Who “Wood” Want to Look for a Career in the LBM Industry?

Posted on August 03, 2015

Some Tips for Attracting & Recruiting Young Talent into the Lumber Business:

To me the Lumber Industry was an easy choice.  As an Economics major in college, I understood that just about all reports on the economy included a report on housing.  It is still that way today as job reports, housing sales and starts are key indicators of the strength of markets.  For others, choosing to go into the LBM business is not such an easy decision.

Every day, companies just like yours are actively looking at their aging staffs and asking the same question as you: how do we attract and recruit Millennials (Gen Y) and bring new life into what sometimes appears to be an aging industry.  Every day, Gen Y candidates are being actively recruited in their junior years and throughout their senior year and immediately upon college graduation. Many have already begun traversing the waters of their first professional job since being hired a year or so ago. What’s the attraction and why are they so highly sought after?  What’s more, how can your company identify, recruit and hire your next generation of great young professionals?  How can you recruit against the huge national manufacturers and distributors all in the same hunt?

It is no secret that companies, large and small, national and local in coverage are spending millions in marketing to and recruiting the Gen Y’s.  But don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s just in the LBM industry, heck no, companies like GE, Ford, Walmart, Fidelity and other national powerhouses are in the same mindset and you’re going to have to compete with them to attract top talent into our industry.  They all know the importance of reaching this market segment understanding that they are the future of their workforces.  We as an industry need to see it, understand the importance of it and become active in driving our message of being a great place to work and the opportunities our industry presents.

But why has this new generation turned into such a hot commodity? The biggest factor is that the current workforce made up of a lot of Baby Boomers is growing older and over the next 10-15 years most are planning on retiring.  The government recently released a study projecting that on average US companies will lose 30-40% of their workforce to retirement…30-40%! (And you know the government is always right…I know, don’t go there.)  Understanding this and doing something about it are two separate things.  Here’s a handful of suggestions to help you attract and recruit your future stars.

  1. Talk their language: We all have children who think that using their thumbs to text is just as good as talking. They text and use photos to share what they are doing and feeling…Folks, it’s not going away, it is here to stay so embrace it.  Don’t be offended if a candidate sends you a text. Look at your social media efforts and create profiles that people can “Like”, re-tweet and follow you.  Post happening to your website pointing out how cool your company and the industry is.
  2. Get social: LinkedIn is a great tool but the number one emerging recruiting site is Facebook. Close behind are Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram.  Look at your social media efforts and create profiles that people can “Like”, re-tweet and follow you.  Post happenings to your website pointing out how cool your company and the industry is but be sure to include the communities activities your company participate in.  Have a social presence to attract Millennials.
  3. Gen Y is aware of what work-life balance is all about and they like to spend equal time with family and friends and they highly regard time to spend with them. It’s because of the new idea that Baby Boomers and Gen X (their parents) have been preaching to them and they appreciate the value in balancing life and work.
  4. Reach the parents to reach the kid…advertise your jobs and career opportunities to parents who tend to give a lot of guidance to Gen Y’ers. Guess what, compared to Gen X employees, Gen Y employees listen to their folks. Ask potential candidates to have their parents come tour the facility and ask career questions.  The act is simple yet the impact is huge.  Expect to hear comments like, “I like that company and it sounds like you would do well there”.  Ask your candidates to talk it over with their folks and gain their buy in.
  5. Gen Y’ers like to be part of a team and work well in groups or with a mentor. Set up a training program where your senior staff works alongside of the newbie and help with their on-boarding.  It serves well for both the new hire as well as the experienced employee to serve in a mentorship program. We need to teach entry level people how our business works and it’s impossible for you as a manager or owner to be able to spend the time necessary to mentor a new hire.  Good mentoring equals decreased turnover, always good news.
  6. Let the Gen Y candidate know you communicate and his/her managers will also communicate on a regular basis. A recent poll of millennial professionals, conducted by a national recruiting firm discovered that over 55% want to hear from their managers at least once a day. You need to tell your front-line managers this!  They were brought up with a lot of information coming at them and they want it, they need it.
  7. Talk about recognizing people for their ideas and hard work. While that does not mean all will be high maintenance but expect to have maintenance issues from some.  They are high performing employees but just like a high performance engine will need higher maintenance.  That is not to say more money, just recognition for a job well done and for working hard and a high degree of communication as Gen Y’ers tend to need know they are important, and they are.

Great companies are looking for ways to attract Millennials and understand the need for some culture changes to accommodate them.  You need to adjust your recruitment and retention strategies and you’re on your way.