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Having Trouble Finding Good Help These Days?

In a growing economy, job growth outstrips the supply of good labor – and the effects of the pandemic have only made the situation harder to manage.  So, it’s no surprise that everywhere I go and in every type of industry, companies are struggling to recruit and retain good people.

Here are some typical ways companies recruit people:

  • Post an ad on Indeed, LinkedIn, or other job board
  • Post an ad on your state employment department job board
  • Offer referral bonuses
    • Pay existing employees a fixed fee ($100+) for referring someone that you hire and who stays on for 90 days
  • Use temp-to-hire agencies

Some of these are more effective than others and all have their plusses and minuses.  But you can’t afford to ignore any of them these days.

An innovative way to recruit people is to use your business card and a $20 bill:

  • Go to a full-service car wash where they dry your car by hand and wipe down the interior and the door jambs after the wash. Or go to an automotive detailer.  The manual skills and attention to detail make them a good prospect as a polisher.
  • Look for the person with the most hustle, best attitude, and attention to detail.
  • Wrap your business card in a $20 bill, hand it to them, and give them your elevator speech (We are a fast-growing company near here that offers a great place to work, benefits, and great pay – customize to your situation).
  • If you have a good enough sales pitch, they’ll come ask you for a job.

Finding people already experienced in this industry can be more than difficult.  Finding great people with fabrication experience who will also fit into the culture of your business can be almost impossible.  That’s why smart business owners have the following:

  • An accurate job description that sets expectations for job performance.
  • A good understanding of the base skills needed to do each job.
    • Polishers need good hand-eye coordination and good attention to detail
    • CNC operators need to understand how to load and run a CNC program (unless you also require them to modify the program before running) and they need to understand how important it is to follow the correct speeds and feeds for cutting various materials. If they can do that in wood or steel, you can teach them the particulars for stone.
  • A good program for training folks with the right skills to do the job that is needed.
  • Frequent and objective feedback for job performance.
  • A solid understanding of the types of folks who will fit their company culture the best.

They then set about recruiting for capability and fit instead of experience – and they get better results in the long run.

Everywhere you go, you run into people who are good at what they do.  Their current job may require similar skills to an open position that you have.  Find a good person, recruit them, and then train them well.

When they find people who are a good fit, smart companies also use their state and local resources to help pay for good structured on-the-job training.  Go to your state department of labor web site and look for programs using terms like:

  • Incumbent worker training (IWT)
  • Apprenticeship training (many are not union affiliated)
  • Re-skilling
  • Up-skilling
  • Quick skills
  • Ready-to-work

Yes, state agencies can be painful to work with sometimes, but I’m finding more and more that are starting to understand and respond to business needs.  Sometimes the local community college or tech school can be a good place to start as they are usually partners for these types of programs.  This is worth the effort because frequently state programs will pay ½ to all of the cost of structured documented training.

None of us were born knowing how to fabricate tops.

Certainly, recruiting and training good people is critical.  Hopefully the above suggestions are helpful.  However, it’s just as critical to make sure you are getting the best use of the people you already have.  You’re paying for the good labor that you already have and spending money and time chasing new talent.  How much of that time and money is being wasted on activities that don’t generate cash for your business?  By this, I do not mean that we find ways to work them harder.  I mean that we find ways to be smarter about how we utilize your scarce precious labor resource.

Many of us have heard the term value-added.  Truly value-added activities are those which transform a material into a product that a customer is willing to pay for.  A good example is a CNC operator:  Value-added time for that job is ONLY the time that the tool is cutting material.  Everything else – everything – is non-value-added.

As soon as you finish this article, take a few minutes to watch your CNC operator.  Observe and record which activities are value-added and which are not.

  • How much of your operator’s day is spent on non-value-added activities?
  • Next figure out how can you reduce or eliminate those non-value-added activities.
    • Would it make sense to have a low-wage helper moving product around in your shop to allow your highly skilled and higher paid operators spend more time on value-added activities?
    • What can you do to speed up loading and unloading the machine?
  • Apply this rigorously to all steps in your process and you could free up 10% of the capacity you are already paying for.

How you run orders through your shop is also important.  If you bounce from job to job inside your shop instead of focusing on getting a job completed through all process steps without stopping, then you are creating chaos and not necessarily creating value. 

Having a shop where everyone looks like ants running around an anthill you just kicked over may feel productive, but it is not.

Every time you touch an order without completing it wastes your precious scarce labor resources.  For example:  If you produce granite counter tops and start cutting stone for an order only to put that order on hold waiting for a sink selection or waiting on a final edge profile decision from a customer or because you just got a ‘rush job’ from another customer – you are investing shop capacity to do something that you can’t readily convert to billable dollars.  You also have to handle that product multiple times – while risking it getting damaged each time you touch it.  Building a smooth process flow in your shop and attacking non-value-added activities can easily reduce the number of people you need – or provide enough additional manpower to tackle that growing backlog of orders.

Check out the November 2020 and February 2021 articles for additional recommendations on how to reduce the Non-Value-Added activities in your plant.  There are also some useful tools available at .

Knowing how to find, train, and utilize your workforce well is a key component of your long-term profitability. I hope this article helps you fine tune your shop’s workforce strategy.

As a fab shop owner, you deserve to have a business that makes you money and also allows you the time to enjoy it. 

To find out more about how to make more money and get your life back, email me at