History shows every generation’s best and brightest will go where the greatest opportunities are, notes Tony Misura, president of Misura Group. The trouble is, he adds, the LBM industry is not that place.
This is a particular problem for Misura because his Minneapolis-based firm gets paid to find executive talent for building material suppliers. He and Bill Tucker, account executive with Charlotte, N.C.-based recruiting company Schaffer Associates, both say they’re finding it hard to locate people in their late 20s to early 40s who are available to fill middle-management positions.
“The best, brightest and those most comfortable with risk left the LBM industry,” Misura says. And what makes this particularly disturbing is that many of those who left didn’t go voluntarily; they were pushed out the door by companies that needed to cut staff and often chose to do so by firing the newest, youngest workers.
With the housing industry beginning to creep upwards, though, the industry is in need of those minds. “Our phone is beginning to ring and we’re getting people inquiring about hiring,” says Tucker, who until recently was president of the Florida Building Material Association (and who left that job earlier than first planned because the group had to downsize.)
The headhunters’ job is compounded by what they describe as unrealistic expectations of current upper-management officials regarding how many potential hires there are. And when they do find a potential candidate, Misura and Tucker find lots of nervousness about pursuing new opportunities.
As a result, they say, many execs nearing retirement may have to work longer than planned. In addition, the talent they find might be in their 40s and early 50s, not their 20s and 30s, so the replacements will not be the long-term fix many would like to hire.
“With Baby Boomers beginning to retire, there’s not going to be a lot of people in the market to find,” Tucker says. “We think it’s going to be a tumultuous period of employment.”
Misura says many of the high-level executives looking to hire come with unrealistic expectations of what the recruiters will find. LBM execs mistakenly believe there is a big pool of talent in the industry, in part because their definition of talent doesn’t match up with Misura’s.
Executives that survived the downturn tend to be “highly adaptable, highly creative, innovative and effective at providing value in today’s market,” Misura says. But when they look for replacements, he says, “they’re finding individuals that are not adaptable, that are not re-creating themselves, and they are not innovative.”
Tucker believes generational gaps pose a problem. “When you look at the group that’s coming in, who will be running the company 10 to 15 years from now, they’re very concerned about social media and the Internet as they were things they were raised on” says Tucker. “But their concerns don’t necessarily translate to those people who are hiring them.”
Adding to that is the unhappiness that many of the prospective execs feel after having gone through wage freezes, benefit reductions, and increased workloads. Sometimes, they could make them fed up with their current position and interested in seeking new opportunities. But for those same reasons, other prospects have been unwilling to take risks and pursue more lucrative opportunities.
“The top talents are afraid to expose themselves,” says Misura. “They’re not confident enough to vet the company doing the hiring.”
Misura adds another trend that matters more than ever: the likelihood that dad will stay put rather than seek a move because he has to consider the needs of children and a spouse—particularly a working spouse. Still, Misure adds that those who are willing to pursue new opportunities, embrace change, and encourage innovation are going to be considered the top-level talent moving forward.