Photo illustration depicting a missing painting contractor on an extension ladder

3 Tips for Dealing with the Labor Shortage

By Art Snarzyk

I see it all over the country as I help contractors make good hiring decisions. There is a shortage of tradespeople.

The economic downturn and length of unemployment for craftsmen has led them to find other occupations, leaving a gaping hole in the talent pool.

No doubt you have felt the pain if you have tried hiring skilled workers over the past couple years. Here are a few strategies to consider for adding staff when demand is high and supply is low.

1. Tap your network

Some of your best employees will come through referrals from people you know. The people around you want to help; you just need to show them how. Make it easy for them to identify ideal candidates for you. Provide them with a clear description of the kinds of employees you are looking for.

My clients do this with descriptive job advertisements. The goal is to include enough traits and attributes to make someone say “this is me,” or “I know someone who would love this.”

“I challenge you to open your mind about what makes a great painter. With some forward thinking and planning, you can set up your business with great tradespeople to capitalize on future growth.”

Describe ideal candidates, what they love, how they work, your work environment, who you serve, what you believe in.

Then let the world know. Share with your employees, your colleagues, other contractors, your vendors, your clients. Don’t be concerned sharing with people you know. You have nothing to be embarrassed about – you are growing and you know exactly the kind of person you want on your team! In fact, by being this descriptive, your job advertisement doubles as a business advertisement: These are the kind of quality people we will have working in your home or office.

2. Converts from other trades

The same qualities and attributes that make a good painter translate well from other trades: technical work you can be proud of, working with your hands, the satisfaction of seeing results rather quickly, and a certain degree of autonomy.

Look into some of the more exhausting trades or those that are hard on one’s body and set out feelers by writing a job advertisement that gets them curious about the painting industry. Our work can be tough, but not as strenuous as some others’ work. A recent client had luck converting seasoned floor layers by “giving their backs and knees a break.”

3. Look outside the field

I challenge you to open your mind about what makes a great painter. Of course, when you need people, you need them now. In that case, do what you must to meet business demands. With some additional forward thinking and planning, you can set up your business with great tradespeople to capitalize on future growth.

You already know that with a little patience, you can get the right person up to speed in a short time. It is true that businesses “hire skill and fire attitude.” If you start with the attitude, you already know you can train the skill.

Great people work in all industries. There are many people working jobs that do not have some of the perks that a painting career has.

Think of the restaurant server that showed some hustle and wowed you with service. Think of the weekend bagger at the grocery store who stacked your food conscientiously while still giving you a smile. They have the attributes that you would love to have on your team, and interfacing with your clients.

Of course, they will need to learn some technical skills, but you or existing staff can do that. These folks might be wishing for a more predictable schedule, a steady career, or a trade that gives them pride.

Bottom line

Be clear, keep your eyes open, and you will see the opportunities for growing your team in a tough market.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of PPC magazine. It was written by Art Snarzyk, owner of InnerView Advisors, also known as the “Turnover Terminator” for helping businesses attract, hire, and manage high-performing employees. You can reach him at art@innerviewadvisors.com. More business-building stories can be found on the Sherwin-Williams painting contractor website.