Creative Ways to Fill the Roofing Labor Gap

Ever since business rebounded following the 2008 housing bust, the roofing industry has experienced significant workforce shortages. These shortages have persisted even as the global landscape has shifted due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted almost every industry, including the home improvement sector. Millions of people are unemployed, largely due to the virus. However, many contractors and businesses have been deemed essential businesses.

With the growing need for essential workers, roofing contractors have an advantage finding skilled laborers during this challenging time. Here are a few creative ways to attract talent to your workforce.

Differentiate

It is evergreen advice that to attract top talent you need to offer a competitive edge or angle.

In marketing, that’s called strategic differentiation. Your differentiator could be offering a superior wage to attract workers. Consider some of these cost-effective methods and perks to have your company stand out as a place that skilled workers want to work.

· Training. Companies with a long-term view can differentiate themselves by offering informal or formal apprenticeship or mentoring programs. This helps a potential employee see that you’re willing to invest in their future. This strategy can be pulled off by having one or more knowledgeable and communicative senior employees step up to guide junior-level employees. Another avenue is to offer workers subsidies or rebates for continuing education at local community colleges.

· Flexible work hours. Potential workers can be attracted by offering the opportunity to shift off of a regular 9 to 5, five days per week schedule. Such flexibility can bring people into the labor force who otherwise can’t due to child care, elder care, or the need for a second job.

Diversify Your Labor Force

Another way around the tight market is to diversify the composition of your labor force. Women are increasingly filling historically male roles — why not in roofing? And, consider workers who have been displaced by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, such as those coming from retail, manufacturing, or agriculture. While they won’t arrive with the exact skill set you’d most hope for, these employees can come up to speed quickly to fill their gaps. Make sure your job postings make it clear you will consider people of all types, and especially those not traditionally in the roofing space. A diversified workforce can also bring your business new ideas that can help in unexpected ways.

Expand Your Radius

Consider recruiting further outside the city. Rural areas typically have fewer employment opportunities, thus there are more workers looking for jobs. You can also look to neighborhoods adjacent to industrial areas where workers have been displaced. This strategy depends on geo-targeting those potential employees as well as adjusting your employment offer to meet their needs.

Increase Referrals

Like many small businesses, roofing contractors often rely heavily on getting new employees through referrals from employees, family, and friends. Think about systematically increasing this referral stream. One of my favorite resources on this topic is from Tim Templeton’s book The Referral Of A Lifetime. At the risk of oversimplifying his approach, here’s a summary of the key takeaways:

· Be clear on why you’re a great employer. It’s crucial to have your own clarity on why you are a different and better employer. If you can crystalize that differentiation, and communicate it, you will attract interest from talented individuals from varying backgrounds.

· Ask. This is hard for many people, but it’s essential to let trusted contacts in your network know that you are looking for employees and to ask them to help you. If you don’t ask, they won’t know that they can help.

· Thank them. When your network contacts refer employees to you, an evergreen recommendation is to take the time to thank them for the help. It’s surprising how many people forget this. Your thank you might be a simple handwritten note or a heartfelt personal email. Even more effective is a shared beverage or treating them to lunch. Explicit thank-yous encourage repeat good behavior by your network. Even closer to home, when an employee refers a friend to come work for you, that’s the time for a good, hard cash bonus.

Get Digital

For new employee recruiting, specific resources like Construction Jobs provide online job forums for people specifically looking for your type of career. Also consider Craigslist, which has become the classified ads of our day. And, for the strategy of recruiting outside of the expected demographics, you might try recruiting sites like Indeed to set up your listings and profile to accept a broader range of applicants.

Automating ancillary tasks with digital tools can also help you adapt to the worker shortage. Services like JobNimbus make it easy to track your roofing projects, recruitment efforts, and most routine tasks. These tools keep tabs on your current workforce, plan, and track what they should be doing and are actually doing on an hourly and daily basis. It can keep all of your ongoing roofing work organized.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting new talent can be essential for sustaining your business. Use this time to recruit digitally and set up for success tomorrow— and well into the future.

About the author: Jason Polka is the CEO of Modernize, a company that uses business intelligence software to connect homeowners with contractors. Polka has led numerous initiatives to identify and execute new service and differentiated product opportunities within the contractor referral market. For more information, visit www.modernize.com/pros.

Industry Q&A: RCI, Inc. Is Now IIBEC

Bob Card addresses the IIBEC audience at the Meeting of the Members.

A Conversation With Robert “Bob” Card, President of IIBEC

Q: RCI Inc. recently rebranded itself as the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC). Please describe the thinking behind the change. How does the new name reflect the nature and goals of the organization?

A: After many years of being known as the Roof Consultants Institute (RCI), it became apparent that a significant number of our members are also practicing in the disciplines of waterproofing and exterior walls. We wanted our name to better reflect who we are and what we do, and to describe our outreach beyond the North American continent. Additionally, the IIBEC (pronounced “eye-bec”) staff continually received calls from RCI timeshare customers mistaking that company with RCI, Inc.

Q: How has the membership reacted to the new name and rebranding effort?

A: Nearly all the comments I’ve received since the transition was announced have been positive. There are some who are not pleased, of course; change can be hard after so many years of familiarity with an organization’s name.

Q: How does your background help prepare you for the challenges you’ll face as president of IIBEC?

A: I have been in the building enclosure consulting industry for about three decades now, starting at a very basic level, and seen how technology has changed much of how we communicate and store and access Information. I expect our industry to continue to see an increasing rate of change, and I hope to leverage my experience to help determine how best to adapt evolving methods to best serve our members and the industry at large.

Q: What are some of the key initiatives IIBEC will be focusing on in the year ahead?

A: The rollout of our new IIBEC brand and logo will continue to be a priority, with lots of outreach planned for the next several months. We are working to develop a new credential, CBECxP (Certified Building Enclosure Commissioning Provider), which we believe will be a significant addition to our lineup of professional registrations. Our IIBEC Manual of Practice is being updated and should be completed by year’s end. We are also currently working to identify and hire a new EVP/CEO to replace Lionel Van der Walt, who is moving soon to a new challenge. Collaborations with other organizations are vital in an association. IIBEC cooperated with the National Women in Roofing (NWIR) and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) prior to the rebranding and will continue to tighten these relationships, as well as explore other organizations to collaborate with. The core purposes and values IIBEC has laid out in 2018’s RCI, Inc. Strategic Plan will carry over to the new IIBEC branding. The Strategic Plan can be found at https://rci-online.org/rci-shares-new-strategic-plan/.

Q: What does the future hold? Can you share any long-term goals?

A: We want to strategically shape and position IIBEC so that the next generation of leaders can take the association to a significantly more impactful place in the building enclosure industry. We are working for greater diversity within the leadership pipeline to better reflect the changing workplace and improve the quality of our conversations. And, we’re working to implement a more global outreach, in order to both learn from the experience of others, and contribute to improving the quality of the built environment around the world.

Q: What are some of the educational resources and events IIBEC makes available to its members?

A: We offer numerous classes in the various disciplines related to the building enclosure, both on a national and a local level; we present a packed schedule of technical presentations at both our annual conventions and our building enclosure symposia, as well as at our biannual Canadian building enclosure symposia. Our members also regularly present technical education for other organizations within the design and construction industries. IIBEC chapters facilitate regular education programs through their chapter events, which expand internationally. A big step for IIBEC in 2020 is the partnership with the National Research Council of Canada to host the 2020 ICBEST conference.

Q: How does IIBEC help people who are not members of the organization, including people in such roles as end users, facility managers, school boards and others?

A: At the simplest level, IIBEC can provide contact information to building owners, managers, and design professionals for local consultant members who can assist with their projects. More strategically, by educating and advocating for our members, we are striving to improve the quality of the built environment for everyone. Through our advocacy initiatives, we have built recognition within the United States and Canada at federal, state and local levels.

Q: Where can people go for more information about the organization?

A: Our website (www.iibec.org) is a great place to start; one can find a lot of excellent information there about our organization and our members. Members themselves are also a great resource for information; most are happy to share about the benefits of IIBEC membership. Of course, our amazing IIBEC staff can also provide information related to most any aspect of the organization. Our chapters also hold local meetings and events, which is a great place for someone to learn about the resources IIBEC has both locally and nationally.

SPRI Elects Sukle as President for 2018-2020 Term

SPRI has selected Zebonie Sukle as President for the 2018-2020 term. SPRI’s members elected Sukle at the association’s 36th Annual Conference and Business Meeting, held Jan. 13-15 in Clearwater Beach, FL.

Sukle currently serves as Director of Technology Roofing Systems Group at Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway Company in Denver, CO.

“I am honored and excited to enter such a role at SPRI and I look forward to working with all of our members to continue SPRI’s work of developing industry standards and expanding our technical reach.” says Sukle.

During the meeting, SPRI’s membership also elected the following slate of officers and directors for the association’s 2018-2020 membership years:

  • President, Zebonie Sukle, Johns Manville
  • President-elect, Michael Hubbard, Firestone Building Products Co, LLC
  • Treasurer, Brad Van Dam, Metal-Era Inc.

Associate Directors

  • Bob Reel, Royal Adhesives (third term)
  • CJ Sharp, Georgia-Pacific (second term)
  • Brad Van Dam (second term)
  • Chris Mader, OMG Roofing Products

SPRI also recognized two of its members for outstanding contributions to the industry. Peter C. Garrigus, Vice President Engineering at Altenloh Brink & Co., Inc., was recognized for his thought-leadership and dedication in facilitating the development of an industry coalition charged with determining the impact on wind loads on flexible roofs systems and to develop appropriate load factors to apply to wind loads calculated by ASCE7. Garrigus was also recognized for his service on the SPRI Board of Directors.

Also recognized was Michelle Miller, Marketing Manager at FiberTite Roofing Solutions, for the guidance she provided in development of SPRI’s new website with an eye toward content relevance and the next generation of users. Michelle started from the design base and applied her marketing skills to shape the site into a vehicle to educate and promote our industry partners

For more information, visit www.spri.org.

National Roofing Contractors Association Announces June 3-9 is National Roofing Week

To raise awareness of the significance of roofs to every home and business, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has announced National Roofing Week will take place June 3-9.

Celebrated each year during the first full week of June, National Roofing Week serves as a reminder that the roof is one of the most important components of every structure. It is the first line of defense against natural elements, such as rain, snow or wind, yet it is often taken for granted until it falls into disrepair.

National Roofing Week also promotes the good deeds of the roofing industry and stresses the value of professional roofing contractors and the importance of making informed decisions about maintaining or replacing any roof system. During National Roofing Week, NRCA encourages its members to participate by engaging in their communities and informing the public about the essential role roofs and professional roofing contractors play in every community.

NRCA also will be sharing its members’ stories through its various social media outlets, its Roof Scoop blog and Professional Roofing magazine. Members throughout the U.S. are encouraged to share their stories of charitable giving, crew and staff appreciation, and signature roofing projects with NRCA.

In addition, NRCA members are encouraged to promote the importance of what roofing professionals do by encouraging children to participate in NRCA’s 2018 Children’s Art Contest. The contest is open to children in grades 1-8 whose relatives work for NRCA member companies (all NRCA member companies are eligible). Entries will be accepted until April 16.

Additional information about National Roofing Week can be found at www.nrca.net/National-Roofing-Week.

NRCA to Host Roofing Industry Regional Summit

In an effort to make events highlighting industry issues and trends more accessible to roofing professionals nationwide, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) will host a Roofing Industry Regional Summit Thursday, Oct. 15, in Pleasanton, Calif.

The half-day educational session will focus on updates from NRCA staff experts on technical, legal and risk management issues that are on the horizon for the roofing industry.

Following the educational session, attendees are invited to participate in a golf outing, an opportunity for roofing professionals to engage with other industry professionals to gather ideas, insights and best practices and to network with experts and peers.

NRCA’s Roofing Industry Regional Summit will be held at the Callippe Preserve Golf Course, 8500 Clubhouse Drive, Pleasanton, CA.