• Home
  • /
  • Housing's No. 1 Challenge Right Now
Housing's No. 1 Challenge Right Now
  • Jun 26, 2015
  • New Home Ambassador
  • home builders PCBC Trade show jobs in home building

Word from the PCBC trade show floor, the sessions, and the corridors is that 'people' is the biggest pain-point

There are good jobs in the home building and building materials and products manufacturing business right now.

Each month, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey affirms that job opportunities abound. National Association of Home Builders tax and policy expert Rob Dietz stays current on monthly JOLTS reports for residential construction, and he notes that the industry is running at "cycle highs" in unfilled payroll positions.

People. It's a people business. "The people of my company are what makes it work." Talent. Labor capacity. Labor shortages. Job openings.

After a couple of days’ immersion among residential builders, developers, and other denizens of the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Diego this week, it’s clear that people, writ large, is the No. 1 issue stressing the business right now.

Of course, almost every company leader is deeply proud of his or her own team, and profoundly confident that the “culture” they’re building and nurturing at their own firms is unlike any in the industry. You couldn't go five steps in either the education sessions or the exhibit floor without hearing mention of the word "people" and "leadership" and "culture."

Still, as Berke Group consultant and long-time industry mentor Martin Freedland noted in a PCBC panel session he ran on building culture, if you Google "books on leadership," it'll turn up something on the order of 186,000 titles. We're obsessed with being good leaders. We're on an Ahab-like mission to find and keep and "grow" people.

Here's an example, I heard from a senior level executive at one of the firms exhibiting at PCBC.

Take a hundred "recruits" for line jobs in the engineered wood products business.

According to this executive, half of them decline to proceed with the hiring process because they don't want to take a drug test. Half of the remaining 50 actually fail the drug test, and another 10 or 12 don't move through the process based on their background checks.

That leaves a dozen or 15 or so left who actually make it to a job offer.

"A few weeks later, you've got about half of that bunch," the executive told me. "A number of them find they don't like their 'grave-yard' shift, or their weekend obligations, so they quit."

We find it fascinating that even as "good jobs" with solid wages and a career path are going unfilled in this day and age.

"We can't find the people," you hear, over and over.

The leadership sessions and the company culture sessions are standing-room-only with individuals who swear by their leadership skills and their culture-building strategies and actions.

What gives? Why can't home building and building products and materials companies attract good people?

Know this. Home building and its associated businesses are not alone in this plight. Every industry community is talking about the same issue as a pain point.

Perhaps it's a high-class problem to have right now. But it's a problem nonetheless. Who's succeeding at finding new people, fresh blood, young talent? How are you doing it? What works?


John McManus

John McManus is an award-winning editorial director for the Residential Construction Group at Hanley Wood in Washington, DC.

Free Evaluation