As a business owner or manager, it is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work. It becomes difficult to take a moment, take a deep breath, look around, and reflect on what your team needs. So many owners think, “Well, I’m paying them to do it, that should be enough,” but the truth is, it isn’t. In today’s climate and with the shortage of individuals working in the trades, it is vital that managers think about motivating their team and rewarding them, or they risk losing that team entirely.
If you’re a smart manager and you recognize the above statements, then you have to start by thinking about why you want to keep your team motivated. Aside from the fact that it will reduce your turnover, happy employees speak positively about the business, and that gives you a competitive edge in the industry. These happy employees will increase productivity and keep your clients as happy as they are.
So, where to begin? Here are seven easy steps will get you well on your way as a manager.
I have found that it begins in the hiring process. Lay out your expectations for new employees. Make sure the employee understands your goals as a company. For example, if your goal is to be the best in the eyes of your clients, then it’s vital that a new employee understands that while on a typical day, they might work 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., those will become 10- to 12-hour days during the busy season when your business needs to help the most people. You need the employee to be prepared for these high-demand times when they may not be home for dinner on time. This will prevent some frustrations because they’ve signed on to that commitment from the get-go.
Acknowledge what your employees are going through. Busy seasons in the HVAC industry mean that technicians are out working in the worst conditions. They sometimes don’t get to see their families, and then the field crew might develop a perception that management staff drinks coffee and sits inside having fun all day and makes all the money, while they’re being worked to death.
I recommend managers ask for a weekly report so that they know exactly how many hours their team members are working. Ask the person who handles payroll to give you that tally. In my business, during the busy season, I don’t want my crews working more than 70 hours unless they’re volunteering. If I see that my technicians are all nearing that number or going over that, I know I need to hire additional staff.
Further, know which team members are working late or came in on their day off. If you have dispatch text you that a technician was working with Mrs. Jones to get her air conditioning at 2 a.m., get with him the next day and express your appreciation, even if it’s a quick call. Then, in the next team meeting, if you recognize the people who went above and beyond, they’ll know there’s a culture of appreciation, and others may well be inspired.
It’s vital that you know your team. Managers must know the employees and their families. If a technician is also an assistant soccer coach for their child, you need to work around some of that. It is important that you appreciate your field crews enough to get them time with their families. They need to be present fathers or mothers, and they need to be present spouses. If they’re divorced and have visitation with their kids, don’t schedule them to work every weekend they have that time. Yes, we know employees will make some sacrifices during the busy season, but don’t ask them to repeatedly sacrifice family. Work things out so that their personal priorities are also sometimes your priorities.
If you’re going to ask everyone to give their best effort, do the same! If you have people working on Saturday, be there for a few hours as well. For 15 years, I showed up every Saturday! Leave yourself work to do and be there over the weekend — or if you can’t be there in person, call and check in. If you say that as a business you don’t leave people without heating or cooling, be willing to get a part to a technician if it’s far away, or even run the job if you can.
I can confidently say that even as the business owner, I have gotten out of bed after midnight for work more than anyone else in the company. That commitment lets my clients and employees know that I am serious when I say that my business will not leave people without heating or cooling.
Provide the technicians what they need to make their jobs a bit easier and much safer. Make sure your technicians have cooling towels, water coolers, bottled water, ice, etc. during the summer months. During the winter months, make sure they have gloves, warm clothing, hand warmers, etc. This not only reinforces the priority you place on safety, but it shows you care. When employees feel that respect and care from you, they’ll return it to you and to your clients.
Have a motivational meeting during the busy season. Bring your staff breakfast, recognize their efforts, remind them to stay safe, express your appreciation. On the opposite side of the coin, it’s also important not to waste anyone’s time. During the busy season, don’t have the usual “Tuesday meeting” if there’s nothing to talk about. Instead, send an email saying, “I know everyone is working hard, so unless anyone has anything important to talk to me about, I’d like to cancel the meeting and let you all try and get done earlier tomorrow so you can get out of the heat/cold. Thanks for all you do.” Just a little thing like that can go a really long way.
The most important thing you can do to keep your employees motivated is focus on operational excellence. Technicians will get frustrated and burnt out if they don’t have the parts or equipment they need. If someone ends up working late to run to a supply house because someone else didn’t do their job, they will speak negatively about your company and want to leave. If you make sure every single person in your company understands how their duties affect everyone else, that will be appreciated by the people working hardest.
By following these seven steps, you’re well on your way to having happy employees. Your No. 1 job as a manager is to give employees what they need to succeed. Employees need expectations, goals, recognition, praise, and clear communication to ensure they’re as great as they can be. And when you give them what they need, they will be the best they can be for you and for your clients.
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