Editor’s note: In the August issue of USGlass, the magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The special anniversary issue looks at how the industry has changed and editors also look at special challenges including hiring. Look to page 80 of that issue for an extensive look at the industry’s hiring challenge and how the industry is tackling these. Here, Megan Headley, further explores this issue.

 It seems finding qualified labor has always been a problem for glass fabricators. But as glass itself becomes more complicated and architects’ requests become more demanding, the skills needed to produce and install these new products become increasingly technical.

It’s a problem that’s not entirely unique to this industry. FMI, a provider of management consulting and people development services to the engineering and construction industry, stated in a February 2015 survey report.

“Due to the cyclical nature of construction markets, companies in the construction industry have long had some difficulties attracting and retaining young talent for both management and skilled field positions. Generally, companies have found ways to retain their best workers in up and down cycles and have been able to take advantage of available sources of trained labor in order to scale up or down as needed to manage the workflow. However, the Great Recession was an aberration to the normal business cycles. After downsizing around 30 percent of its personnel just a few years ago, the construction industry is now facing a tight job market for skilled workers. Backlogs are growing again, and contractors need to step up their recruiting and retention efforts.”

So what do you do when you’re just one small company in a big industry that’s hurting for qualified labor?

You get creative with your hiring, and then set out to create the workers you want.

Hiring Then And Now

When Paul Bieber was hired by C.R. Laurence in 1976, he launched his career by answering an ad in the Boston Globe. “Then, there were only three ways to get a job: an ad in the newspaper, by knowing someone in the industry or through a headhunter.

What a difference it is now,” Bieber now an industry consultant and USGlass columnist, reflects.

True enough, more glass professionals are using the latest online tools to update their hiring. According to the FMI report, “The company website, social media like Facebook and Twitter, and other electronic recruiting methods are being used with growing success to recruit not only management level employees but also skilled trade workers.”

Matt Bakthasekaran, president of Andy’s Glass Inc. in Oceanside, Calif., is among those glass professionals venturing out into the brave new world of social media hiring. From ads created in Tumblr, to Twitter to Facebook and beyond, Bakthasekaran is exploring his possibilities.

Turns out, it’s often as hard to find good help in the virtual world as it is through word of mouth.

“I’ve been doing it for a little while now, and there are absolutely no bites on Twitter,” he reports. “It’s more on Facebook. Those posts get passed around.”“

The beauty of using social media is that, in many cases, it’s trackable, a feature that can help glass companies craft better messages.

Bakthasekaran has found that’s the biggest benefit of Facebook. “It shows how many people each post reaches,” he says. His help-wanted ad reached more than 1,000 viewers, and resulted in a handful of interviews.

No doubt about it, how the glass industry finds labor has changed in recent years — but perhaps not as much as you may think. It’s true that today more jobs are found online than in the classified ads, but in essence, today’s social media ads are little different than yesterday’s help-wanted sign.

Announcing “I need help” on Twitter is much like posting a sign in your window and waiting to see who walks in. In some cases that works wonders, but in other cases it’s important to first determine what type of worker you want to hire, and then go to where they are looking.

Keeping the Traditional Methods

In many cases, that traditional help wanted sign still works wonders. Viracon in Owatonna, Minn., still sticks to newspaper and radio ads, as well as word of mouth, when hiring for entry-level production positions.

“It’s when you get into our professional positions that newspaper ads are not very effective anymore,” explains Brandon Dansie, PHR, director of human resources for Viracon. “We use LinkedIn and recruiters, but we also use a service that will take our job postings and put it on a variety of different job boards for veterans, people with disabilities, minority groups and other strategic [sites].”

In addition, specialty sites such as GetGlazierJobs.com, operated by Get It LLC, and IHireBuildingTrades.com, operated by iHire LLC, are cropping up more as well, adding even more options to an already confusing process. So how do you find the sites that will get the biggest results?

Try, try and try again was the strategy taken by Mary Berger, MA, SPHR, CMF, president and principal consultant of Holistic HR Solutions LLC, on behalf of client Pioneer Cladding and Glazing Systems LLC.

“Over the years, we have tried a variety of different recruiting strategies based on position type and location. Our most successful strategy by far for professional positions has been employee referrals, and for our manufacturing positions has been a help-wanted sign posted outside our building,” Berger says. “While job ads traditionally have given us potential candidates in great numbers, it requires a significant amount of time to find that ‘gold nugget.’ We have used recruiters in the past to fill our higher-level positions with an average amount of success. We have had no luck with social media and have, in fact, eliminated that as a strategy. ”

The options are boundless, but it takes a bit of experimentation to find the right source for a company’s hiring needs. Of course, another critical component of the solution is a well-crafted ad.

The Well-Written Job Ad

Using a variety of channels for hiring is only half the battle. Understanding your needs, and conveying that in an effective advertisement, is equally critical. For Berger, that’s one part of a broader mission: clearly defining the goals of your human resources manager — and if you’re having trouble finding effective help, then HR is one position you need to fill.

According to Berger, “The foundation for a strong and integrated HR infrastructure lies in accurately identifying and clearly defining a set of technical and organizational core competencies necessary to support the company’s vision, mission, values and goals. These competencies provide a common language within the company used throughout the employee life cycle to clearly define processes, expectations and to ultimately enhance retention.

  • Interview questions are designed around core competencies to ensure the right person is hired for the job.
  • Job descriptions are built around the core competencies to clearly define expectations.
  • Employee performance is measured against the core competencies.
  • Job-specific, employee-specific and corporate training is driven by the core competencies.
  • Compensation is linked to performance.”

One way to understand the effectiveness of your job ads is to examine why people leave. A job ad crafts a person’s expectation of the job, and if they aren’t aligned, then your turnover may be uncharacteristically high.

“Finding why people leave has been our big task over the last few months. We’ve been cold-calling these people and trying to dig into the real reasons they left,” says Alicia Westendorf, training manager for Viracon.

“We call and try to get as much feedback as we can, then look for a trend to see what we can change. It’s hard when someone says ‘I just didn’t want to lift glass.’ Well, that’s what we do,” Dansie adds.

In some cases, a well-crafted ad that clearly defines expectations in the available job can ensure that the new hire is a good fit for the task.

Creating a Brand Ambassador

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting employment of contract glaziers to grow 17 percent between 2012 and 2022, well above the average for all occupations, there’s no reason to settle for a warm body when fine-tuning your hiring process can land you a great fit for your company.

“I would recommend that employers set their sights high and not hire the best available candidate if that person doesn’t meet the standards of your company. Advertise again in whatever medium you use. Hire the best person, and you and that person will be better off,” Bieber suggests.

Of course, the best people want to work for the best companies. As hiring increases, glazing professionals will have their choice of positions. To make sure your company is among their top choices, you might want to put your current employees to work in your recruitment process. One of the biggest HR trends in 2015 is considering your workers as “brand ambassadors.”

According to Cheryl Kerrigan, vice president of employee success at Achievers, a provider of employee-recognition solutions, “We’re becoming very much reliant on our social presence through social media — Facebook, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc. Prospective employees can get access to your company without you even knowing it, so [using] your employees as your brand, really putting your culture on display at all times, is going to be important in 2015.”

This can mean making sure you offer competitive benefits, provide an environment where safety is of utmost importance and create a culture where employees can thrive.

“We try to use our employees as brand ambassadors and have them go out and recruit their friends,” Dansie says. “We’re developing a relationship on the professional side with Glassdoor, which is where employees can go and rate a company. We want to be able to market that and [encourage] our employees to go out and give honest feedback. With social media, that’s becoming so much more important.”

Berger notes that Pioneer Cladding and Glazing is starting to explore additional recruiting-related initiatives that include activities such as “establishing an ‘employer brand’ that will be incorporated in all of our marketing materials; working with our employees to create an ‘elevator pitch’ they can use to market Pioneer consistently to friends and relatives; and enhancing our LinkedIn web page and the careers page of our website with videotaped interviews of our ‘Star Performers’ marketing Pioneer’s culture.”

If word-of-mouth hires and referrals are important to your company — and they should be — then it’s important to make sure that the practices you have in place for retaining your current employees are of a high caliber, because those employees could be the key to attracting the high-level talent you want.

Megan Headley is special projects editor for USGlass magazine. She can be reached at mheadley@glass.com.