Nailing Down Talent: How To Successfully Hire Workers

Finding skilled workers is becoming more and more problematic for many roofing contractors. According to the 2019 Construction Outlook Survey released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), more than three-quarters of respondents expected to hire more staff in 2019. However, 78 percent reported difficulties filling salaried and hourly craft positions and 42 percent believe that hiring personnel over the next year will continue to be hard.

The current labor shortage is drastically reducing the number of potential prospects. In the third-quarter 2019 Commercial Construction Index report from USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 61 percent of contractors said they’re struggling to find skilled workers. That number is up from 54 percent in the previous quarter, indicating the problem shows no signs of improvement.

The effect of the workforce shortage impacts your day-to-day operations through higher costs, longer completion times and higher bid prices. So how can you attract, hire and keep qualified workers in the current state of the industry? Consider these tips:

Market and Recruit

A well-written job listing will help attract the best employees. Talk directly to the type of person you want to hire, list the qualifications you seek, and explain what’s important to your business.

When writing the job description, be specific about the type of work your roofing business does so you can attract people who are skilled and comfortable in those areas. And if you’re willing to teach someone the necessary skills, be sure to mention that too.

Jim Johnson, head coach for ContractorCoachPRO, advises taking your listing a step further by creating a recruiting platform and making it part of your website.

“Have multiple job postings for everything you’re hiring for,” he says. “Include some videos with employee testimonials, your company culture and what you’re all about. And then market it. Market that website. Market it on Google, market it on social media, market it, market it, market it.”

“Really, truthfully, you’re a sales organization, you’re a marketing organization, you’re a contractor — you’re all those things,” he continues. “But in the big scheme of things, you’re a recruiting company. If you change your perspective that way and recruit great talent, all the rest is going to be easy. You’ll change the whole [methodology] of what you do as a contractor.”

Johnson says you should always be looking for talent as you’re walking around every single day — anytime, everywhere.

Look For Specific Characteristics

A good roofing employee should be able to do more than hammer nails and carry bundles of shingles. He or she should also have characteristics that can help your company stand out from the competition, including:

· Fast learner — You can train someone to carry out specific skills, but you can’t teach that person to be a better learner. New employees — even those with experience — should be willing to learn and adapt to the way you do business.

Tip: Ask potential workers about the most recent thing they’ve learned and have them explain how they learned it. Or have them explain some of the differences in the way previous employers did things and how they adapted to those expectations.

· Tech-savvy — Many roofing businesses use construction apps on the job. Your crew members should be able to pick up these new technologies.

Tip: Ask applicants what roofing apps they like and which features they find most useful.

· Professional – Employees need to put customers at ease. If someone isn’t courteous and professional on the job, he or she could cost you referrals and reap bad reviews. Your crew represents you and your brand. Hire roofers you can trust to leave a good impression on homeowners.

Tip: Ask candidates why they left their last job. They should avoid speaking negatively about their employer or co-workers. Or ask how they would respond if a customer was rude to them.

· Safety conscious — Roofing has one of the highest fatality rates of all industries. One person’s disregard for proper safety could put your whole crew at risk. Ask potential candidates plenty of questions to see how well they know best practices and only hire those who take safety seriously.

Tip: Have interviewees explain the precautions they take while on a jobsite or what they would do if a co-worker was acting in an unsafe manner.

· Positive attitude — Roofing is already hard work, so you don’t need a negative employee adding to the everyday stress. Antagonistic people can quickly crush crew morale, which could result in sloppy work, unprofessional behavior or even high turnover. Hire someone who can go with the flow and be a positive influence on fellow workers.

Tip: Listen. Did possible hires answer previous questions to your satisfaction? Did they seem professional and eager to work and learn your way of doing things? Overall, trust your gut. You’ll know who will fit in best with the rest of your crew.

Johnson cautions that you should never hire someone during an interview.

“Resumes — I personally think they’re garbage,” he explains. “They’re usually inaccurate and embellished. They’re very time consuming for me to get through and great candidates can be missed. The best salesperson I ever hired in my entire life was a Pizza Hut delivery guy. The guy sold $6.3 million in residential sales in 2017. He’s been in it for 19 years now. So, great candidates can be missed by just relying on resumes.”

Be Competitive

Once you’ve found the right person, you want him or her to accept the job. Salary is an important factor, of course. What are your competitors paying? Find out and, if you can, match or beat it.

Money isn’t everything, though. Most people also want a sense of job security. Explain why your company has a good reputation and how it can offer stability.

Talk about other things that make your company attractive, such as taking on unique projects, participating in philanthropic opportunities, or having an excellent benefits package.

And after you hire someone, do things that will make him or her want to stay. “No one does anything without incentive,” Johnson says. “And incentive is not necessarily money. Incentive can be a lot of different things. It can be a reward — a gift card, a trophy, all kinds of stuff. Or it could be plain old recognition.”

These types of incentives will remind employees that they’re valued and respected members of your team, which in turn increases their level of commitment and builds loyalty.

Help Educate Potential Hires About the Trades

As a contractor, you know the financial, leadership, and entrepreneurial benefits of working in the roofing industry.

Volunteer for speaking opportunities at local high schools to educate students about the value of pursuing a career in the field. Or participate in a trade show, such as the CareerExpo and SkillsUSA Championships hosted by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA), which allows you to meet students interested in trade careers.

Some high schools and community colleges have apprenticeship or co-op work opportunities as part of their vocational training programs. Getting involved with these institutions gives you access to people who want to work in a trade and allows you to offer them real-world experience, which could result in a position with your company.

As budget cuts continue to reduce the size of the U.S. military, veterans must transition to civilian jobs. What these motivated men and women lack in roofing experience, they make up for with other valuable qualities, including trainability, discipline, reliability, and leadership skills. Many national organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Labor, have programs that help vets get the training and experience they need for their next career.

Invest in Your People

Countless surveys show that workers leave a job because they’re unhappy and don’t feel appreciated. To help with employee retention, invest in your people by providing continuous training.

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) offers a wealth of training opportunities. Through the organization’s ProCertification program, workers who demonstrate substantial knowledge and skills can earn certifications in specific roof system installations.

“In the past, a roofing company would go to a job fair in their local community and try to present a career in the industry as one that’s truly professional,” explains Reid Ribble, CEO of the NRCA. “However, there was no way for [a trade worker] to become a master roofer. They could become a master plumber, master electrician or master carpenter, but there was really no professional certification for them to reach that same status in the roofing industry.”

By the end of 2019, the NRCA’s ProCertification program will have certifications available in six disciplines. Eventually, it will offer a total of 18.

“If roofing workers stack enough of these certifications on top of each other, they can achieve master status, as a master low-slope roofer, master steep-slope roofer, master service technician, or master solar technician,” Ribble says. “That’s a powerful tool that we didn’t have before to recruit workers. It’s a long-term, transformational shift away from making the roofing companies the primary to making the working roofer the primary. And that’s a big shift, but it’s the one that actually provides the quality assurance that customers need.”

The NRCA is taking stepsto get the ProCertification program recognized nationally. However, Ribble cautions that this push will not affect the licensing of roofing companies.

“We believe that, as a national association, it’s up to our state affiliates to make the determination locally as to whether or not they want a licensing program,” he says. “Some states do, other states do not. Some of our members do, other members do not. We don’t want to have a restrictive approach to people entering the roofing trade. But what we can do is create standards for roofing workers. Because, let’s face it, putting on an asphalt shingle roof in Georgia is no different than putting an asphalt shingle roof on in Wisconsin. You might treat the underlayment at the eaves different because of snow and ice, but for the most part, that roof goes on the same.”

The Bottom Line

Hiring workers is one challenge. Keeping them is another. So, while following one or more of these tips can help you build your business, you must also create an environment where your employees feel valued. After all, they determine the success of your jobs, which means your company’s reputation is only as good as the people you hire.

As Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup, once put it, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”

About the author: Tiara Searcy is the content and digital marketing manager for Atlas Roofing. For more information, visit www.atlasroofing.com.

How Can the H-2B Classification Help Contractors Find Good Workers?

Nearly all businesses require employees to operate, and all successful businesses require that those employees be competent and capable. One issue facing contractors is the inability to find well-qualified and competent workers. Another issue facing contractors is the shortage of workers available to keep up with increased building demands in the United States. The H-2B classification can help contractors address these issues by expanding the pool of potential workers.

What Is the H-2B Classification?

The H-2B classification was created in order to facilitate the hiring of foreign workers to fill temporary needs with U.S. businesses. For the H-2B classification, it must be established that (1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are qualified and available to perform the temporary services or labor for the employer; (2) that the employment of foreign workers will not affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers; and (3) that a temporary need exists for the employer.

The H-2B program has two components with two different government agencies. The first component deals with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the second component deals with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Each agency oversees a different aspect of the H-2B program. The DOL focuses on the labor market, and is tasked with determining that:

  1. There are not sufficient U.S. workers who are qualified and who will be available to perform the temporary services or labor for which an employer desires to hire foreign workers.
  2. The employment of H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

At the end of the day, the DOL wants to make sure that the foreign worker is not taking a job from an American or affecting the wage market for American workers. The USCIS component of the H-2B program focuses on the temporary need of the employer and the foreign worker’s qualifications. The USCIS component is the last part of the process and is the final authority on whether the H-2B classification will be granted to the foreign worker.

What Is a Temporary Need?

A critical element of the H-2B analysis focuses on the temporary need of the employer. There are four types of needs for H-2B classification purposes. They are (1) one-time occurrence; (2) seasonal need; (3) peak-load need; and (4) intermittent need. A one-time occurrence is as the name suggests; it is an event that occurs one time which requires the need for additional workers and after this event concludes, so does the need for the workers. A seasonal need exists where the employment is traditionally tied to a season of the year by an event or pattern and is of a recurring nature. Examples include the hiring of workers during the Christmas shopping season by UPS and FedEx due to an increase in holiday shipping demands, and when the Disney theme parks require additional workers in the summertime because of an increase in visitors after schools are no longer in session. Both these needs are seasonal and recur every year. A peak-load need exists where the employer normally employs permanent workers to perform a service or labor and an increased seasonal or short-term demand requires additional workers who will not become part of the employer’s regular operations. The key with a peak-load need is that it is not recurring. An intermittent need exists where an employer does not employ permanent or full-time workers to perform services or labor and occasionally needs temporary workers for short periods of time.

What Is the Process?

The H-2B classification process starts with the DOL and ends with USCIS. The first step is to file an Application for Prevailing Wage Determination with the DOL. This application outlines the proposed employment and results in a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) issued by DOL, which sets the minimum amount that can be paid to the foreign worker. After the employer received the PWD from the DOL, the employer can begin the recruitment process. The recruitment process includes posting a job order with a state agency and running two print advertisements as well as interviewing candidates that apply for the position. After recruitment is completed, the employer submits an Application for Temporary Employment Certification with the DOL along with a completed recruitment report. Once a final determination is made by the DOL and the application is certified, the process then shifts to USCIS. The final step is to file an I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. If the foreign worker is outside the United States, he or she will also need to apply for an H-2B visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

H-2B “Cap” and the Period of Stay

For the H-2B classification, there is a statutory limit on the total number of foreign nationals who may be granted H-2B status or issued an H-2B visa. This is commonly referred to as the H-2B “cap” and is currently set at 66,000. Unlike other statutory limitations, the H-2B cap is split between two parts of the year, with 33,000 allocated for the first half of the U.S. government fiscal year (October 1 to March 31) and 33,000 allocated for the second half of the U.S. government fiscal year (April 1 to September 30). If any of the first 33,000 are not used by the beginning of the second half of the fiscal year, those unused numbers will be reallocated to the second half of the fiscal year. While cases based on a one-time occurrence can be approved for up to 3 years, all other H-2B classifications will be approved for, at most, 10 months. The H-2B classification can be renewed, in increments of up to one year, and the foreign worker can stay in the United States for a maximum for 3 years. After 3 years, the foreign worker must stay outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before seeking readmission under the H-2B classification.

Pros and Cons of H-2B Classification

For contractors, the H-2B classification can provide them temporary workers when needed for short periods of time. This can be especially important when there is difficulty finding quality workers in the United States. But as with any immigration classification, there are some pros and cons to consider when it comes to the H-2B classification.

Pros

  • While there is a cap on the number of H-2B statuses granted/visas issued, there is no lottery system in place like the H-1B. This means that there are usually H-2Bs available if you file at the right time.
  • There are no special qualifications, educational or otherwise, required for the H-2B classification, unlike some other immigration classifications. The foreign worker must simply meet the requirements for the position.
  • Premium processing from USCIS, which guarantees a response in 15 days after filing, is available.
  • The H-2B classification is renewable, in increments up to 1 year, for a total stay in the United States of 3 years. After the 3-year limit is reached, the foreign worker only needs to leave the United States for 3 months before he or she is eligible for H-2B classification again.

Cons

  • The H-2B classification essentially requires the foreign workers to be employees of the company by requiring an employee-employer relationship for the proposed employment. Independent contractors would not qualify.
  • From start to finish, it takes about 3 to 4 months while utilizing USCIS’s premium processing service, or 4 to 7 months without the premium processing service. If a worker is needed quickly, the H-2B classification may not be the right choice.
  • Only individuals from certain countries are eligible for the H-2B classification.
  • The minimum wage that must be paid to the H-2B recipient is fixed by the DOL and may be higher than what the employer is willing to pay or normally pays similar workers.
  • The foreign worker needs to have legal status in the United States or reside outside the United States to qualify. Illegal immigrants do not qualify for the H-2B classification.

The H-2B classification may help contractors address some of their labor needs. Contact an experienced immigration attorney to see whether this is a good fit for your company.

About the author: Paul Messina is an attorney at Cotney Construction Law who focuses his practice on immigration law. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

A Dynamic Rooftop Renovation Lures a New Type of Workforce

Commercial office properties have always had to contend for tenants as a part of doing business and, increasingly, existing buildings are facing stiffer competition from new office properties offering integrated amenities packages that go way beyond the lobby coffee shop. As a new generation of employees enters the workforce, employers are challenged to secure leases that provide more than simple office space, instead offering an attractive combination of recreation, retail and relaxation options that feel more akin to a resort than a workplace. In the case of Prudential Plaza, a 41-story structure in Chicago built in 1955, the challenge for the building owners was to offer new value in a building originally designed to respond to a workforce that no longer exists.

The rooftop transformation is highlighted by a fully wired amphitheater, fire-pit lounge and a small lawn accompanied by a new 12,000-square-foot fitness center and a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse located inside.

The rooftop transformation is highlighted by a fully wired amphitheater, fire-pit lounge and a small lawn accompanied by a new 12,000-square-foot fitness center and a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse located inside.


Investing more than $85 million into building renovations, Prudential Plaza’s owners envisioned a top-to-bottom rehabilitation, crowned by a 13,000-square-foot amenities deck on the 11th floor. The rooftop transformation is highlighted by a fully wired amphitheater, fire-pit lounge and a small lawn accompanied by a new 12,000-square-foot fitness center and a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse located inside. These amenities are exclusively for building tenants and their employees. Kyle Kamin, a Los Angeles-based CBRE Inc. executive vice president and tenant broker who has clients in Prudential Plaza called the roof deck “a game-changer with an unbeatable view.”

Engineering

Certainly the idea of a gorgeous tenant recreation and lounge area would appeal to most; however, few outside of the design and construction industry would appreciate the immense challenge of adding this type of space on top of a 60-year-old roof. When Wolff Landscape Architecture, Chicago, was asked to partner with Chicago-based architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz for landscape design, project manager Ishmael Joya quickly understood the complexities of the situation. Joya is a landscape architect with 15 years’ experience, specializing in green-roof construction.

“Prudential Plaza is a classic figure in Chicago’s skyline and the first time we walked the project it was clear that the 4 1/2-inch-thick roof deck was going to present some design and construction challenges,” Joya remarks. Although the Wolff Landscape Architecture team has completed many green-roof projects, including renovations, Joya realized that adding what is essentially a mini-park to a very thin structural surface was going to require out-of-the-box thinking. “In any roof-deck renovation, it’s critical to reduce the weight of the building materials because the building is only designed to support a maximum amount of weight and that can’t be compromised,” he says.

Joya worked closely with the design team’s structural engineer, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., Chicago, to make sure the appropriate products were specified to support the expected weight of each area of the renovation

Demolition and Interim Roof

Like many large-scale occupied renovation projects, Prudential Plaza’s overall renovation was executed in multiple phases, allowing construction activities to take place while tenants maintained their typical routines. Romeoville, Ill.-based Preservation Services Inc., a commercial roofing company, was responsible for rehabilitating the original 11th-floor roofing structure. The original roof was a modified bitumen membrane that had been applied directly to a layer of lightweight concrete and covered by 2- by 2-foot pavers. Preservation Services carefully removed the pavers, old membrane and thin layer of concrete.

Investing more than $85 million into building renovations, Prudential Plaza’s owners envisioned a top-to-bottom rehabilitation, crowned by a 13,000-square-foot amenities deck on the 11th floor.

Investing more than $85 million into building renovations, Prudential Plaza’s owners envisioned a top-to-bottom rehabilitation, crowned by a 13,000-square-foot amenities deck on the 11th floor.

Because the building is located adjacent to a series of vaulted streets, the construction team was unable to use a high-reach crane because the weight of the crane would have required special provisions and necessitated street closures. Consequently, crews carried all removed debris down through the freight elevators during the night while the building was largely empty. At the end of each night, a single-ply EPDM membrane was rolled out, seamed and secured to protect the under structure from possible water penetration the next day.

Once demolition was complete, the EPDM was opened in select areas so repairs to the concrete slab could be made by other trades. When repairs were complete, a single layer of torch-applied modified bitumen membrane was applied to the deck along with additional structural steel required to support the added weight of trees, planters, patios and people. Finally, a white, granular-surfaced modified bitumen roof over tapered isocyanurate foam insulation was installed making the undersurface ready for the plaza deck renovation work.

Weight Considerations

Joya recommended a lightweight expanded polystyrene (EPS) material with high compressive strength that is used to reduce axial loading on structures. He has found the product very easy to work with, which saves time and money, ultimately allowing designers to put more of the client’s investment into tangible value users will see and feel rather than subsurface building materials.

On the Prudential Plaza roof-deck renovation, two types of EPS were used. EPS 15 was used in areas that would largely be filled with plants and wouldn’t bear much foot traffic. EPS 46, chosen for its high compressive strength, was used as a structural fill across the design’s many grade changes and in areas that would bear more weight of roof-deck occupants. For Joya, another advantage of using the EPS is being able to see the shape of the assembled product and make any required changes before the concrete is poured and work becomes significantly more complicated.

PHOTOS: Wolff Landscape Architecture

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