A shortage of skilled labor is an industry problem, a specialty trade problem, and a national problem. It does not need to be your problem if you effectively utilize the manpower mix.
HYPE THE OPPORTUNITY
HVAC contractors are seldom very good at highlighting the opportunities present in their companies and the industry as a whole. Merely announcing a job opening may work when we have more qualified applicants than jobs, but it is insufficient today. The opportunity must be sold, and it must be sold with as much, if not more effort than you put into selling service agreements and systems.
Decide the level of experience you are seeking. Where can those individuals be found, both physically and online? For example, if you are seeking experienced technicians, you might advertise on billboards located near supply houses or your largest competitors. Online, you might advertise on social media that enables you to target your audience based on geography, groups, or interests.
For inexperienced candidates, look for people with the right attitude and aptitude. Sometimes these individuals can be found in related occupations, like automotive repair or retail sales of hardware/mechanical products. Think outside the box and consider nontraditional approaches, such as asking local church pastors for recommendations.
Prepare supporting collateral content, like recruiting cards you can pass out whenever you meet someone with potential and professional recruiting brochures you can give to serious candidates. A recruiting brochure should sell the benefits of being an employee of your company. This includes pay and benefits, the mission and vision of the company, what existing members of your team think of the company, what customers think of the company, how you are perceived in the market, how you support the community, and so on. Fortunately for you, few contractors have anything in the way of a recruiting brochure. Merely having one will make you stand out.
The supporting collateral is not limited to printed recruiting material. It includes digital files for social media, banner ads, recruiting videos (limited to less than 60 seconds), applications that collect information and sell the opportunity, magnetic ads that can be placed on your trucks, etc.
You should always be recruiting, even when no positions are open. Identify and keep in touch with promising candidates so that you can offer them opportunities as they become open. Once you identify a potential future employee, collect all of the contact information you can get, and stay in touch. Call every now and then. Create an email list with technical tips that you send to current, past, and potential future technicians to stay top of mind with all of them. Never stop recruiting.
IDENTIFY THE TOTAL INCOME
Identify everything that makes up the compensation you offer. A growing trend among contractors is performance pay instead of the traditional hourly pay. It is a similar trend to the growth of flat rate pricing 25 years ago and will eventually be just as pervasive throughout the industry.
Technicians working under a performance pay system are paid like owners, not laborers. While initially frightening to technicians who have not worked under it, performance pay is considered superior by top performers and those who have experienced it. If they manage their time better, hustle, and present more add-on options, technicians can easily increase their monetary compensation.
Do not overlook opportunities for greater compensation down the road. This implies career paths and growth opportunities. While not everyone wants to advance, the potential for advancement is extremely important for those individuals who do want it. Typically, those are the individuals you most want to attract.
Compensation is not limited to monetary compensation or even traditional benefits, like medical, paid holidays, tool allowances, phones, company vehicles, and so on. Traditional monetary compensation and benefits are obvious and necessary, but they’re no longer enough. Today’s technicians want more than extrinsic income. They also want intrinsic income.
The intrinsic income includes making a difference. People want to work for a company they feel proud to be a part of. They want to work for a company where consumers are treated right, and technicians are treated with respect. They want to work where they are allowed to make a meaningful contribution. They want recognition for work performed well.
Training, while it benefits the company, is also a form of compensation. Company-paid training will lead to greater technical skills, higher productivity, better efficiency from fewer callbacks, and more.
Today, more companies are supplementing technical skills training with soft skills and life skills. Soft skills help technicians develop better bedside manner in recognition that all repairs have two components — a broken piece of equipment and a broken customer.
Life skills training focuses on everyday living, such as personal financial management, character, parenthood, and so on. Life skills training may seem out of bounds to traditional contractors, but it reflects the lack of preparation from our schools and many families, and it serves to help people become more well-rounded and responsible. Those who offer it find it increases employee retention among those who participate, and word of this perk spreads quickly, attracting current employees to participate and potential employees to voice their interest in the company.
DEFINE THE REQUIREMENTS
Identify your requirements for the position. Remember, the greater the requirements, the harder it will be to fill open positions. Your requirements are important, however. Noting them up front clarifies the expectations from the start. Also, there are some technicians who will be attracted to companies with more stringent requirements.
Your requirements can include, but are not limited to, skills required, certifications, hours in season and out, on-call scheduling, attendance at training events, grooming, piercings, tattoos, criminal background, paperwork completion, marketing support (e.g., clover leafing door hangers), truck maintenance and appearance, and so on.
CREATE AN ATTRACTIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT
The environment is the working conditions. A move that some leading contractors are taking today is to enhance the work environment — they are improving their facilities by creating a place for technicians to relax.
These technician lounges include comfortable furniture, places to tackle paperwork, work stations for distance learning and web surfing, free soft drinks and snacks, video games, and more. Even if technicians fail to take advantage of the facilities very often, they make the company stand apart during the recruiting process.
Trucks are another part of the environment. All things equal, people prefer to drive nice-looking, well-maintained, up-to-date vehicles. No matter what the age of the fleet, each vehicle can be made to be as comfortable as possible to drive.
The intangible environment may be the most important. Are technicians valued? Does signage around the facility remind them of their value? Are notes and gifts sent to the technicians’ spouses during busy seasons when the days are long? Are little things performed on the technician’s behalf that make the tech’s job easier? This can include parts runners; the inventory replenishment system; electronic invoicing; and preparing “tech packs” with all of the paperwork, marketing material, stickers, magnets, and other collateral needed for service calls.
Some contractors tangibly demonstrate how they value their team. They visit their installation crews during hot days to bring cold drinks and snacks. Others recognize that technicians often skip breakfast or get a poor one, so they provide breakfast at the shop a half hour before they go on the clock. This minimal cost is repaid easily in increased productivity.
H-I-R-E = Hyping the opportunity + total Income + defined job Requirements + the work Environment. This is the manpower mix you can use to avoid the labor shortage plaguing our industry.
There may be a shortage of skilled labor nationwide, but there does not have to be one in your company. While the best practice providers relentlessly work on their recruiting, many have positioned their companies to the point where they select more than they recruit.
To learn more about how to be a successful contractor, not just in terms of recruiting but in all aspects of your business, attend the 2018 Service World Expo to hear from other industry experts who want to share their insights and best practices. The event will take place Oct. 10-12 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. To register, or for more information, visit www.serviceworldexpo.com.
For job descriptions, employment applications, recruiting collateral, and contractor resources, visit Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com, or call 877.262.3341 and ask for a free tour of the private side of the website.
Publication date: 3/19/2018