Labor shortage now? Ha! Just wait.

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I have an older brother.

He’s a tall, skinny redhead like me, except better looking.


After graduating from Illinois State University in ’99, he went to work for a home builder in Colorado.


The builder had some general training.

Not much active coaching.

Very little feedback.

No appreciation.


My brother was/is ambitious, smart and motivated—he had plenty of options for new work.

Six months in, he decided to quit.


The Project Manager was shocked.

“Why? You’ve done great with our training! You’re easy to coach! The feedback has been all positive! We really appreciate your hard work!”



This was the first my brother was hearing about any of this.



“Wait—what if we gave you more money?” the PM proposed.

“It’s not about money,” my brother replied.


“What if we gave you . . . a lot more money?” his boss asked, throwing out a number.

My brother agreed—that was a lot more money . . . but no.

“That’s flattering, but it’s not about money. I’ve made up my mind.”



On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a handful of executive actions on immigration. A primary aspect was deportation relief for 4 million unauthorized immigrants who could apply for a 3-year work permit.



According to a Pew Research Center analysis, “the largest group consists of unauthorized immigrant parents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and have children who either were born in the U.S. or are legal permanent residents.”


Let’s sidestep the politics here and focus on something we can all agree on— enlightened self-interest.

What’s best for me?

Great question.


For those in the construction industry, that’s easily answered in two words.

It depends.


This executive order will provide many Hispanics (but nowhere near 4M, just watch) with something they’ve never had before in this country. It will provide one of the most fundamental, universal human needs.




Even if it’s only for 3 years (which it’s not, this is the “path to citizenship,” just watch) that’s more certainty than many Hispanics have ever had before.


With certainty comes options—where to live, where to work, where to dream.



An uncertain mind does nothing.

Once settled, Hispanics traditionally stay put.

The uncertainty of their permanence results in inaction.


For example, they may dislike their job or their boss or both—but if it affords some certainty, there is too much risk in looking for something better. That something better could lead to deportation. In that light, this job/boss/both becomes quite bearable.


With a newfound certainty, however, many Hispanics will now vote with their feet. They will be able to choose where to live, where to work, where to dream.


For an enlightened, self-interested soul like yourself, this certainty may benefit you—or it may severely limit your ability to conduct business as usual.



If you’ve trained your Hispanic employees well, coached them to improved performance, offered candid feedback and shown them appreciation . . . your business will attract talented Hispanic workers.


The talent will come to you.

No labor shortage for you.


However, if you’ve failed to train, coach, offer feedback or appreciate your Hispanic employees . . . well, you’re going to see good people leave.


The talent will exit quickly.

One hot plate of labor shortage—coming right up.



If the Hispanics working with you now are ambitious, smart and motivated—they’ll have plenty of options for new work. Are you prepared for that certainty?


Hispanic employees want the same things we all do:

  • training
  • coaching
  • feedback
  • appreciation


Provide these and you’ll do fine.

Fail to provide these and you’ll pay—one way or the other.


Shortly after my brother left his job in home building, I asked him a question.

“Had your boss communicated earlier about what he really thought of you,” I asked, “would you have stayed?”


The answer was quick.

“Hell yes! They offered me a ton of money to stay!”




Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry. He can be reached at

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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1 reply

  1. I can’t believe you remembered that conversation…true story… CEOs apparently remember those life lessons more vividly than the rest of us. Keep those posts coming, good stuff.

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