Glaziers Speak Out: Finding and Retaining Quality Employees

Finding dependable, qualified workers in the glass and glazing industry remains one of the top challenges for today's companies. Those that can be found come with a premium. The biggest factors impacting the search for qualified employees are high labor costs and a shrinking labor pool. The individuals interviewed for this column say retention is not an issue but drawing in qualified candidates continues to be an ongoing challenge.

When Ann Merilie Murrell purchased Giroux Glass in 1991 the company had 10 employees. Today, this premiere glazing contractor headquartered in southern California has over 270. "While we have a wonderful team of talented professionals across the board, it always been a challenge to find quality employees," says Ann Merilie Murrell, president of Giroux Glass. "We have a good reputation backed by 60 years in the industry. Still, we have to constantly work to draw in new talent while cultivating and rewarding existing employees. We provide a variety of incentives for growth and development, training, benefits, salary and a culture that is family friendly and conducive to building strong, long-lasting relationships. Yet, good people remain a premium and we work very hard to get every single one of them."

"We utilize traditional methods of finding potential employees through help wanted ads and job fairs as well as utilize headhunters and tap into the local universities for apprentices," she continued. "This is a cyclical industry. Employees are harder to draw in when the economy is good like it is now and work is plentiful than when the economy is slower and the work lessens."

Jack Burtis, territory manager for GE Polymershapes agrees with Murrell. "It's hard to find good people in this industry and it is one of our biggest challenges," says Burtis who has been in the industrial distribution industry for nearly 20 years [as an employee at Cadillac Plastics] and with GE Polymershapes since 2000 when it purchased both Cadillac Plastics and Commercial Plastics. "We have a very lengthy and detailed process for hiring new employees. It may take four months to hire an individual from the time we post a job to the candidate's first day. There are assessments and interviews all the way up the line to ensure we hire the right person for the right job. While it is a time-consuming process, when we bring someone on board they stay with us for a long time. We have a number of processes in place including an online employee self-system through our Human Resources Department that really makes a difference in terms of retention. This and a number of other in-house development programs keeping employees on track, fulfill training needs, help move them forward in their careers at GE and allows us to keep the talent we need to grow and enjoy success in our industry."

"Once we find somebody good we work pretty hard to keep them," says Roger Bierig, president Santa Fe Glass & Mirror, a mid-size glazing contractor in New Mexico. "The challenges we face come from the fact that our labor pool in this industry is shrinking so we have less candidates from which to choose. Then, when we are able to find a good fit for our company, we have to keep working to ensure we keep them busy and challenged, especially during the lean times."

"A part of the problem with finding qualified labor is the fact that the pool we have to choose from is shrinking," adds Tony Baca, president of Southwest Glass & Glazing in Albuquerque. "The workforce is aging and is not being replaced at the same rate as the older workers are retiring. This continues to be a major problem for our industry."

"Good employees can be tough to find," says Mark Weinzapfel from his Evansville, Ind. office. Weinzapfel, president of Siemers Glass, a full service glass and glazing company with four Indiana locations and 30 employees, has found that some of his best and most loyal employees are the ones hired in with no experience and trained in house. "We train them to our standards," Weinzapfel points out. "We are one of the few in the state that offer a competitive benefits package [medical, dental and vision] and are family friendly, which helps attract people to our business. Being family friendly, flexible and providing opportunity have been key factors in attracting and retaining quality employees for our company."

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