Help Wanted – Helpful Tips
The ugly truth is that the multifamily industry is struggling to find and retain skilled maintenance workers. A strong economy and a thriving construction market means that the number of carpenters, bricklayers and painters working in Houston and surrounding areas right now is off the charts. Today, there are an estimated 75 proposed office construction buildings in the pipeline for 2015 in addition to the 85 multifamily communities under construction in the Houston and surrounding areas.
The Woodlands/North – The biggest construction project in Houston right now is the Exxon Mobil campus south of The Woodlands. When completed, it will have 20 buildings with 10,000 employees, including some 2,000 employees being transferred here from other
parts of the country. Several more projects are underway in The Woodlands area, including Hughes Landing and Southwestern Energy’s building on Interstate 45.
Downtown – Hines is dominating the downtown construction scene right now with its 609 Main at Texas, kitty-corner from the Rice Lofts. Work began on the building last summer, and the 48-story skyscraper will be ready in 2016. Also, Hilcorp is constructing a downtown building on the site of the rundown Macy’s store. The recently demolished Houston Club will be the site of the 35-story Capitol Tower. Not yet started, but clearly on the downtown drawing boards: Crescent’s Six Houston Center, a 50-story tower for Chevron, and the 41-story One Market Square. Others around town – Transwestern is building a huge tower in Uptown for BHP Billiton, a 1 million square-foot tower is being built in Westchase for Phillips 66, and Midway has a nifty infill project near Kirby Drive called Kirby Grove.
As you can see, there is no shortage of jobs outside of the multifamily industry for our skilled maintenance employees. Our maintenance, makeready and skilled trades needed in the construction industry are leaving multifamily’s on-site positions and going to work on these construction projects outside of the apartment industry. They are not only receiving higher compensation, but the benefits packages are much more enticing than what our industry is currently offering.
WHAT WE CAN DO TO KEEP GOOD PEOPLE
The not-so-obvious bad news is that there is no end in sight. The shortage in candidates will continue as long as the economy is strong, and it could continue well into the future. The good news is that employers and business leaders can do something about it. But it means making a concerted, focused effort to keep our maintenance personnel interested in growing along with the apartment industry. What are we going to do to make sure they stay with our company? Our industry?
2015 is here! It is time to rethink how we attract, hire, train and retain the most important part of our industry community. We have
had to compete with other industries for the same candidates who have grown up working in our communities but have been drawn away for better compensation and benefit packages. We have had to adjust our compensation in order to keep the flow of qualified skilled workers coming in. We need to remind current employees why they should stay with us in the apartment industry.
Here are some ideas:
- Higher compensation rates.
- Extended paid vacation time based on performance, or giving personal time off.
- No loss of vacation time if it is not taken at the end of the year, or pay for the unused vacation.
- For maintenance supervisors: Bonus or personal time off for low to no employee turnover.
- Company-paid continuing education, and a career path growth plan evaluated quarterly.
- Grants or scholarships for employees’ children based on exceeding performance goals.
- Stock options for long-term employees.
- Beef up the referral bonus for employees recruiting friends and family into our industry. Special recognition with a mentoring program to help grow our maintenance teams to be stronger than ever!
Another idea is to team up with a staffing firm and conduct job fairs and hiring events focused on the positions that you are hiring for.
Joining forces can be a better way to streamline the recruiting and hiring process so that your on-site staff can focus on running a successful property. You are not alone! Staffing firms specialize in finding these skilled workers, and we have felt the pain along with you. If everyone is a part of the growth and strengthening process for our industry, I believe we will see fewer of our skilled workers leaving for jobs outside of our industry and choosing to continue building their careers in multifamily. Because we are a family in this business.
Laura Lestus, CAS, is branch manager of the The Liberty Group’s Houston office.
A longtime volunteer for HAA, she is an Ambassador cochair and a member of the Product Service Council and was named HAA Supplier of the Year in 2014.
For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.