I hear it every day. “We can’t find good masons.” Or “There’s not enough labor out there.” The problem is two-fold, in my opinion.
We can’t find people who want to work in masonry.
We aren’t training enough people to fill the gap of those who are starting to retire.
I’m the proud daughter of a masonry contractor. My dad called himself an “artistic manipulator of the burnt clay product.” He started as a laborer for a company, went through an apprenticeship, was a mason, became a foreman, moved into estimating…. All with the same company. When that company started to slow down, he and my mom started their own company. He had pride in what he did. And I’m proud of the work he has done over the years and the work our company helps masons to do now.
I think this is something we are really missing out on. We need to bring back the pride.
What masons do is nothing less than an art. Think about being an electrician or a plumber or a framer. Sure, they’re also proud professions that are absolutely necessary. But what masons do is beautiful and lasting. It’s something you can be proud of for generations to come.
How can you help bring back the pride to masonry?
Here’s a 12 ideas to get you started.
Make a big deal out of the projects your crews are on. Tell them about it. They like to know details like how many brick are on it, what it will be, etc. Some companies have hats or shirts made for really big projects to give to their guys. Something small like that can go a long way. You’ll find the guys are proud to be a part of something like this.
Take part in masonry competitions throughout the country. These are a chance for the best masons to show just how great they are. These guys (and hopefully one day gals) are beasts- the amount of brick they can lay is nothing short of amazing. Encouraging and supporting your guys to train and then participate in these can be a great way to show that this is a great trade to be in. Check out the 2019 SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500® to learn more.
We build cool stuff but some of them may not ever get to see the finished project. Consider doing a company newsletter, whether paper or digitally. Or maybe do a Facebook page where you can share pictures and they can too. The younger generations live on this kind of stuff. Keeping your website up to date is important too.
Make new hires feel welcome by introducing them to the team they’re working with. Your crew should be a team. This means they know and help each other out. They watch out for the new guy and help them, showing them the ins and outs of both the company and project they’re starting on. You’ll find their productivity will go up substantially if you’ll do this. And, really, how hard would it be to introduce them at your weekly toolbox talk and pair them up with someone? This will give your current employees something to be proud of doing as well.
Train new hires appropriately on what expectations are, what benefits they have access to, and, most importantly, safety. It takes time to do this, but you’ll save a lot of headaches by doing so and they’ll know your company culture and be better acclimated to it this way. Spending time to do so shows you care about them as individuals. Happy employees = productive employees most of the time.
Have a company party yearly. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy but it’s a way for everyone to get together and see each other. Maybe do a slide show so their family can see the projects they’ve been on over the past year. Think of how proud your kids are when they show you all of the projects they’ve worked on for open house at school. It’s the same concept.
Advance from within your company when you can. Provide a career path that they can easily see. Some of the best superintendents, project managers, and estimators were labors and masons first. People want to be proud to grow up and advance within a company.
Recruit from high schools by creating relationships with counselors. We know that everyone isn’t going to college and doesn’t need to. Providing information on a career path in masonry and showing off the awesome projects they could work on, can help with recruiting. Check out the Top 10 Reasons to Join the Masonry Team booklet by MCAA. It’s available to MCAA members for free so be sure to order yourself some for your next recruiting efforts.
Communicate effectively- they want to know what’s in the pipeline and where they may be going next. Daily meetings may be time-consuming but a quick 5-10 meeting to tell the crew what their goals are might make the difference between them making production or not. Also, get some excitement going about upcoming work. Also, communicate any changes effectively- ex: safety, change in address, policies, holidays, etc.
Celebrate victories- whether it be 100,000 hours injury free, topping out a wall, landing a big project, receiving a new piece of equipment, or even personal victories.
Provide your crews with good equipment and products - If you keep giving them stuff that breaks down or doesn’t work well, it will not only slow your project down but they’ll also realize it’s not worth taking care of. And so the cycle continues. Providing good equipment and then training and requiring them to maintain it well is a way to instill pride (and responsibility) in some of the younger generations.
Consider a yearbook- whether digital or paper- that you put pictures of all of the projects completed in the last year that you can share with your teams. You can be sure they’ll be proud of this.
That’s a lot of ideas. Don’t be overwhelmed. Start small. You’re probably already doing some of these so why not just make sure everyone in the company is aware? If you’re not doing any of these, I challenge you to pick 1 or 2 that you can quickly implement for your teams. Do your part to bring back the pride in masonry. Whether you’re a Project Manager, a laborer, Superintendent, truck driver, or the payroll clerk, you have a lot to be proud of in your company!
Post by: Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC. Contact Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org