Good HVACR technicians are increasingly hard to find. Tight labor markets and low unemployment rates are forcing home service companies to rethink their approaches to recruiting and employee retention.
On the bright side, there are plenty of ways that home service companies can still land talented techs. They just need to think outside the box and dedicate more time and focus to keep the talent pipeline pumping.
HVACR contractors are constantly juggling the demands of the job. Taking care of scheduling, managing customer service, and still running a business is no easy feat. It’s easy to understand why there never seems to be enough time to devote to recruiting as well. But the crucial task of finding candidates needs to be a priority, or your bottom line will begin to suffer.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Here’s something to consider that can make spending that extra time more palatable: Each technician is worth about $300,000 to $400,000 in annual revenue, so a little bit of investment in recruiting goes a long way. Hiring one field person a month is achievable. Managers just have to work aggressively and intelligently to make it happen. Dedicating more time to the process is the first step toward improving recruiting.
Start thinking of recruitment like marketing and sales, looking for ways to impress and lure prospective employees. Identify the most productive recruiting platforms, and apply the same marketing techniques that brings in customers. Facebook, for instance, has amazing targeting capabilities. It can be a game-changer for filling the pipeline with entry level prospects. Spell out benefits like training and high salaries and watch applications flood in.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE NUMBERS
Don’t just indiscriminately shell out money for online employment ads, though. Companies need metrics in place to gauge the effectiveness of their recruiting efforts, just as they track the effectiveness of advertising dollars. Hiring managers need to note every place and platform used for recruiting, including supply houses, social media, and print, television, and radio ads. Put some money in each, and track their effectiveness. It’s not hard to track cost per acquisition and, eventually, return on investment. That’s how companies gauge the effectiveness of marketing efforts, so why not apply it to recruiting, too?
COMMON RECRUITING AND HIRING MISTAKES
One mistake that HVACR companies make when trying to land qualified technicians is forgetting there is a real person behind the application. Hiring managers can lack empathy and don’t always respect the applicant’s time.
If a customer called about service for a broken HVAC unit, a good company would never wait to call them back for months to try and fix it. But this happens all the time with prospective employees. They apply in February and, since it’s a slow month, hiring managers wait to respond. Then, they’re surprised when the candidate doesn’t return their messages several months later. Managers or owners should be calling the applicants back immediately, just as they would a customer. It adds value to be responsive.
Managers shouldn’t schedule interviews for experienced HVAC technicians in the middle of the day. That is convenient for managers, not for candidates. The applicant may get an unexpected service call or they could be driving a wrapped truck and wearing a logoed shirt of their current employer. That creates anxiety, and good technicians are already increasingly hard to find.
Here’s a better recipe for success: Set the interview for coffee at 7 a.m. or in the evening. Work around their schedule. Don’t call it an “interview,” however. The word itself causes anxiety and tension that will make the deal harder to close. Managers should also be adept at reading candidates. Some people aren’t ready to commit right away and a manager needs to have the emotional intelligence to determine when it is smart to push or wait. Companies should be building and nurturing a pipeline of talent over the long term.
KEYS TO KEEPING YOUR BEST EMPLOYEES
Hiring is only part of the equation. Retention is the other. Each technician that walks out the door and off the job is another bite out of the bottom line. On average, it costs companies about 20 percent of the annual salary of an employee to replace them, according to the Center for American Progress. That’s $9,400 a pop based on the average HVACR tech salary, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Given that it costs less to retain an employee that hire and train another, HVACR companies need to focus on establishing a good company culture to help retain their best employees.
Companies can either define their culture through core values and mission and vision statements, or they can let employees define it at the water cooler. Sometimes reinforcing company culture takes a proactive approach. Regular employee meetings with supervisors are key to ensuring that employees reflect the values of the company or are being coached to do so. Daily huddles are a great way to express gratitude to your employees and foster a positive work environment. People spend more waking hours at work than they do at home. If they work in a place that causes anxiety each day, they won’t stay for long. That means managers have to quickly identify employees who are corrosive or bullies and take steps to rehabilitate them or cut them out.
Employees appreciate feeling that employers have their backs and are appreciative of their hard work. It maintains morale and improves company culture. That will ultimately reduce turnover, and that will make a consistent recruiting approach easier to maintain.
SUMMING IT UP
The hiring and recruiting problems that the HVACR industry is experiencing aren’t unique in today’s tight labor markets. If managers think outside the box and reevaluate both their recruiting and retention efforts, those are challenges that can be overcome.
Publication date: 12/24/2018