Hiring Secrets of the Pros: Tips and tactics for finding and keeping painters in a tough labor market – Part 3Trades & Hiring Resources
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This is the third and final post in a three-part series highlighting tactics successful painting contractors use to find, hire and retain talent in a tough market, growing their employee base—and their businesses. For the first two installments in the series, click here.
Tip #4: Empower Employees and Grow Culture
Once you catch the interest of a strong candidate, your next hurdle is getting them in the door and keeping them. Competitive pay and fringe benefits offer obvious appeal, but if you’re just beginning to grow, you may not be in the position to offer one or the other.
Culture is within any business’ reach, however. And a great work environment with respect, opportunity for advancement and a team-minded atmosphere can be just as attractive as competitive pay.
Culture starts with investing in your people. If you can’t yet do that financially, look to invest in their personal growth. A well-rounded training program and the opportunity to learn new skills can be a huge benefit to your employees and to you. It can also help instill a sense of ownership of their role in your company.
Kevin Nolan of Philadelphia, PA’s Nolan Painting and Nick Slavik of Nick Slavik Painting & Restoration Co. in New Prague, MN, both have aggressive apprenticeship programs to arm their new employees with painting skills and opportunity for advancement within the company.
“My secret weapon is asking employees, ‘How can I help you get ahead?’” says Nolan. “And then, all of a sudden, we’re working on the same team. Employees don’t ask themselves, ‘How can I make Kevin Nolan rich today?’ They ask themselves how they can get ahead. You can achieve anything you want to do in the world if you help other people get what they want.”
Nolan Painting starts all new painters, regardless of skill or experience, at $15 per hour, and puts them on a progressive training track to grow skills and pay quickly. At 60 days, they evaluate behavior—punctuality, customer service, attitude, teamwork and the like. At 90 days they evaluate skill—painting a door or window. If employees are performing up to standards at 90 days, they automatically get a raise to $16 per hour and are on track to earn $20 per hour, which they can reasonably attain in one to two years.
“If you treat people with respect, you listen to what they have to say and you’re out for their best interests, you’re going to have a good culture,” says Nolan. “That’s going to limit turnover and it’s going to increase morale.”
Even with 111 employees, Nolan has no plans of slowing down. His five-year goal is to reach $25 million in revenue and—more importantly—get to a staff of 225 employees to help reach that goal.
“I can’t focus on how I’m going to get to $25 million [from $12 million] or what $25 million is about,” says Nolan. “But I can focus on how I’m going to get 225 painters and how I would manage that.”
Understand that hiring and growth in general aren’t business practices that you will ever completely “solve.” As long as you’re in operation, you’ll be revisiting your approaches to meet the demands of your business climate. And your people will be your most significant challenge, though with the biggest possible reward.
But with a foundation of smart planning, a solid training program and a growth-based culture, you’ll find hiring and employee retention success.
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