Businesspeople looking out of window

Last week, I talked about the aging workforce of the building products industry and the personality differences of the milennial generation that is the future of our business. Beyond those things, however, there’s another fundamental challenge: getting to know the ins and outs of this business.

They’re a generation that does less work with their hands than their parents or grandparents did so, overall, there’s going to be a fundamental challenge of understanding the tools and processes that go into building and remodeling. Then, there’s the dynamics of a a multi-channel business like ours: the manufacturer>distributor>dealer>pro>homeowner sales process isn’t the same as the manufacturer>retailer>consumer one most of them may have an understanding of.

With all that in mind, I came up with this list of the Top 8 Ways to Onboard Rookies to the Building Products Industry. This list may not apply for all businesses, but I’ve focused on manufacturers in creating it:

  1. Send them to the International Builders’ Show (IBS), and not just for the exhibits. Send them for 3-4 days and get them to attend a variety of seminars, like this one I attended on panelized homes, for example.
  2. Ensure they’re subscribed to a range of publications. By that, I mean they should be reading a dealer-focused one (ProSales or LBM Journal), as well as at least one publication each targeted to builders, remodelers, architects and consumers.
  3. Put them in the passenger seat with one of your territory sales reps. Let them see the dynamics of a sales rep’s daily interactions, and see what a sales rep does each day.
  4. Put them behind the counter. Whether you sell through a distributor or not, your product is almost certainly being sold behind the counter of a lumberyard, big box or hardware store. Get your rookie there for a day to see what that’s like.
  5. Go build a house with Habitat for Humanity. What better way to understand how a house gets built then to do it yourself?
  6. Let them own a topic. Milennials love to “own” something at work, so give them the chance to dive it and get smart about a topic your team might be lacking for knowledge in.
  7. Put them on a committee. If there’s an opportunity for them to interact with people outside their department via an internal committee, let them try that.
  8. Put them on the line. Rookies should know how your product is made – the best way to learn that is to go to the plant and even work somewhere on the line if possible.

While it probably isn’t possible to invest in all these things for each new employee, keep them in mind as you bring on people new to the building industry. Just being able to do a few of them might make the difference in your employee embracing this industry and becoming a future star, and that employee moving on to greener pastures.

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