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Ive had a serious bad luck streak with the last 6 people weve hired. Where do you look to find quality employees? Im looking for people that will stay around for years. Weve had guys show up still drunk from the night before, steal work from us, almost fight with the HO, and one even peed off the roof. Yup, you read that correctly. And he still doesnt know why he was terminated.

Also, other than good pay and insurance, what do you offer to keep people around?

Thanks!!
 

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Roofing Relapse
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I've spoken with a friend who has a very large commercial roofing company. He says the best way to find a good roofer is to make one. To hire someone with no experience and train them up on how to roof. While I agree with him 100% in theory, not everyone has the resources that he has, we all know it takes a long time to train someone up, years in fact.

So hiring an experienced roofer is like hiring someone with bad habits. They roof one way but it might not be YOUR way. How many times have you heard, "But we always do it that way." Just because you have always done something one way does not make it right. Maybe you've always done it wrong.

I think the best way to find someone good is referrals. Ask your existing employees and as your colleagues if they know anyone looking for work. Offer them a finders fee if you hire the person and they stick around for 6 months.

Have a specific pre-qualification system in place before you interview. Have a set of interview questions you feel are of the absolute importance to what this person will be doing. TEST their knowledge. If they will be installing shingles, ask them how many squares they can bang down in a day. ask them what minimum code for ice shield is. Ask them what minimum code for ventilation is. Ask them how many nails to put in a shingle. If they have been roofing awhile, they should know all this. Then ask them to show you. If you have a shop area, make up a small mock roof and let them have at it. If you have no shop area send them out to a job site and tell them part of the interview process will be to work for one hour so that your foreman may observe them and gauge them.

Before you hire check their references. Call their previous employers. Ask them why they are not working there anymore. Ask them would they hire them back if given the chance.

Having your foreman observe is of paramount importance. Having someone else observe and re-interview is important because they may see something that you done. Or maybe you are rushing through the hiring process, like I tend to do, because you are so busy with other tasks and just want to get it done (that's a recipe for disaster).

Set in place a specific training process before you let them on the roof. For me, when I hire shinglers I make them take and pass the CertainTeed MSA exam. Tell the foreman to really really keep an eye on what the new hire is doing on the roof. Come up with specific points of review, and have your foreman fill out documentation for each point. At the end of the first week have a review with the new hire. Point out what he is doing well, and what he needs to improve upon. Another thing is to have a manual with all your policies and procedures and making them aware of your manual, policies and rules should also be part of the training process. Explain them before they ever set foot on your job site that if they show up drunk they will be immediately fired. If they show up late 3 times they will be suspended without pay. Etc...

If at any point you think the new hire is not going to work out, cut your losses and fire. Don't keep someone around who isn't worth their pay or may be disruptive. Give them a chance or two, but don't give them 100 chances.

All this takes incredible time, but without these processes the new hire is certain to fail. If they do work out, it's just luck of the draw.


In regards to pay, I used to think if you pay a man well he will do a good job. That simply is not true. They either want to do a good job or they don't care. Either way pay won't motivate a bad person to do well. Having said that if you DO have good employees, you should compensate them well.

In regards to benefits, you can either offer them or not. If you do offer benefits that should reflect in the overall pay structure. Meaning a person who is getting matched on their 401k may make a buck less per hour than someone with no 401k, a person getting matched on their insurance may make a buck less than someone with no insurance. The theory is someone without employment benefits will have to go out on their own and pay for the same benefits. having said that, have you ever gotten a quote on a group health insurance policy?!?!? HOLY COW it's expensive.


How can someone steal work from you? Assuming these are production people didn't you have a signed contract with the home owner? Make each new employee sign two documents, a non disclosure agreement and a non compete agreement. While non compete are notoriously hard to enforce that's because they are usually over bearing. Having a non compete agreement simply state that they will not contact any customers of yours for a period of not less than X years for any business purposes can be enforced. Have similar language in the non disclosure that customer information is considered private and disclosure of this information at any time is grounds for suit. Have your lawyer write these documents.


Peeing on the roof is common. I hate to say it, but on flat roofs, a plumbing pipe can be a pee hole. I am not an advocate of peeing on the roof (though if I am honest I have done it once or twice), but gosh what can be done about it? If it is a large commercial job consider marking a porto-potty into the job price and have it lifted right onto the roof.

All these rules of what you expect them to NOT do should be in your employee manual. Set your expectations up front. The problem with me is though I have a manual, I don't enforce it as well as I should. Non enforcement of the manual is worse than not even having a manual at all.
 

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Roofer530
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Great response, Grumpy! I only have one small thing to add. Try looking at your local Apprenticeship program. You will usually find a man that you can mold into good reliable roofer. I teach the program here in California and each man is given a full set of tools to start class with, I rely on hands on training rather than book work and you can bet if a man is signed up in my class and has a good attendance record,he is interested in the field. Just a thought.
 

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Roofer530
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Grumpy, you know how much o hate to disagree with you, but...
Here in the great state of California the State Apprenticeship Program is open to all. Regardless of race, sex or unionization. California Department of Education changed it for the better in 1990. I, myself, am a HUGE proponent of the program and made many broad and sweeping changes in the program when I began teaching it in 1989. I actively pursued contractors to join. Which became much easier with the 1990 change. Once the Union lost their grip on the class, many contractors joined up. The program is a win-win situation for administration and labor alike. By providing an educated workforce, contractors found their turnover ratio drop dramatically. While the quality of the work being applied rose. I have written agreements that each contractor signs giving the indentured apprentice a guaranteed pay raise every 8 months, as long as certain goals are met in class and on the job site. This agreement allows contractors to bid prevailing wage jobs and NOT have to pay everyone a journeyman wage of $29.70 per hour. But instead pay each apprentice his or her scale rate. As for the men.. they LOVE this program! Nolonger feeling expendable. They WANT to come to work and class. When a man first signs up he is given a full set of start up tools, ($300). If he makes it to the 3rd
level of Apprenticeship, the tools are free. (actually paid for by a fund provided by contractors and small "practice" jobs). If they don't make it, they are supposed to repay the program or return the tools. Believe it or not, I've only had the program stiffed 8 times in all these years. Since teaching this program, I've come to realize that if you make a man feel like part of a team, wanted and responsible, he will flourish. Anyway, sorry this was so looongwinded. But I'm a big fan of the program and its proven success. Grumpy, you talk to those in charge there in Chicago. Give it a try. You never know...
 

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I try to get friends of my best employees. They usually want to work with others that are focused, and they don't like to screw around with laziness. So it helps to ask my best if they know anyone that is looking for a job. Experienced or not, I have found many good people that way who want to learn and work.
 
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