I’m here again to share more about the strategic initiatives that can help all of us improve ourselves, our businesses, and our industry. My goal is for you to be able to take this series back to your HVACR business and make some improvements. The way I see it, the more each of us as individual companies can continue to push forward in providing outstanding service, the quicker and stronger the HVACR industry can continue to rise.
Today, we’re talking about employee development. Like most service industries, our biggest asset is our employees, and we can’t get the job done without them. Because of this, it’s crucial to invest in and develop your employees within the business to increase buy-in, engagement, and retention.
When you begin to involve your employees in helping you make decisions, you are taking important steps in elevating your business. Involving employees in the business can come in many different areas: Maybe it’s a process that needs to be done every day and the current one you created years ago just isn’t efficient any more. Technology has changed, and new employees with different skills are executing for you. Let them bring you an updated process that they like. If it meets your criteria, start using it. Sometimes we need to expand our product mix as the business grows or there are new opportunities that come around. Communicating with your employees so they understand why this change is important and allowing them to help you think through the process creates a team environment. Recently, we added a completely new position to a department. Before we did, we outlined a couple ideas to the managers. They helped us develop the position and then took it to the rest of the team. Everyone saw the need and welcomed the change. Whatever the case may be, without the buy-in from your employees, it will be very difficult to get the business to where you want to take it. With that, you need to educate and empower them. As they’re trusted with more and begin to see their ideas, initiative, and work come to fruition (and positively benefit the company, customers, other employees), they’ll likely keep stepping up to own more and mentor others along the way.
FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULES
We understand that our employees have their own lives outside of work, often including taking care of their family (or even doing so as a single parent). Some of our technicians need to leave by a certain time to be home to care for their children in the evenings. Others may be on morning duty to get their kids to school, so they can’t make it in until later. We have our set hours we operate for our customers but can be flexible with employees who deserve and need it — working around their schedule and paying them when they work. We’ve seen an increase in engagement and happiness when we make accommodations.
Aside from just helping out employees, this flexibility has benefitted us as well — a few of our employees only have their kids on certain weekends, allowing them to pick up extra shifts on weekends when they don’t, which helps us improve the level of off-hour service we provide to our customers.
PROMOTING EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
The HVACR industry can get a rap for being a “boys club” based on historical hiring and the demographics of the workforce. It’s important to be open to people who want to work for you, who have good ideas, who are reliable, who care, and who listen to your customers — none of these traits are gender specific. We want to hire people who help us move the business forward and provide great service for our customers. If you can communicate well, are reliable, can get along with people, and have the ability to follow procedures, we want you on our team.
In fact, we have had women work in the field for years. It is interesting to hear how they got involved with the industry. Typically there is a father or close uncle that taught them a few things over the years, and it piqued their interest enough to make a career out of it.
SETTING TARGETS AND AWARDING ACHIEVEMENTS
We are open with our employees concerning the goals and initiatives we want to achieve. When we as a team start going after it and achieve it, we take time to recognize and reward those who helped us get there. Rewards don’t have to be a huge cost — treating the team to a lunch or setting up a “prize wheel” with options like a gift card, time off, or tools have helped us keep employees engaged and hungry for more. Employees will be motivated by different things (money, public recognition, surprise perks), but remember to recognize and award when earned to keep the team focused on doing more to help the business.
PEER MENTORSHIP PROGRAMS
When we bring on new people, there’s always a period of onboarding and ramp-up to learn our processes and approach. But training can’t just stop after working with your manager for the first few weeks.
We put a peer mentorship program in place to pair new hires with someone who has been here for years, who really knows the business and how (and why) we work the way we do. This gives them someone knowledgeable and confident in the business, who isn’t their manager, to go to when they have questions.
Mentorship has become part of our culture. It isn’t truly formalized yet, but we have a learning environment here where managers and leaders within the business work with new personnel as well as others to help coach and lead them through both work-related and personal decisions. Additionally, weekly department meetings are held to provide updates and remind people of what we are working toward
Look for our next article, where we’ll dive more in-depth into how consistency in process should be a key initiative for your business if you want to succeed. Stay tuned!
Publication date: 5/21/2018