4 Things You Should Be Doing to Combat the Labor Shortage
And How You Can Turn It Into an Opportunity for Growth
When you think of trends in the building industry, the first thing that comes to mind may be outdoor living, sustainable materials, intergenerational living and other growth opportunities driven by consumer demand—in short, the fun stuff. What you may not be considering, however, is the skilled labor shortage; nevertheless, it’s a trending concern on the minds of countless people in the industry, and it’s one that building products dealers should pay careful attention to.
According to experts, some 30% of construction workers were driven into new fields over the course of the housing bust. And as of a 2016 Fortune article, the NAHB estimates there are still approximately 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the US. This void can’t be filled immediately or with a simple fix, but in the following tips, we outline some reasonable steps most dealers can make to bridge the gap in the meantime.
1. Installed Sales
As more dealers make an installed sales push, they’re finding they can turn this challenge into an opportunity for growth. Several large dealers now offer several key installed sales options for a range of product categories, which helps them add significant value to their customer relationship.
Consider adding value with door, window and deck installation and other services that customers need to make their lives easier and ensure product and installation quality. While extra services may not be the answer for everyone, dealers will need to look at their marketplace, talk to their distributors and determine if it’s the right decision for them.
2. Distributor Value-Add Services
An installed sales push may help solve the problem for your customers down the channel, but you still have to deal with the problems of the labor shortage yourself. That’s why it’s critical that dealers carefully consider their products and distributor partnerships and whether they can add value in other ways.
Value-add services from your distributor can range from pre-hung doors that match the style needed to factory finish stains, and more. The idea is leverage your distributor relationship so products show up further down the path towards installation, reducing the need for robust, skilled workforces who may not have the resources to spend a large chunk of time assembling a slab. Endocote, Finish Line™ stain finish, and other factory finish systems all help your products either install easier or perform better down the line.
3. Innovative, Easy Installation Products
No one wants a product that is going to be difficult to install or require several people to get it done quickly. Pros, builders and everyone in between are looking for smart ways to economize their time and resources. Your distributor partner needs to bring new ideas to the table to keep you current on the latest innovative products that are as durable as they are easy to install—and more importantly, easy to learn to install.
Getting an employee trained on a new product can be difficult and time-consuming, especially in an ever-changing industry like building. Customers won’t want to take a risk on a product if they’re unsure their workforce will be able to quickly and easily install it. Consider offering training sessions or demonstrations to show off how easy your products are to put in place. After all, seeing is believing.
4. Low-Maintenance Products
There are two reasons you have call backs: either there was an issue with the installation, or the product just wasn’t good. (Ex. finish is peeling, the lock system wasn’t installed properly, etc.) The tips above—such as opting for easy install products or value-add services that ensure products show up further along the path towards installation—decrease the likelihood that the installation is the problem. But there is still always the issue of quality to contend with. If the product isn’t good, your customers are going to get callbacks, and they won’t be happy.
Yet keeping up with the latest product innovation is not easy in such a dynamic and competitive industry environment. Look to your distributor partner for products made to last, so your customers spend more time on new projects and less time heading back out for costly callbacks. Plus, there are many value-add services (stain, finish, composite edge, etc.) that will up the durability and even warranty of certain products you carry.
Your customers rely on you in many ways, and the labor shortage is just one more way you can provide added value through smarter, more innovative products and services. But just as your customers rely on you to better navigate this challenge, you should make sure to rely on your distributor for new ways to make your business that much more competitive—all without placing the burden of an even greater workload on yourself.
While the skilled labor shortage in the building industry represents a significant challenge for everyone from pros to builders and even to homeowners simply trying to get a project done, it also represents a unique opportunity for dealers looking for a way to differentiate themselves in a competitive market.