November 10, 2020

The Problem That Most Glass Companies Face

By Paul Bieber

Just one problem? Election? COVID? Winter weather? How can a guy sitting on his butt in New Hampshire know what the country-wide problem is? It’s surprisingly easy. I listen. I hear glass shop owners who call or write me about this problem. In fact, I didn’t have one conversation with a glazier in this past month about the election. The common problem is: hiring glass workers. Number one on the agenda.

Advertising hasn’t worked, nor has working with employment agencies. The folks who get hired seem to last only weeks as they realize that working in our industry truly is working. We don’t sit around playing games on our phones. We go out in all types of weather, lifting heavy glass and working with zero tolerance for problems.

You keep raising the wages you pay for talent and when you get a good person, it seems your competitor outbids you almost instantly. Pulling your hair out won’t help the problem, even when it feels good.

Here are some tips that have worked: Offer a signing bonus to your current employees who bring in a new worker that is paid after the new person works for 90 days. Make it a serious number like $1,000. This will encourage your current employee to shepherd the new employee and become a teacher.

You spend a small fortune on benefits for your workers. Make sure your employees know of all your benefits and use them to the full capacity that you have paid for as this will help retain some folks.

But here is the big one: Start your own in-house training program for new folks to join your company. There are hundreds of thousands of people looking for work in our country. But they don’t have a trained skill. You can hire these folks with a year-long program to learn our industry. Set up a formal training program led by qualified people who can teach the basics of shop work for a month or two. Another leader can then train on simple jobs at the residential level for six months and then another leader can train for six months of commercial work. In some companies, all of these trainers will be the same person! That’s ok.

Hire these trainees at a fair wage, with full benefits. Review them at the end of each month. Not all of these people will “graduate” to their next month, but the ones who make it to the end of the year will be grateful to you.

The key here is that the training has to work. Assign one person in your company to be the lead trainer and give the authority to do this job correctly. Maybe you have to ask your new recruits to take an English-as-a-second-language course, or teach certain computer skills. If you hire three new recruits, be fully prepared to acknowledge that you will have one great person on your team in a year. You may want to start a new class of recruits every six months.

This will work if you are a 50-person fabricator or a five-man shop. You spend money on advertising or a new truck or a piece of equipment. It is time to invest this same money on building your team.

Go for it. It is the best option out there at the moment.