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Next-Gen Construction

How prioritizing professional development creates a competitive workforce

The changing workforce prioritizes career development above nearly all else. Investing in your employees and implementing technology are two notable ways to give your business a competitive edge.

Stefanie Couch
Stefanie Couch, founder, Build Women

An estimated 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by next year, says Stefanie Couch, founder of Build Women. With the changing workforce must come a change to how companies approach employee recruitment and retention. Two of the biggest ways to do this, says Couch, is through technology and professional development.

Couch, whose father owned a lumberyard, grew up in the building materials industry and has loved it from a young age. “Windows and doors are in my blood,” she says. As her career progressed, however, she often was the only woman in the room, which she described as lonely.

“There were so many times I wished for a female mentor or coworker to bounce things off from the perspective of a female,” she recalls. “As women, we operate differently. We have different superpowers than men. Studies have proven women leaders have more EQ and empathy than men, so we do lead and make decisions differently.”

Prioritize Career Development for Next-Gen Employees

Couch encourages companies to have a strategic plan for recruitment and retention. Millennials and Gen Z prioritize career development, even over salary sometimes. “Show people why your company is a great place to work, the work value and a career trajectory,” she advises. “Gen Z knows if they develop amazing skills the salary will automatically go up. We as an industry need to prioritize development.”

Couch and her husband are developing programs focusing on tactical topic training, such as differences between interior and exterior doors, hollow core versus solid core interior doors, and other nuances people don’t know if they’re new to the industry, she says, as well as soft skills like programming. It’s that type of training, she says, that will retain employees once you get them in the door.

“Retain them with development, show them you care and are vested in their success and your company’s success for the future,” Couch says. “That’s how we’re going to change the industry. We have to prioritize things they care about. We have to think about the work style and type of lifestyle they want and figure out how to make the industry adhere to some of that. It’s not perfect; you’ll never change the whole industry to be the perfect job for everyone, but we have to shift those views that what the Boomers and Gen X thought was acceptable might not work for the next generation. We have to shift our mindset and our own expectations. That is the key.”

Win the Talent War By Retaining Employees

Although the younger generations may have a reputation for job hopping, it’s often for the sake of pursuing professional development opportunities. If a current employer can’t offer development, an employee will seek one that can. “It’s really scary to leave a job you know,” says Couch. “The unknown and change is scary. Think about how important development is for someone to take that leap. If we can prioritize developing people internally, have a healthy culture and a job someone enjoys and can keep doing, they will stay.”

She believes as companies start prioritizing professional development, more Millennials and Gen Zers will stay. “They’ll be winning the talent war,” she says. “The talent war is your competitive edge. You can win with two fronts in business. Number one is technology. Number two is your people. If you have an amazing technology base in your business and you have a competitive workforce and you’re developing them, you’re almost unstoppable.”

Relationship Building

The window and door industry is very much a relationship industry. With women representing only about 10% of the construction industry, a figure that drops to about 2% to 4% in the trades, Couch created Build Women as a women’s leadership platform, so women never feel alone like Couch did in a leadership role. Build Women creates a network of individuals from across the entire industry to ask questions of, look for a new job and use as a resource.

Couch also speaks to women working hard to build trust in their construction careers. She remembers early in her career, some male clients asking to speak with a man and not wanting to talk with a woman. Once that woman won a person over through building trust and a relationship, however, they wouldn’t want to talk to anyone else. “Once you get that loyalty it’s a true bond these clients have with women because they know that person really cares about them and is taking their best interest to heart. That’s a big lesson for women and men in the industry is to give people a chance to get to that level of comfort. Don’t assume no one is ever going to trust you because you’re new and don’t know anything. Continue on until you get to that point. Those really deep relationships can be built, and I think women are exceptional at that.”

Next Steps and Resources

“My goal is to innovate and redesign the next generation of construction by using technology, education and branding. These tools and paths will change the construction workforce and fill this giant labor gap we have.” - Stefanie Couch

  • Build Women. Connect and network with professionals across the entire industry. Join the Build Women network for free. 
  • ConstructU. Coming this summer, this education platform will feature tactical classes about how to thrive as a person in the construction industry, with a special focus on windows and doors. Stay tuned here.
  • The Grit BluePrint Podcast. This podcast addresses the grit it takes to be successful in the construction industry. Myriad topics will be addressed, such as marketing, sales, products, mental health and personal development. Start listening in late March on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.


Laurie Cowin headshot

Laurie Cowin

Laurie Cowin is editor of Window + Door. Contact her at