Engaging and Inspiring Our Workforces

A few weeks ago, while I was visiting a customer, I had the opportunity to spend some time with two of the company’s newest sales team members. One was an industry veteran, coming on with significant experience in the fenestration industry; the other, a younger man coming out of college with a degree in construction management.

In their new roles, both are focused on architectural sales. We visited a few of the company’s larger glazing contractors in the area to discuss some of companies latest investments (automation, service, support) and the real value that will bring to the table.

I share this because at numerous turns throughout my trip, I saw a real eagerness to learn and succeed from the new sales professionals. And beyond that, I saw how a passion for the work that we do as an industry can ignite new opportunities for collaboration and success as we continue to deal with an ongoing labor shortage. Here are a couple of takeaways:

Breaking down boundaries. There’s a lot to be said for taking a walk in another person’s shoes. During my trip, and throughout similar trips I’ve had in the past, the opportunity to interface with those outside the glass shop itself can’t be overvalued.

As glass manufacturers, it can be easy to lose sight of what happens after product leaves the floor. Out of sight, out of mind, right? In this recent scenario, interacting with glazing professionals helped this sales team better understand their customers’ wants and needs, based on real experience in the field. Working together, collaborating, makes the experience a greater success for all parties.

From a broader perspective, closer collaboration between all parties can lead to great things when it comes to architectural glass. Take the MERGE Program, recently reported on by USGlass, intended to unite architect students and apprentice glaziers, “to enhance the academic experience of architecture students specific to the use of glass, and for them to gain a better understanding of construction methodologies related to their designs.”

Bringing the trades together, to have them understand each other, their needs and their goals, can be an inspiring thing. And at a time when maintaining employee engagement is so critical, we should be seeking these opportunities constantly.

On their level. And as technology evolves, we have new ways to connect. On my trip, the younger sales representative told me a bit about his college days and his areas of study and his experience with Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. This working knowledge of BIM better enables him to “speak the language” and better demonstrates how he can bring real value to architectural customers beyond just providing a great product.

I think it’s a good example of connecting with people in new ways on their own terms, which becomes all the more important when we’re trying to bridge generation gaps across the industry.

I’ll share another, different example on connecting: The 2018 IGMA Winter Conference hosted guest speaker Dustin Anderson, owner of Anderson Glass in Waco, Texas, also known for his frequent appearances on the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper. USGlass caught up with him for an interview, where he shared his opinion on how we can continue bringing people into our industry.

“Industry has become more of an artistry than slapping in a piece of glass,” Dustin says in the video. “There’s a movement for young folks to start using their hands and doing more stuff that’s creative, and I think those things tie together.”

He further notes the importance of meeting younger generations on their level, citing the use of social media and other techniques, and the necessity of communicating the “cool stuff” our industry can do when it comes to architectural glass and design.

And I’ll say that Dustin walks the walk. I had a chance to chat with him myself at the conference. His being a recognizable HGTV personality, he was gracious enough to FaceTime with my daughter—a Fixer Upper fan extraordinaire. She was thrilled.

I think we should keep some of these things in mind as we continue working toward engaging younger workers to grow our businesses. Being eager to learn and connect is going to be invaluable moving forward. Regardless of our age or experience we all need to teach and learn.

Joe Erb is a commercial sales specialist at Quanex Building Products.