Cracking the Labor Code

Katy Devlin
April 25, 2018

For years now, a common refrain has echoed throughout all levels of the glass industry: “we need more people.” The topic highlighted numerous discussions during the Building Envelope Contractors Conference, held March 4-6 in Las Vegas. While there is no silver bullet, several speakers offered important insights on how to ease labor pressures for companies across the industry. 

Increase excitement. 

“We need to get people excited about glass,” said Keith Boswell, technical partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. during the State of the Industry panel at BEC. The glass industry, along with the rest of the design and construction industry, has become more sophisticated. Automation and computerization have begun to permeate all levels of the supply chain, and product innovations continue to advance and impress. The industry has so much to offer; we just need to work on the message and its delivery. 

Recruit in schools.

The industry should target design and tech schools, and work to tell students who are already interested in building and design about the opportunities in glass, BEC speakers said. “We need to do a better job of reaching out to construction management schools, drafting schools, CAD schools, and we need to show those students that a career in glass and glazing is pretty exciting,” said Jeff Heymann, vice president of business development at Benson Industries

Train well.

Training is essential to a company’s survival. It ensures the company can continue to operate at a high level when more senior employees retire. “Always be training your replacement. Don’t just teach what to do; teach why,” said Joe Conover, vice president, Clark Construction

Additionally, training can build an employee’s engagement with the company, said Tom Jackson, president of Steel Encounters. “Strengthen the employee’s foundation with (the company) through training opportunities,” he said.   

Create a great culture. 

Once a company finds and trains a new employee, it must find a way to retain them. And this is where company culture becomes essential, according to Jackson. “Ninety-five percent of job candidates believe culture is more important than compensation. It is essential to recruiting and retaining talent,” Jackson said. 

How does a company build a great company culture? It requires companies to invest in their workforce—to engage and develop employees; to understand employee needs and find ways of meeting them; to improve communication and recognize accomplishments. Steps like this mean “recruitment is getting easier. A lot of people would like to work for us,” Jackson said. 

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at