Hiring and retaining top-quality talent can often feel like an uphill battle for specialty trade contractors and small home builders. While larger companies often have the resources and brand recognition to attract skilled workers, smaller contractors frequently find themselves struggling to fill positions with qualified, reliable employees. Let’s explore why this issue is so prevalent and examine potential solutions to overcome these challenges.


The Talent Shortage in Specialty Trades

One fundamental problem specialty trade contractors face is the overall shortage of skilled labor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry is expected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029. Despite this growth, the pool of skilled workers is not expanding at the same rate, leading to fierce competition for top talent.

Adding to this challenge is the aging workforce. The median age of construction workers is now 42, which is older than the typical U.S. worker. Nearly one in four construction workers is 55 or older, and many are approaching retirement age. Over the next decade, approximately 40% of the current U.S. construction workforce is expected to retire. This impending wave of retirements will exacerbate the existing labor shortages and create significant gaps in the industry.


The Problem with Available Talent

Often, the individuals available for hire in the specialty trades are those who have been let go from other companies. This can sometimes mean that the candidates in the job market are not the top performers but rather those who may have been deemed less effective or reliable. Consequently, specialty contractors may find themselves choosing from a less-than-ideal pool of candidates, which can significantly impact the quality of work and overall productivity.

Even if you manage to hire a decent candidate, there’s the issue of getting them up to speed with your company’s specific processes and standards. Unlike larger firms that might have extensive training programs, smaller contractors often lack the resources to provide comprehensive onboarding. As a result, new hires might spend considerable time getting accustomed to how things are done at your company, which can strain existing team members and delay project timelines.


High Expectations from Top Talent

When specialty contractors do manage to attract high-quality candidates, retaining them presents another significant challenge. A-players come with high expectations. They seek environments where they can thrive, grow, and feel valued. For these top performers, certain factors are non-negotiable:

1. Clear Expectations and Standards: Top talent craves clarity. They want to know exactly what’s expected from day one. No vague instructions or murky job descriptions. They need well-documented procedures, standards, and benchmarks to understand their roles and responsibilities clearly.

2. Training and Development: Continuous learning and professional development are crucial. They want assurance that their employers will invest in their growth, offering training programs and opportunities to enhance their skills.

3. Organizational Cohesion: High-performing employees thrive in environments where everyone is on the same page. They need to know that their colleagues are equally well-trained and that the company operates smoothly with well-documented processes.

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The Importance of Documentation and Systems

For specialty trade contractors to successfully hire and retain top talent, they must focus on creating a structured, supportive work environment. This starts with documenting procedures and implementing robust systems. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Repeatable Hiring Process: Develop a clear, repeatable hiring process that helps identify the best candidates. This involves creating detailed job descriptions, standardizing interview questions, and using consistent evaluation criteria. By systematizing the hiring process, contractors can ensure they are selecting the right people for the right roles.

2. Documented Systems and Procedures: Having well-documented systems in place is crucial. This means outlining every aspect of the job, from daily tasks to long-term goals. When new employees come on board, they should have access to comprehensive manuals and guides that detail how things are done in the company.

3. Training Programs: Invest in training programs that not only help new hires get up to speed but also provide ongoing development opportunities for existing employees. This demonstrates a commitment to their growth and helps build loyalty.

4. Hiring Outside the Industry: By documenting systems and procedures, contractors can broaden their hiring pool to include candidates from outside the construction industry. With the right training and a solid onboarding process, individuals from other fields can bring fresh perspectives and valuable skills to the company.


Creating a Supportive Environment

A critical aspect of retaining top talent is ensuring that they feel supported and valued. This means more than just having systems in place; it requires a cultural shift within the company:

1. Leadership and Communication: Effective leadership and open communication are vital. Leaders must be accessible, provide regular feedback, and foster an inclusive work environment where employees feel their contributions are recognized.

2. Career Growth Opportunities: Offering clear career progression paths helps retain top talent. Employees need to see potential for growth within the company, whether through promotions, new responsibilities, or skill development opportunities.

3. Work-Life Balance: Recognizing the importance of work-life balance can significantly impact employee satisfaction and retention. Flexible working hours, understanding personal commitments, and creating a supportive workplace culture all contribute to higher retention rates.

4. Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Offering competitive salaries and benefits packages is essential. While financial compensation is not the only factor, it is a significant one. Benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and bonuses can make a difference in attracting and retaining top talent.



Hiring and retaining top-quality talent for specialty trade contractors and small home builders is a challenging endeavor, but it is not insurmountable. By understanding the unique demands of the industry and addressing the specific needs of skilled workers, specialty trade contractors can build a workforce that is not only capable but also committed to the company’s long-term success.

Implementing structured hiring processes, documenting systems and procedures, investing in training, and creating a supportive environment are all critical steps toward achieving this goal. By doing so, specialty trade contractors can ensure that they attract and retain the best talent, ultimately leading to higher productivity, better quality work, and a more robust bottom line.

If you’re a contractor looking for a solution to document your systems and streamline your operations, schedule a demo with Subtrak today. Our comprehensive software platform helps contractors create well-documented procedures, establish effective training resources, and ensure that every team member is on the same page, setting your business up for long-term success.