It’s often said that any company’s greatest asset is its people, and this definitely is true for refrigeration contractors. Sure, the refrigeration industry is heavily focused on products and equipment and technology. And don’t forget chemicals – trying to keep track of all the refrigerant changes is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Yet if equipment is the lifeblood of the HVACR industry, then the people at refrigeration companies are its beating heart. And it clearly is in your best interest -- as the contractor whose name is on the door and on the trucks -- to keep your people as happy as possible.

That’s why a recent study caught my eye. It’s titled “The 2016 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey: Employee Experience as a Business Driver.” SHRM stands for the Society of Human Resource Management; Globoforce is a “recognition provider” that specializes in engaging and encouraging employees. The survey was of 798 HR professionals from a wide range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries across the United States.

The survey’s executive summary states: “Organizations today face a myriad of talent challenges—most notably in the areas of retention/turnover, engagement, and recruitment. To really move the needle in each of these areas, HR leaders are shifting their focus from human capital management to creating a more human employee experience. More companies are finding that recognition, appreciation, and human workplace practices improve overall employee experience and fuel business performance.”

There are a couple of important points in that statement. The first is that employees appreciate being treated like humans (imagine that!). The second is the idea that a positive employee experience will help fuel business performance. You’re in business to do the right things for your customers, but you’re also in business to turn a profit. Happy employees can help you do that by creating happy customers, with the end result being a successful and stable company.

And the importance of stability can’t be overestimated: For the second year in a row, retention topped the survey’s list of HR challenges. Keeping talent was cited by 46 percent of the organizations surveyed – almost double the 25 percent that cited it just four years ago in the 2012 survey. 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: the 2016 SHRM survey notes that Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.4 in September 2016. This ratio peaked at 6.6 back in 2009 and has been steadily declining ever since. Meanwhile, the number of job openings has trended steadily upward since a low in July 2009 and has now surpassed pre-recession levels.

As the survey points out: “A few years ago, workers may have tolerated a less than satisfactory experience at work for the sake of job security. In today’s job market, all the power is in the hands of job seekers. Workers have more confidence—and more options—to look at better opportunities outside of their organization.”

So what can owners and managers do to create a company with a happy and stable workforce? The survey offers a few tips:

● Create recognition programs tied to organizational values and back them up with 1 percent or more of payroll.

● Offer “human workplace” programs, such as health and wellness, learning and development, and recognition and appreciation.

● Ditch the old annual review method of performance management and focus more on coaching and mentoring.

“We found that those organizations focusing on the employee experience are more likely to win workplace culture awards, giving them a competitive edge in attracting talent,” the survey concluded.

The reminder for refrigeration contractors who might be caught up in the technological and chemical whirlwind that makes up the equipment side of the business is that the people side of your business is just as important – if not more so. Programs to keep your employees happy can pay huge dividends for your company in the long run.

And finally, think about this: How cool would it be if your employees rallied around the positive workplace environment at your company and nominated it in The NEWS’ Best Contractors to Work For contest? Well, only you can answer that (but admit it: it would be really cool and you would be super proud). So start today. Think about the culture you want at your company and then make it happen through recognition, human programs, and coaching. And check out our 2016 Best Contractors to Work For stories for ideas and inspiration.

Publication date: 3/1/2017

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