understanding and sustainability, cross-training is a great ROI. It costs more time and money to search and onboard new employees rather than investing in your current team and nurturing them. Heck, you may even uncover hidden talents or skillsets from members of your team to make your company more agile!
Think and look outside the box
Thinking AND looking outside the box for workers may lead to some impactful hires. Be open to people outside the industry that may have a similar skill set or experience that you are seeking. For example, one shop owner discovered that people with experience in auto body repair (e.g., sanding, painting) made great polishers due to their high level of detail, as well as similar processes to countertop fabrication.
There’s not a cookie-cutter solution for every business to deal with labor constraints. The solutions outline above can be implemented as-is, or in combination with other solutions or be customized specifically for your business. Whatever the solutions are, the key is to act. You won’t solve your labor issues by sitting back and waiting for workers to walk through your door.
Do you agree with these points? How have you navigated through the labor shortage? Share your thoughts with everyone in the comments section, including suggestions for future topics. Make sure you SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel to receive notifications of our new LPI KnowledgeBase series of videos, as well as follow us on our other platforms below!
Special thanks to these members of our #LPIfamily for their contributions to this video…
- Eric Allen, Classic Stone Company (LA)
- Alex Bazdar, Classic Rock Fabrication (PA)
- Augie Chavez, Gecko Solid Surface Solutions (TX)
- Mike Drumright, Artistic Marble (KS)
- Joe Duszka, Carolina Custom Surfaces (NC)
- Mike Gladstone, Gladstone Construction (FL)
- Herb Martinez, Best Buy Interior Finishes (IL)
- Nathan Parsons, Stone-Systems (NC)