Tips for retaining and attracting employees

Flexibility, a thoughtful hiring process, and investment are key to building a sustainable workforce.

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Articles on the Great Resignation have permeated the business world for the past few years as owners across various industry sectors acknowledge a worker shortage. While many factors, including the pandemic, have contributed to many workers leaving the workplace, complaints about the lack of skilled labor within the woodworking industry have been a matter of concern for years and have only been exacerbated by the latest trend lines. 

So, it is now more important than ever for employers to develop strategies to attract new workers and retain them, especially those trained in specialized job skills, whether in the shop or front office.

A recent study from Targus, a laptop case brand, looked at a few key factors and trends for improving the workplace.

According to that survey -- the 2023 Global Workplace Study -- among 1,000 senior business decision makers and 6,000 workers across North America and Europe, the top three wellbeing priorities are flexible working (47 percent), rewards and recognition (43 percent), and cost of living support (40 percent). In fact, 88 percent of business decision-makers globally agree that flexible working positively impacts their staff retention and recruitment, an 11-point increase from 2021 numbers.

Following are some of the survey’s key findings: Flexible and hybrid working remains the norm, with 58 percent of respondents in the U.S. stating that they do not work from an office full time and 51 percent stating that they only work in an office between two and four days per week.Reg btton

Having the right tools to work from anywhere is extremely important. Specifically, 80 percent of U.S. workers and 82 percent globally believe their job satisfaction and productivity would be negatively impacted without the right tech accessories to do their work. 

Measures closets companies can take

While working remote and hybrid schedules may not always be possible in the closet industry, especially for shop workers and installers, Andrew Wadhams, The Wadhams Group, in a webinar sponsored by Closets & Organized Storage magazine, also offered other tips on how closet companies can retain and attract new workers.

Andrew Wadhams, The Wadhams Group

According to Wadhams, employees are the most important and perhaps the most volatile aspect of any business.

“In my…experience, having designers to call on clients and craftsmen to execute designs and installers who understood exactly how to bring some of those designs from parts to an organizational solution really was the number one reason for growth,” Wadhams said. “More than marketing, more than product enhancements, and more than corporate initiatives. People are everything.”

So, how do you find those people? Wadhams discussed a study called Skilled Trades in America, which pointed to hiring more minorities and women in the trades. He also shared his thoughts on adjusting hiring attitudes and focusing on available pools that can help companies double down on their strengths. 

“It’s super important that we have the right attitude and approach,” he explained. “Your time is precious, and you can’t waste it. So, it’s really important that you get clarity about exactly what you’re looking for.”

For instance, if a company is looking for a designer, it may not need just another designer, he noted. Maybe what is needed is a designer who understands how to work with builders versus one who’s skilled in residential. Or one who works on the weekend or whose taste level really enables the company to connect more with the interior design community. It’s important to think through all of these scenarios to determine how to fill a specific need. 

And the hiring process is the same for manufacturing.

“Do you need somebody who can work on a CNC or a bander with experience?” he asked. “Where are you in growth mode, and are you actually just bringing in an apprentice who you want to teach on all those machines? On the install team, do you need somebody who can just schlep parts and learn as an apprentice to be a helper, or do you have somebody who needs to be able to do solo installs in the next few months. The point is don’t post an ad that is general. Post ads that are very specific and, most importantly, be very, very clear about exactly what you’re looking for, and don’t compromise on that.”

After you find the right fit for your company, how do you keep them? Wadhams said that one thing you should consider is taking resignation very seriously. 

“You know it’s so easy to say, ‘Oh, they just didn’t fit here.’ Well, you hired them and brought them into your environment,” Wadhams said.” So, what else was it that you didn’t do to help them adapt? Number two, invest in them. Create an onboarding plan; ask your team to create it as well.”

He also suggests riding along to design appointments and consultations, and installs. “Don’t sit behind your desk; get out there.”

Spending time with the leaders in your company is also important as well as fostering a culture where you talk about standards and address performance often. Another key is to recognize and praise progress.

“Praise things that are great - when that designer dramatically eliminates mistakes, call it out in a meeting, or designers who have had trouble selling a certain line, call it out in a meeting but tie your recognition to the company’s annual goals if it was to reduce error rate or it was to increase the average ticket of the design.”

Learn more from Wadhams in Closets & Organized Storage magazine's on-demand video and at the Closets Conference & Expo, where he will give a keynote speech on exceeding customer expectations on Friday, April 14 in West Palm Beach, Florida.


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About the author
Michaelle Bradford | Editor

Michaelle Bradford, CCI Media, is Editor of Closets & Organized Storage magazine and Woodworking Network editor. She has more than 20 years of experience covering the woodworking and design industry, including visits to custom cabinet shops, closet firms and design studios throughout North America. As Editor of Closets & Organized Storage magazine under the Woodworking Network brand, Michaelle’s responsibilities include writing, editing, and coordinating editorial content as well as managing annual design competitions like the Top Shelf Design Awards. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media.