These days, finding jobs is the least of a remodeler's worries. The real challenge is completing the jobs in the hopper, and for that having enough skilled workers is more than half the battle.

Hiring Well

While finding good prospects often proves the harder task (see sidebar below), it's important not to blow it once you find good people. Unfortunately, getting off on the right foot often means learning the hard way.

Here are 6 common hiring mistakes to avoid:

  1. Failing to set clear job performance expectations—or, conversely, not enforcing set expectations.
  2. Expecting new employees to be able to do the job without any training.
  3. Hiring too quickly, or hiring workers who don’t fit the job’s qualifications.
  4. Hiring based on a single interview rather than bringing valued employees into the interview process.
  5. Starting employees off with too high of a salary so that they have little incentive to improve.
  6. Basing raises for new hires on annual reviews rather than on demonstrated performance benchmarks throughout the year.

Retaining Workers

The biggest heartbreak for many remodelers in the past few years has been losing workers. It's especially painful when an employee jumps to a competitor, but these days, workers are also leaving to join other industries.

Compensation. To attract and retain skilled workers, compensation is critical. Robert Criner, owner of Criner Construction, learned that lesson some years back when one of his best workers told him that he was leaving to work for a competing remodeling company simply because thatcompany was willing to pay $1 more per hour. Criner thought that he was paying fairly. But after doing some research, he discovered that he was paying a full dollar less an hour than his competition. “I gave everyone a $1 an hour raise on the spot,” says Criner, president of Criner Remodeling, in Newport News, Va. “But I still lost a good man.”

Beyond compensation. But paying enough is only the beginning. Tim Faller, "master of production" at Remodelers Advantage urges remodelers to look beyond compensation. "These days you need to create a working environment where people feel like they’re really appreciated.” One way to do this: Show workers you value them, urges Faller, by helping them solve problems—offering flextime for working parents who need to pick up kids, for instance—can be as enticing as high wages.

In a survey of remodelers, we uncovered these 10 other ideas for employee perks that can set your company apart:

  1. Tuition reimbursement.
  2. Flexible work schedules to take time for family or personal issues.
  3. Tool purchasing. Buy employees’ tools and allow payback through automatic, interest-free paycheck deductions.
  4. Conference attendance and paid training at regional and national events.
  5. Use of a company vehicle, or mileage when using personal vehicles.
  6. Logo’d shirts/uniforms paid for by the company.
  7. Discounts, such as gym subsidies.
  8. Seasonal benefits, such as a shorter workday on Fridays during the summer.
  9. Free food to celebrate birthdays or other significant events.
  10. Birthdays off. These days can be set before or after the date; it's the thought that will count.