Finding employees today remains a major challenge for almost all HVAC contractors. Retaining them also takes effort. But for one commercial firm, the issue was just getting a new employee to show up for his first day.

Enervise is a growing firm that offers HVAC, plumbing, and building controls service for commercial and industrial clients. The firm’s headquarters are in Cincinnati, with offices in Ohio and Kentucky. Enervise also does work for clients in West Virginia and Indiana.

Aaron Dorfman joined the firm 10 weeks ago as the recruiting and engagement manager. He started with 19 open requisitions and added more since then. One of those was for a controls technician. This job entails a lot of troubleshooting and building boards.

“That niche is really tough to find,” Dorfman said.

Still, he thought he found the right candidate. This fellow had worked at a university and said he wanted more variety, which Enervise would provide with its array of clients in different locations. Dorfman offered the candidate the job, and he accepted.

Then his first day arrived. The new employee failed to show up. Dorfman reached out and received no response. The only explanation he can come up with is that someone recruited the candidate out from under Enervise.

“There are so many external recruiters out there going after people and throwing money on the table, that’s what it has become about,” Dorfman said. “It isn’t about internal culture or development opportunity or career paths.”


Nice Truck, Want a Job?

Dorfman hears stories of technicians stopping at a gas station and having the service manager from another firm come up and say, “Nice van. How much are you getting paid?” He himself has received calls from six or seven recruiters since he started two months ago.

Other firms are overpaying by 15% or 20%, Dorfman said. That could hurt them if they fail to get enough work to match that payroll. Enervise has plenty of large, stable clients, he said.

The firm has a good reputation as an employer. The local newspaper named Enervise as a Top Workplace in 2021. While operating under the Engineering Excellence name, Enervise was named Commercial Contractor of the Year by ACCA and a Best Contractor to Work For by The ACHR NEWS. The firm has also received recognition for workplace safety and innovation.

Money and other perks seem to matter more to some potential employees, though. The ghost hire was an unusually bad situation, but Dorfman did have another experience in which the candidate went back and forth over pay and perks numerous times. Dorfman revised his offer letter three times before the candidate turned down the position.

“I had a feeling that he was measuring ours against another offer letter that he had,” Dorfman said.


Less Loyalty

Dorfman said employees in general show less loyalty than in the past, although Enervise maintains a high retention level. Experts say COVID has only made this worse, leading to the so-called “Great Resignation.” Speaking at a recent industry event, Colleen Keyworth, director of sales and marketing for Contractor’s Online-Access, warned of what she calls a “lone wolf” mentality that has developed since the start of the pandemic. The lack of direct contact for long stretches creates a mindset of people feeling unattached to their employers, Keyworth said.

Dorfman doesn’t see that as a problem at Enervise, but he plans on working to strengthen the firm’s culture even more. This requires surveying the employees and finding what they want to make a better workplace. This can range from something as simple as different soda in the break room to more specific career goals.

“You have to sit down with your associates and ask them what it is they want in terms of long play,” Dorfman said.

Enervise uses an extensive hiring process that includes multiple interviews and testing. That means a lot of resources went into hiring an employee who never put in one day’s work. But Dorfman sees the positive even in that.

“Those were expensive interviews,” he said. “But in the end, if he was going to step out after three or four weeks, after we had trained him and sent him to classes, it would have been a lot more expensive.”