The Surprising Hiring Lessons of a $4 Billion Company

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently reported nearly half of all surveyed commercial construction contractors turn down work, with the vast majority saying it’s harder than ever to find skilled help for the projects they do accept.

That’s hardly news to home builders, developers, and residential construction contractors. The one-two punch of way too many young people avoiding the trades and way too many experienced hands heading off into retirement continues to frustrate the industry.

Tim McElhone understands your pain.

As the talent acquisition director for 84 Lumber, he and his team are focused on filling 438 open positions. The nation’s largest family-owned and operated building material supplier and component manufacturer is coming off the best year in their 65-year history. All systems go for an even better 2021.

It’s a tall order. Fortunately, McElhone has some ideas. Better yet, these five ideas can be applied to any residential construction business facing or anticipating hiring issues:

  1. Sell the Dream. “Workers look for stability, guaranteed full-time hours, benefits, and leaders they can believe in,” advises McElhone. Some might say it’s an obvious point to make but given 2020, it’s a recruiting point that resonates.
  2. Build Your Brand. The idea might sound a bit overbaked for a home builder or contractor but paying attention to social media can deliver rewards. “We work hard to understand every market we’re in,” observes McElhone. “Social media helps us make connections like nothing else can. What’s our story? The more people know, the easier my job is.”
  3. Team Up Smart. Much is made about developing relationships with local high schools, voc-tech schools, and community colleges, and rightly so. “It’s always better to go to the same school 10 times than go to 10 schools a single time to recruit,” the hiring expert says. Focus your energy and commitment. Make an impression on the young people (and instructors!). You’re up against many local and regional companies bidding for the same talent.
  4. Grow Your Own. General Manager Dave Rohrbach of the Bridgeville, Pa. store is a good example of how 84 Lumber develops homegrown talent. Rohrbach admits he barely knew what plywood was coming out of college 15 years ago. 84 Lumber’s management training (MT) program changed that. “The company gives you the tools to be successful,” he says. “I say in interviews if you work hard, the company rewards you manyfold.” Most of the company’s senior leaders are MT grads.
  5. Build from Within. The big differentiators at promotion time are a strong work ethic and can-do spirit, says McElhone. To illustrate that passion and family spirit, store GM Rohrbach took a call from the company’s 98-year-old founder, Joe Hardy, just a few days earlier congratulating him on a good sales day.

No business has all the answers. But putting some of these ideas into practice could give your operation a surprising advantage at hiring time.

See how 84 Lumber’s Ladder of Opportunity uses transparency to attract career-minded candidates.