Attracting Young People to the LBM Business

Thursday, May 31, 2018


For many years, we have heard frustrated dealers lament … young people don’t want to work at lumberyards. Where are our future leaders going to come from as we move into retirement? If you are one of those who find it difficult to hire young, energetic employees who are driven to grow and take positions of responsibility, read on!

Hiring people is a competition! Especially now, with low unemployment rates, young people can be selective when choosing which position to take and with which company. If you want to hire these people, you have to put some time, energy, and money into it, not much different than when you target a new customer to sell.

People between the ages of 18 and 38 are labeled with the term Millennials. They comprise 26% of the population, the largest segment. These are the people that will be the leaders 10 to 40 years from now. They also are the most educated generation ever, with 23% having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Let’s look at a few things that count in the minds of a prospective new Millennial employee:

Reputation. What is the perception of your company from the outside? Find out, go to websites, look at customer reviews, and also look at websites like Glassdoor, where both current and former employees can anonymously comment about working for you. Young people have grown up looking at online reviews and ratings for everything, not just restaurants! What about your own website? A fresh, dynamic, optimized website speaks volumes to young audiences, versus one that is static, outdated, and bland.

Working Conditions. You are competing with others for these people … what do they have that you don’t? Everything matters. Your breakroom, restrooms, climate control, computer equipment, desks, cubicles, furniture are all taken into consideration when a prospect asks him/herself, “Can I see myself working here?”

Technology. Young people have grown up with computers and cell phones starting at an early age. They are consumers of all sorts of content, and shop online for everything. They want what technology provides … if you are behind the times, doing things the “hard way” while technology is known to exist to make tasks much easier, that is seen as a big drawback.

Guidance. Millennials want to learn, and they expect lots and lots of feedback. You must be willing to mentor and coach your new hires. They need structure and encouragement to take on more responsibility and a transparent story … “this is why we do what we do,” etc. Their generation is very comfortable working in teams and sharing credit for success. You may mentor them in groups as well as individually. Make listening a part of your style. Millennials have been taught that their ideas are to be shared, and stifling that only leads to an increase in frustration and job dissatisfaction.

Work/Life Balance. Again, if you are asking your people to work long hours, be available to answer texts and e-mail all the time, and give up evenings and weekends, and your competitor for your coveted employee doesn’t, then you will lose out. Many studies have shown that free time is just as important, and sometimes more important than pay. The days when we could justify placing stiff demands on people’s time by paying them a little more are over. It’s incumbent upon you to review your work flows and methods to eliminate the need to be present at the operation for more than nine hours a day, five days a week.

Benefits. Time off and flexible hours are highly valued. Are you competitive in your PTO? What about flexible scheduling? Making it easy for a young parent to modify their own schedule to accommodate the needs of their children can be a real difference maker. Don’t make it intimidating to need to come in an hour late.

There are many talented, hardworking young people out there who would be an asset to your business. To attract them to want an LBM career, try offering more of the things they care about.

This article was written by Tom Ford, president & partner at Impact 180 & Lumber Contacts Inc. Feel free to contact Tom at ford.tom@lumbercontacts.com.

Tom Ford 5/31/2018

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