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The Year in People: 4* of LBM's Top Placement Firms Assess a Tight Market

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

* Editor's Note: Dan Robinette, senior recruiter at GRN (Global Recruiters Network) Hudson, added his own commentary when this story was published on LinkedIn. Since Robinette's comments also have value, they have been added below.

Webb Analytics' monthly people roundups have tracked changes involving 1,241 folks at hundreds of LBM operations this year. Thousands more jobs that we didn't spot likely have changed hands, in part through help provided by construction supply's leading recruitment and job-placement firms. Recently, Webb Analytics asked leaders from The Misura Group, SnapDragon Associates, Building Gurus, and LBM Executive Recruiting for their views of what happened in 2023 and what you can expect in 2024. Here's a summary.

Huge Salaries

Sky-high lumber prices in 2021 and 2022 generated high profits and, in turn, "compensation increases at a rate I have never witnessed in 25 years," The Misura Group's Tony Misura said. "General Managers who once received $40,000 bonuses earned $100,000 to $200,000 bonuses. The number of OSRs making over $1 million in commission has gone from a news story to commonplace."

Most In-Demand Jobs

For The Misura Group, it was General Managers for Truss and Wall Panel plants. For Rikka Brandon of Building Gurus, it's yard workers. "It's a challenging job, requiring physical strength, working out in the elements, and it often doesn't pay competitively," she said. "This leads to a lot of applicants, a lot of no-shows for interviews, and a lot of short-term employees.  It's time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting to have a critical part of your business feel like it's got a revolving door. If you consider [the Society for Human Resources Management's] belief that turnover costs 30% of the individual's annual salary. This is a huge 'invisible' cost to most companies."

Holistic Leaders and Integrators

At SnapDragon, the most challenging role to fill was well-rounded senior leaders "who possess a comprehensive understanding across a more significant portion of business, including sales, IT, operations, and finance," Mark Barnard said. "These senior leaders are expected to navigate complex challenges, drive growth, and make strategic decisions that impact the entire organization."

Jim Enter, who works with Bill Tucker on LBM Executive Recruiter projects, said he regards as refreshing clients who now are willing "to look at candidates for senior level positions that may bring fresh perspectives from other industries. As one client told me, 'We function like everyone else in the industry, I am looking for fresh approaches to how we manage our business.'"

Tony Misura said one big theme in 2023 was the demand for people who can integrate businesses. "In 2021-2022, we saw a raft of acquisitions and consolidations; they kept operating as status quo, often held together with duct tape and baling wire," he said. "It takes an exceptional leader to blend cultures and create an alignment of goals and a shared risk environment. One client had nine different ERPs to integrate."

Expect integrators to be the most in-demand job in 2024, he said. That's a change from 2023, when Directors of Purchasing were most in demand.

Staff Development

Barnard and Brandon both said they've noticed more emphasis on companies developing their own staffs as part of increased succession planning. "Many leaders seem to be aware that this is a significant challenge and it's unlikely to get better in the next 5-10 years," Brandon said. "So, they're being proactive and looking at ways to become an employer of choice, train/grow their own, and retain their current employees."

Added Barnard: "Building Products clients are prioritizing the development of their overall bench strength. This means building a strong pool of qualified candidates who can fill various roles within the organization. It involves talent acquisition strategies continuously identifying, attracting, and nurturing potential employees to ensure a robust talent pipeline."

Heavy Demand for Recruiters

*We saw an increase in the number of companies reaching out to us to help with critical and urgent positions," Brandon said. "This isn't surprising due to the lower volume of experienced talent in our industry. I noticed that there seemed to be less 'sticker shock' this year for leaders and companies that haven't worked with a professional recruiter in the past."

SnapDragon experienced the most significant growth in its 20-year history, shattering its records for successful hires and for billing.

It's a Seller's Market, So Expect to Pay Up

Combine market competition, skills shortages, cost of living issues (especially if moving is involved), and greater transparency on salaries and benefits, and it's prospects have an advantage in negotiations these days, the recruiters said. That has made recruiters' job tougher; despite doubling its resources for data and recruting, it still took The Misura Group 50% longer on average to fill a job. "Comments like, 'My boss is an ass, the company culture is toxic, but I am making more money than I ever have in my life' has been a typical response from talent," Tony Misura said.


Here are Dan Robinette's comments:

"I've noticed talent acquisition changes as it pertains to recruitment agencies on both ends of the spectrum ($1B+ companies, and under $100M). Larger firms that traditionally relied on internal recruitment for a vast majority of their recruiting have increased their need for highly qualified candidates sourced through external sources. And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, smaller companies that have never used recruiters, or have only used them sporadically on a limited basis have increased their need for 3rd party recruitment as well.

"I believe these changes are stemming from the same root cause: a lack of highly qualified candidates applying for open positions. 

"Additionally, as it pertains to building materials manufactures, we've seen an increased need for Engineers, especially Continuous Improvement, Process, and Controls Engineers. The lack of floor level employees has stymied production and is being compensated for by increasing efficiency and decreasing the need for headcount. ...

"The days of the "post-and-pray-resume-slinger" recruiter raking in easy fees have passed; my days are full of phone calls and in-depth conversations about candidates' career goals, and how my clients can provide the growth candidates require."

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