The decorative glass industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and so has the employee market, making finding good employees a real challenge. I work for a mid-size, very specialized decorative glass company, and know first-hand the challenges of finding an employee who is both creative and knows something about glass. It’s near impossible. We usually resort to on-the-job training with people who have no prior knowledge, and then just hope it all works out. Being in such a specialized industry makes it hard to find good quality employees that will stay for the long term. Here are the biggest issues we run into regularly:
- People with industry knowledge are retired or close to retirement (short timers)
- The majority of the job candidates have no or very little knowledge of glass or the industry
- Most people do not know the safety standards needed for the job and have no understanding of various detailed processes
- Most younger applicants want to be part of the cutting-edge, and not part of an older single-product industry.
- Many shop owners are retiring or selling, making fewer people doing decorative glass, and an even smaller candidate pool.
Take these challenges in finding good employees and combine it with the fact that not many people can take an idea from concept to completion while understanding and conveying the limits of what can be done on glass, and you have a near impossible situation requiring specific hiring and training tactics.
Working in the current employment market, it usually takes us up to two years to train one person on all decorative glass processes we have at our shop. Now our business isn’t all that complicated, but it is very detail-orientated and fast-paced. After investing two years into a person, we find that a lot of people can’t handle the stress of quick turnaround times and demanding customers, and usually leave within six to eight months.
So what works for us? Just like our business, finding quality employees who will stick around is an art. One thing we found that works well for us is to train the new employee (for the first two weeks) in all the departments--each for a couple days--to get at least a basic knowledge of what’s going on and how things run. This includes everything from answering calls, working with accounting, bidding out jobs, working production in all areas, shipping, and sometimes even field visits. We require employees to have at least a basic working knowledge of all our machines, equipment, safety standards and processes so that if help is needed somewhere other than their area or someone is out, the others can pick up the slack if needed. By doing this, the employee gains a good knowledge of the overall company and how all jobs fit together to create the best possible product. It also makes them feel as if they are an integral part of the company, not just a number.
Along the same lines, we also have empowered our employee by letting them know that if they see anything wrong in the process that they can stop production to make sure we are safe, doing best practices, or correcting errors or flaws in the process. This goes for any employee on the floor.
We also try to hold monthly meetings to let the employees know what’s happening with the company and what to expect in the coming months. Communication is a very large part of our business and we want our employees to feel empowered to talk to us about anything that is going on.
Kris Iverson is marketing and creative director for Moon Shadow Glass Inc., moonshadowglass.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.