How to Adapt to a Changing Workforce

Your attitude and the way you run your company need to adjust to the new workforce in order to find new employees

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Times are changing. As day-to-day operations slug it out with the status quo, things around us are constantly changing. If you fail to recognize those changes and adapt, your company will be left behind.

A younger workforce, combined with the aftereffects of COVID-19, have made hiring more difficult now than I can remember in my 20-plus years of working in the plumbing industry. But why the change? Aren’t there still people that need work? Of course there are. Then why aren’t people applying for jobs in the trades? The answers are comprised of many components.

When I started in the field, my motivation was a paycheck. I went to work, did what I was told, and I was awarded with a paycheck. That does not mean that younger workers do not work for a paycheck, but they want more than that. It is the “more” that employers need to understand to get applicants and keep younger employees. Here are some things younger workers are looking for:

1. They want to know what the future holds.

A well-defined career path is vital. They need to know that, if they fulfill certain obligations, they will earn the ability to advance in their career. This is a roadmap to their future. Without this roadmap, there is no clear path to progression. 

You know your business better than anybody else does. Gather your key people together and write out that roadmap. Make it clear to your employees how far they can go and how to get there.

2. They want someone that will listen to what they have to say.

When there is strife within the company, they need an open-door policy. It is important that they have a safe place to air their concerns to someone that will take the time to listen. We are given one mouth, but two ears. Listening is the most important part of communication.

Invite your workers to walk through your “open door” so that they feel they are heard and that they are valuable to your company.

3. They do not want to work in an environment that will be physically taxing in the long run.

Many blue-collar applicants come from blue-collar families. They have seen the toll that a physically demanding job can take on a person after years of hard work. You cannot change the physical aspect of the trades. Attics will always be hot in the summer and sewer trenches will always be dark and unforgiving.

Get creative in how you schedule your field employees. Instead of 5–8-hour days, why not consider 4–10-hour shifts instead? You can stagger shifts to cover the entire week. Give them a chance to recover after physically demanding jobs.

4. They feel that their time is almost as important as their paycheck.  

What use is it to be paid well if they do not have the time to enjoy what they have earned? Do you need 24/7 coverage? Do you need to run service seven days a week? If your business model is built this way, you may need to reconsider. Maybe 24/7/365 should be reserved for your most important customers and not just someone that has one clogged toilet in a house with three bathrooms and wants service at 10 p.m.

5. They want to be recognized for a job well done.

This goes for employees of any age or position. They want to know that their hard work is acknowledged. They understand the role they play in helping to grow your business. Taking time to thank them will go a long way in creating a place where they enjoy working.

Company culture

If you have read this far and the words “company culture” come to mind, you have probably taken the time to solve some of the employment issues the changing workforce has thrown your way.

If, on the other hand, you have never considered the role company culture plays in today’s workforce, stop what you are doing and think about where your company would be without a younger workforce that is willing to replace those that are aging out.

You can, with or without new technology, fix that leaky pipe, but unless you adapt to today’s changing workforce, you will not have enough employees to take care of your customer’s problems.


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