I just spent a week in Tulsa, Okla., visiting my stepson, as he begins training for a new job as a window installer. Alex took the technical route through high school and learned construction technology. He spent his first year after graduation working for a company that remodels banks. Now he wants to learn a new skill – installing windows. Of course, I think he made a great choice!

Window installation is a critical skill in the fenestration industry. Yet, in many areas of the country, there is a severe shortage of qualified installers. In most cases where a window complaint is registered, the customer blames it on the window itself—possibly because proper window installation is oftentimes assumed and is taken for granted. But the truth is, one can build a perfect window yet have it fail all too soon because of improper window installation. Proper window installation is critical to a manufacturer’s success!

The sad part of this story is that there aren’t very many Alex’s out there lining up to become window installers. I asked a handful of window company owners if young men are applying for jobs to become installers and the answers I received were rather disappointing. “The average age of our window installers is 45 to 50,” says one plant manager, adding, “Unfortunately, it is not a job that attracts young people these days.”

So, what will the window industry do 20 years from now when all of the good window installers are retired? Where will be the next generation to replace them? If we do not change company culture now to attract these types of skilled professionals, then down the road our industry will face even more severe shortages of qualified installers, which will surely hamper future industry growth.

There are three things that window companies can do to attract and keep qualified window installers:

1. An Elite Training Program

Don’t just hand the new guy a pry bar, drill and caulking gun, sending him out the door to install windows. Teach your installer how your windows are built, how they operate, what makes them tick and what makes them fail. The more your installer knows about your windows, the better he or she will relate to proper installation procedures. It helps to give them the complete picture. Your installer spends more time with your customer than anyone else in your window company, even more than the salesperson who sold the job. Should a customer ask the installer questions about your window during the installation process, you want your installer to be able to answer any question the homeowner may have. The installer is a direct reflection of your window company and can leave a lasting impression upon your customer. This may drive repeat business and referrals. So, part of the training should address customer interaction and satisfaction. Your installer can make a positive impression upon your customer or make the customer second guess his or her decision about buying from your company in the first place. Make it the former and not the latter.

Proper and ongoing training also instills confidence and pride into your window installers and makes them proud of their profession. Consider participation in the FGIA program for Certified Window Installers. Certified installers are trained on best practices and installation techniques based on industry standards for both new construction and replacement projects. Having your installers qualify as a certified door and window installer is a huge selling feature that your salespeople will appreciate, and it will also give your customers peace of mind knowing that your company’s installers have been trained on industry best practices for installation procedures.

2. Have a Program in Place for Advancement

Outline various proficiency levels and associate pay increases with each. You don’t want your installers to think that they are in a dead-end job, so reward them with pay increases as their levels of proficiency grow. Senior installers can be called upon to conduct training exercises with new hires. Those qualifying as Certified Window Installers should get promoted to the highest pay grade.

3. Consider Profit Sharing

There is nothing that motivates an installer to do his or her best more than a profit- sharing plan. When installations are done correctly and efficiently, warranty work is avoided and profits are improved. By enabling your installers to share the corporation’s quarterly earnings, you are sending the message that your company is also their company. Nothing does more to inspire strong work ethics and integrity than offering the people who are so key to your company’s success a share in its profits. It makes them more than just employees—it makes them business partners.

Yes, window installers are a pivotal part of your company’s success. So, our industry cannot let a shortage of qualified installers hamper future growth. Now is the time to put programs in place that will attract the necessary talent to help stoke the future growth of the fenestration industry!

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