With the unemployment rate hovering around 4 percent, it’s no surprise that the #1 issue facing PMPs throughout the country is how to attract and retain quality employees, the subject of this month’s PCT cover story. And the problem is even more acute in those regions of the United States where the structural pest control industry thrives, including Texas and Florida, where the November unemployment rate, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 3.8 and 3.6 percent, respectively. It is against this backdrop of nearly full employment that the PCT Media Group and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recently partnered on a survey devoted to the topic of employee recruitment and retention. The survey would not have been possible, however, without the support of our corporate sponsor, BASF Professional & Specialty Solutions. The company graciously agreed to underwrite the cost of the research and supplement, resulting in this month’s 12-page Special Report, which is must reading for every PMP in North America.

What did we learn during the process of surveying more than 800 PMPs this past fall? We learned that it’s not easy for PMPs to attract and retain quality employees in the current economic climate. In fact, 61 percent of those surveyed indicated it has become more difficult to attract quality employees in the past three years, with only 10 percent saying it has become less difficult. And what have been the primary factors limiting a PMP’s ability to attract quality employees? The #1 response was a lack of qualified candidates (61%), followed by the poor work ethic of candidates (56%), an improving economy (36%) and job candidates who are disqualified because of their poor driving records (27%). For a complete list of all the reasons PMPs are finding it so difficult to recruit quality employees, see the chart below.

While attracting and retaining quality employees is clearly more difficult today than in the recent past, it’s not impossible if you’re willing to take a creative, pro-active approach to your company’s recruitment and retention efforts. “There’s a famous saying in this industry, that we’re in the people business, not the bug business,” says Burns Blackwell, president and CEO of Terminix-Triad, Greensboro, N.C. “Ultimately, our people are our product. They make our companies what they are. We can’t grow without a solid foundation of good people, and so, recruiting and retaining the right talent is vital to our success.”

Unfortunately, in the current business climate, that’s often easier said than done. Nonetheless, PMPs who are willing to step outside the box and glean valuable insights from the data in our survey will be better equipped to address the burgeoning labor shortage in the structural pest control industry that promises to get worse before it gets better. I’ll be presenting additional data from this study at NPMA Legislative Day in Washington, D.C., on March 19, and at the UPFDA 50th Anniversary Spring Confernce in Chicago on April 18, so mark your calendar if you would like to learn more about this important topic.

The author is publisher of PCT.