The tight labor market has been an issue in the HVACR industry for years, and with record low unemployment numbers, it is becoming even more difficult for contractors to find and hire technicians. This coincides with the increasingly easy ways in which companies can actively recruit employees, such as through online sites LinkedIn or Glassdoor, which means technicians know exactly how much they are worth to competing contractors.

That is why it is so important for contractors to be more creative in retaining the valuable workers they already have. Some are doing this by beefing up their tangible benefits, such as better salaries, health insurance, and vacation time. But a growing number are taking a closer look at some of the intangible things they can do to keep their employees, such as hosting employee appreciation events, eliciting (and acting on) feedback, and taking the time to tell workers individually that they are valued by the company.

It seems strange to think that a company would need to work at making its employees feel valued, but at many places of business, that is par for the course. Instead of taking a moment to thank an employee for a job well done, many employers assume that workers know they are valued because they continue to receive a paycheck. But that is no longer enough for many workers — particularly millennials, who are making it clear that they are interested in more than just a paycheck.

Indeed, numerous articles and surveys indicate that, in addition to wanting to make a difference in the world, millennials want to feel valued by their employers. And if they feel valued, they tend to be more productive and engaged. Companies are taking note, as indicated in a recent Gallup poll showeding that the percentage of “engaged” workers in the U.S. — those involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace — hit a record high of 34 percent.

The percentage who are “actively disengaged” — workers who have miserable work experiences — is now at its lowest level (13 percent), while the remaining 53 percent of workers are in the “not engaged” category. Gallup notes that individuals in this latter category may be generally satisfied but are not emotionally connected to their work and workplace; they will usually show up to work and do the minimum required but will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer (sound familiar, anyone?).

Gallup believes that the higher level of engagement is due to several factors, including declining unemployment, which allows previously disengaged workers to change jobs, as well as slight increases in benefits and salary. However, the poll shows increases in satisfaction with recognition received for work accomplishments and relationships with coworkers and supervisors, which Gallup says is one of the best explanations for improvements in the percentage of engaged employees.

Still, 53 percent of workers are not engaged, which is a very high number, and chances are good that some of these people work for you. If they are good workers, it pays to find ways to keep them engaged and let them know that they are a valuable asset to your company. Tell them when they’ve done a good job. Ask them for their feedback, and if possible, implement some of their ideas. In other words, make them feel valued.

If you’re looking for other ways that contractors go the extra mile to make their employees feel special, check out the winners of The ACHR NEWS’ Best Contractor To Work For contest, who are highlighted in this issue. You will find that they employ a number of techniques to keep morale high and turnover low. As one (millennial) service technician said of his award-winning boss, “He’s a very thoughtful owner. He takes opinions into consideration and values what you say as an employee. He takes the time to ask you how you’re doing, how’s your family, small things like that. It really adds up and makes a difference.”

Feeling valued makes a big difference; in fact, it may be the deciding factor for many employees who are considering whether to stay with their existing company, or go work for a competitor. That is why in this tough labor market, it pays to think a little harder about whether you’re doing enough to keep your best workers happy and engaged.

See more articles from this issue here!