This is part one of a 3-part series on labor management in HVAC. Read part two.
There are many forces that can’t be controlled in our industry. The price of materials and parts. National economic forces that dictate how many customers are willing to buy. The labor force available to your company and the level of competition you face for their services.
What we can control, though, is managing the labor of the employees we have. In fact, I’d argue that this is the primary item within a company’s control that can make or break the yearly success (or lack thereof) of a company.
I’m going to discuss a number of topics related to labor management. It will be “tip of the iceberg” material, since this is a vast, ongoing topic, but should give nearly any company some ideas to implement and work toward.
The Importance of a Plan
There is a quote credited to President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
With a plan, you’ll still make mistakes and have to make constant adjustments to account for unforeseen circumstances. But without a plan, you’re doomed in any scenario.
Whether this means sitting down with your company’s leaders, going through training on these topics to better lead your employees, or simply identifying problems and possible solutions, the act of planning to improve your labor management will produce returns in and of itself.
The Value of a Minute
How much is your time worth?
This isn’t a hypothetical question. There exists an exact answer for it in the context of wage and labor management.
Calculations will vary slightly, but several examples of hourly, daily, or by-the-minute cost calculations exist that will have many overlapping elements. How much does a service truck cost to run per day? How much is your entry-level employee costing you in inefficient labor hours compared to your best technician? These have exact answers, but they’ll vary depending on your particular market and pay scale.
Overall, though, by tying employee work to calculable overhead, you can begin to spot inefficiencies and areas for improvement.
Beyond this, it presents an opportunity to educate employees on how much their time costs the company. This isn’t to guilt them into anything, but rather to help them see overhead and revenue as you do, and to understand their place in it. If your employees have the proper mindset, they’ll take proactive steps to be part of the solution. This may require guidance from you, but it can also be used to identify potential leaders who will help the entire company work toward better management of time and costs associated with it.
No one wants to work less and get paid less. But they’ll be excited to work less for similar pay. So if they see a path of growth when they become more productive employees, which occasionally involves slightly lower hours as they improve their efficiency, they’ll be more motivated to contribute to the company’s success.
Here’s a question for you: Do you control your own time?
Again, this isn’t a rhetorical question. I believe it has an answer. For me, lots of outside forces often control my time, and I don’t feel as though I’m in control of my day. But the more often you feel like this, the more often your time isn’t being spent efficiently.
What are your time-wasters? And not just yours personally, but your company’s? We can all identify several off the top of our heads, I’m sure.
So what are you doing about it?
Easy fixes are rare, but none of us are dealing with unique problems that lack solutions. And I’m stating this abstractly because what a time waster is for me, won’t be for you, and vice-versa. It could be loading time in the mornings. It could be inefficient travel routes for your techs. It could be a lack of software tools for your office staff, leading to a lot of time-consuming manual work that could be automated.
Or a hundred other things. The point is that each of these has strategies for management, and if it goes unmanaged, it’s going to cost you thousand of dollars every year, or tens of thousands (Or hundreds, or thousands? Even millions?) depending on the size of your company.
Once you can truthfully answer, “Yes, I control the time spent in my company,” you can be sure you’re doing better than those who can’t answer that way.
Putting It All Together
This is the tip of the iceberg, as I mentioned at the start. But even that small portion can take time to cover. In part two of this series, I’ll dive into some more specific strategies related to labor management, including the types of metrics that matter most when assessing a company’s workforce.