Remodelers often say that they “hire to retire” and “promote from within.” Employees already in the fold know the company's systems, and require less training in the new position than someone from outside would. That means a smoother transition when a position does open up, saving time, money, and aggravation.

For the most part, employees would welcome the opportunity to move up the career ladder. They'd make more money, face interesting new challenges, and develop new skills.

“It's very important to show that the company is interested in [employees] as individuals,” says Jay Jamrog, senior vice president of research at the Institute for Corporate Productivity, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Jamrog adds that people want to feel “employable,” noting that they “can't trust a company to give [them] a job for life.”

So if remodelers would prefer that their employees advance within their company, and the employees would like to develop within the organization, why do so few remodelers have plans in place to facilitate this?

THE LADDER(S) OF ADVANCEMENT It may simply be that many are too small. “Where can you go?” asks Susan Pierce, co-owner of Commonwealth Home Remodelers, in Vienna, Va., where there are two categories of field employees: carpenters and project managers. “There are no ranks to move up.”

It's a fair argument. Unlike, say, the U.S. Army —which may very well be the best example of how career tracks work — small companies with just one or two employees won't have the same ladder of advancement that a larger company will, and even medium-sized organizations, like Commonwealth Home Remodelers, often don't have much variety in their field positions.

In the former case, Shawn McCadden, REMODELING columnist and onetime remodeling company owner, concedes that those remodelers with very small staffs will have to employ people who aren't interested in “moving up,” or resign themselves to the fact that they'll lose employees at some point.

In a medium-sized or larger company that doesn't have a hierarchy of field positions, the goal should be to challenge employees while allowing them to do what they enjoy and are good at. Last summer, Commonwealth Home Remodelers held a series of companywide meetings and determined that a large part of the staff was interested in green design. The company began taking big steps toward becoming more green, and the new focus “breathed new life” into the organization, Pierce says. “Several people stepped up and said ‘Let us learn about it.'”

Jamrog says that employers interested in retaining employees should be willing to help them develop in any career they want. That could even mean helping them go back to school for a career completely unrelated to remodeling. “If someone works for me for five years while going to law school, I have them for those five years,” he says. “You're going to have some turnover — you might as well keep people for as long as you can.”

It may be that building a career track — and the accompanying development plan — is too time-consuming, although those who have put in the time and effort to develop a system for advancement say it's well worth it.