The HVAC industry faces a shortage of skilled labor. There is no question about it. However, the industry’s problem does not need to be your problem. Here’s how you can solve it for your company.

Market for people — Start by marketing your company to prospective employees and their spouses. This is more than sticking a “hiring” magnet on your trucks. It’s approaching the concept of working for your company in the same manner you approach the concept of buying from your company.

Identify all of the features of working for your company and their accompanying benefits. Just like you should never forget the spouse in a replacement sale, you should not overlook the spouse in employment. The job affects the family. Your recruiting collateral should also address the family.

Create recruiting brochures that sell the company. Create a mobile-friendly recruiting website. Hold job fairs. Network with trade schools, high school guidance counselors, youth pastors, high school coaches, and others who might be able to influence people to consider working for you. Develop a full marketing communications plan for new hires. A bonus is that your employee recruiting campaign should also attract new customers.

Pay well — All things equal, better pay will attract more and better people. You cannot pay less than a fast-food restaurant or big box greeter’s pay rate and expect success. If better pay reduces your margins, raise your rates. They are probably too low anyway.

Upgrade your benefits package — Accompanying pay is 21st century benefits. Frankly, benefits are a bargain. You can offer exceptional benefits and stand out more than if you bumped pay for the equivalent cost. Plus, great benefits make it harder to leave. Look at medical, dental, vision, vacation, holidays, gym memberships, and more. Some contractors even provide breakfasts, finding that technicians perform better after a good meal.

Offer careers — What can someone expect upon joining your company? Is there a future beyond the current need? This is not a promise on your part but a discussion of the possibilities.

The training triad — Once upon a time, technical skills training was considered sufficient. Then, as service contractors became more retail focused, soft skills training was added. Soft skills training includes communication, listening, body language, and so on.

Today, leading contractors are offering life skills training, which includes personal financial management, character, parenthood, etc.

Technical skills, soft skills, and life skills make up the modern training triad.

Facilities upgrade — No one knows more about recruiting than college football coaches. In college football, recruiting starts with facilities. Each program tries to outdo the others. A few contractors are building their own version of college football players’ lounges, albeit scaled back. Carve out a room with video games, darts, foosball, etc. Stock free snacks and soft drinks. Even if a technician never takes advantage of it, the company with a technician lounge has a big recruiting leg up over other contractors.

Build a pipeline — Ultimately, the answer lies in building your technician force from the ground up. Today, a number of organizations offer intensive training that can take a technician without experience but with mechanical aptitude and turn him into a functional maintenance technician in short order. From there, he can be developed into a full-fledged service technician over time. In order to have a ready supply of technicians, the pipeline must be built and kept filled. This means consistent recruiting and training.

Smart Equipment Means a Different Future

In the future, equipment will diagnose itself. This will simplify the technical requirements of the job so that less experienced technicians can perform at the level of senior technicians today.

Of course, there is a huge inventory of equipment in place that lacks self-diagnostic capabilities. Plus, we will never eliminate the need for good diagnostics with a field applied/engineered system. Contractors can organize differently to utilize mobile video conferencing technology so that senior diagnostic technicians can manage a handful of less experienced technicians.

No matter what an individual contractor does, the industry will continue to be plagued by a shortage of skilled labor. But the industry’s shortage does not need to be yours.

Publication date: 6/11/2018

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