A year ago, ACHR senior editor Joanna Turpin asked HVAC company owners to share innovative ways they were recruiting technicians. It was the right question at the right time, and it still is. At Leap Partners, we don’t have all the answers, but we have been tirelessly working to solve this challenge. Here’s what’s working for us.

  1. Referrals — Leverage your workforce. Last September, we launched our employee referral program. Through the program, every employee who refers a new hire receives a bonus and an entry in a raffle to win a $5,000 family vacation check. The referral bonuses increase if the new hire has more experience, and the bonus payouts are staggered to be paid at the new employee’s 90-day and six-month anniversaries. We pay out these bonuses all year long. At the end of 2022, we presented the $5,000 family vacation check with a cooler and a mug to one of our team members in Alabama at a company barbecue celebrating him and our new hires. Not only did this program help us fill critical roles, it created excitement with our current employees. It isn’t very often you get the chance to do both simultaneously.
  2. Be creative — A different kind of business card. To give employees a tangible way to recruit, one of our companies, Conditioned Air Solutions in Huntsville, Alabama, started giving employees branded poker chips they could leave at supply houses and share with techs looking for a change in company. The chips worked so well for Conditioned Air that we decided all our companies should have them. On one side of the poker chips, there’s the local company’s branding, and on the back, there’s text that reads, “We’re Hiring. View Job Listings” with a QR code that links to the company’s job board. These chips work better than business cards, and they’re a fun way to tell future employees to take a bet on us.
  3. Keeping score. To recruit and retain employees, we have seen great payoff in recognizing top performers and instilling a friendly sense of companywide competition. Each branch is well aware of the others and of the work happening at the other companies. For all our locations, we’ve installed TVs in high-traffic areas where we highlight top technicians and employees companywide along with rising leaders throughout the company. This recognition across all companies helps to encourage employees to want to not just be the best locally but also do as well as or better than technicians in other locations.
  4. Operational support. Lastly, we’re always looking for new ways to make the job less burdensome for our techs. When we acquire companies, we invest in the ServiceTitan software for any that don’t already have it. Then, we have a support team, led by our vice president of operational support, that trains technicians on the software. As a former tech himself, he has robust experience on how to take advantage of all the software offers. Investing in making your field team’s job easier and providing them with operational support from people who actually know how to do the job has made a big difference in our employee engagement.
  5. Share best practices. I mentioned it above in our poker chip example, but we work hard to share ideas across Leap Partners. We have an amazing team, at all levels, and we work hard to empower everyone to come up with and try different ideas. We host monthly business review round robins with branch leaders so everyone can hear what is and isn’t working in each other’s branch. We encourage employees to visit other branches and spend a day shadowing their colleagues. We also hold regular meetings to discuss ideas with employees who aren’t necessarily in leadership positions but have been identified as “Rising Leaders” by their managers and peers. This emphasis on experimentation and problem-solving has given us some great ideas that have solved some of our most challenging problems, like recruiting and retention.

Note that our most effective recruitment or retention strategies don’t involve spending a lot of money on traditional fixes, like recruiters, ads, or marketing materials. They are about exciting, engaging, and leveraging your workforce. Ultimately, retention feeds recruitment. It isn’t just about closing the hole in your business where you lose people. It’s about empowering all employees and engaging them in operating the business. The level of pride and passion this generates then helps immensely with attracting top talent.