We’re in the middle of “The Great Resignation,” among other cultural factors affecting the health and stability of the workforce. While I’m personally of the mind that some of those headlines are simply intended to provoke a reaction, it’s undeniable that HVAC has been hit with a harder-than-normal period for hiring and retention since the pandemic.

Broadly speaking, there are only a few factors that determine someone’s happiness with their job:

  1. Pay;
  2. Culture; and
  3. Benefits.

Each of those could be broken down into numerous individual facets, but we’re going to look at the last of those today.

Benefits aren’t a panacea for hiring woes, but they can address certain issues that will minimize the burden placed on your hiring managers and existing staff.


Offbeat Benefit Considerations

Health insurance, dental, vision, and 401(k)? These are the things many potential employees ask about when vetting a company they’d like to work for. These are questions you already have defined answers to. There may be opportunities to improve them, of course, but they’re not unknown entities for companies. Conversely, it’s giving employees what they don’t know they want that can take a company to the next level. But how can this be done?

There are various methods for identifying what benefits will be the most beneficial for your company. One is competitor and industry research. I recently posed the challenge to my staff to show me another HVAC company with better benefits. I felt confident in issuing that challenge because I had done the research to make sure we matched or beat anyone in the area. This takes time, but it means you can make declarations like that, rallying employees to the company.

Competitor research won’t get to the specifics of your workplace culture, though, so I’d also recommend surveying all employees on what they’d like to see implemented.

And sure, if they ask for 10 weeks of vacation per year, you can’t honor that. But if you’ve hired well, you’ll have employees who know there’s a monetary cost to employee benefits, so it’s a balancing act of staying profitable while helping everyone enjoy their jobs as much as possible.

Over the years, this has resulted in us having additional company gatherings (which helps morale and collaboration), adjusting our vacation policy, and even something as small (but meaningful) as a free coffee bar in our break room, in addition to more substantial benefits like health, vision, dental, and life insurance; training; paid time off (PTO); and other facets of our employee package.

We’re also one of the few employers in our area who offers weekly pay. There is a significant cost to the company for this, but many of our employees appreciate it. It helps to differentiate us.

Your differentiators are likely different. But that’s the point. Finding out what they can be will give you an edge.


Problems Benefits Don’t Solve

I mentioned that benefits aren’t a panacea, and I meant it. In fact, benefits don’t often go very far to closing the deal in the hiring process.

That seems counterintuitive, at least until I follow it with this sentence: Benefits may not solve some hiring problems, but they’ll help immensely with retention problems.

There are two sides to the personnel equation. Lost in the current panic of resignations and hiring shortages is the fact that we should be fighting like hell to keep the steady, reliable workers we do have.

Despite the work we’ve put into our employee experience here at Fire & Ice, we’re still being hit like the rest of the industry. All the benefits in the world don’t matter if the qualified applicant pool is dry.

However, you can minimize these struggles and weather the leaner times by focusing on retention just as much.


Benefits as a Base for Growth

The challenge I issued to my employees, mentioned earlier, wasn’t improvised. It was deliberate, because I want my company to be as good as it can be in regard to benefits. And I want to leverage that fact to help it grow.

The HVAC industry can feel like a small one when you’re in a particular market. Owners, instructors, and technicians all tend to know one another. This is true to an extent even in some larger cities.

Your employees are talking about your company to their peers and mentors, but what are they saying?

And, further, how does what they say affect your long-term prospects for attracting and retaining talented, hard-working individuals?

Benefits are a long-term investment in a company. You’ll never be able to point to the coffee bar as the reason someone stayed or the reason a deal closed, but the leadership mentality that leads to such decisions will certainly have downstream effects on the health and longevity of your enterprise.