Busy is as Busy Does

For the past few months it seems that every customer I call on has the same answer when asked how things are going:  Busy.

And my response, most often, is that it beats the alternative.  But does it?

It can, if done right!  

I hear all the time how hard it is to find (and keep) good employees.  As I write my first blog for our new website, I have been pondering ways that contractors can keep up with all of this while facing a labor shortage we are (or will be) running up against.  Here's a few ideas:

  • Recruit and train new employees- You can't have one without the other.  If you can't recruit them, you can't train them and if you're not willing or able to train them, then you can't recruit them.  If you're in a local, state, or national association, make sure you're taking part in their offered training programs or helping to develop some.  Skilled employees, such as masons, must be taught correctly.  Those that aren't sacrifice production and quality.  Some labor positions are basic but there are still basics that must be taught as well. Knowledge is power. 
  • Retain good employees- Ask yourself a few questions.  Are you seeing a lot of turn-over? Are you seeing a patter with certain supervisors losing more employees?  Are you paying enough?  What are your competitors offering for benefits?  What is the culture of your company?  If you're having trouble keeping people, the reason may lie within one of these answers.
  • Check your safety-  Are your jobs safe?  Are you being shut down by the owner or general contractor's safety manager?  Being proactive about safety issues doesn't just keep people safe, happy, and healthy, it also prevents downtime and potential OSHA fines.
  • Invest in good equipment- The first thing most people ask about equipment and tools is about cost.  The other day one of my customers called our Mud Hog mixers the "Cadillac of mixers" and said it came with a price tag to match.  I guess I'll take that as a compliment.  You get what you pay for- if a mixer breaks down and you can't get mortar to your crew, you're losing production AND someone has to fix the mixer.  You're now paying for two problems.  If this happens a few times over the lifespan of the mixer, you've already spent your cost savings from buying a cheaper alternative.  This holds true whether it's a mixer or any other piece of equipment.  
  • Plan and Schedule- We've already gotten pretty good at this but communicating realistic deadlines and manpower projections with the general contractors from the beginning is key.  More people does not always mean more production.  Communicating schedules with your crews helps with productivity, as well as jobsite morale because the team feels included and they know what to expect in the next few weeks to months.
  • Encourage English- This could be politically incorrect but, if you have a non-English speaking workforce, encourage them to work on learning to speak English.  Good communication on any jobsite is key but many times quality and production can suffer because of miscommunication.  There are free English courses held at many churches that employees could benefit from... and not just from an employment standpoint.  Often times some of your non-English speaking employees are your best guys and gals.  Let's help them and us!  

May you all be busy in a productive and safe way this week!  I'd love to hear some of your tips.


Post by:  Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC.  Contact Liz at lizg@specrents.com