While recently vacationing in Florida, I found that the resort where we were staying was in search of a beach attendant. Coincidentally, down the street, another resort had a hand painted sign on the road: "Beach Attendant - and the phone number."

On discussing the issue with the management of our location, I was surprised to find that despite running numerous ads they had received no applications. Now keep in mind what the beach attendant position entails: putting out some cushions, drilling holes in the sand, erecting some umbrellas, and rigging two small sailboats. Sure it's out in the sun all day but the working conditions are great, the views are good and all in all it seems like a pretty nice job. But they received no applications.

I didn't think too much more about it until I was driving behind an air conditioning service truck and saw on the back a very large printed sign saying "Service Technicians and Installers Needed - Phone number." Then on the same drive I passed a neatly lettered sign along the side of the road that said: "A/C Installers and Technicians Needed - Phone number." Having encountered all of these examples, I started paying closer attention and noticed that everywhere we went, there were signs seeking employees. From fast food restaurants, to cleaning services, to maintenance companies, everyone had signs out seeking employees.


On the same trip I had been noticing that in general the service I received at stores, restaurants, and the like was not at the level of quality all of us have come to expect. Rude treatment, failure to acknowledge our presence, and generally slow service seemed to be the norm.

Now I was starting to put these facts together. If employers can't find employees it's pretty difficult to threaten or discipline existing employees for providing inferior service. And this is in Florida, which I keep hearing is one of the states to which so many people are moving. Apparently many people are moving to Florida but not enough are moving there to work.

What I was seeing reminded me of responses to The NEWS from contractors who were asked about the biggest issue they are facing. The biggest problem from most of the responding contractors is the "inability to find good employees." In reading those responses, I just figured the contractors weren't trying hard enough to find good employees.

After assessing the situation in Florida, however, I realized the problem might be bigger than I expected. In some - maybe many - parts of the country, contractors are going to have to utilize methods that may be unique to them in order to hire and keep good employees.


I realize we in the Midwest are a long way from Florida, but I would like to offer a few suggestions that we have found successful in maintaining a steady workforce.

  • Treat your employees as your most important asset because they are.

  • Make your employees feel they are part of your company family. Picnics, company meetings, and nights at sporting events are just some of the ways to make your employees feel they are part of your family.

  • Sell maintenance agreements to help ensure your employees sufficient hours in the nonpeak seasons.

  • Make sure that your package includes reasonable medical benefits and some type of 401(k) or pension plan.

  • Be creative when looking for employees. New times require new methods to find good employees. Look to junior colleges and similar nontraditional schools for potential candidates.

  • Plan to train the employees, not only in technical skills, but also in people skills.

  • Charge enough to be able to do all of the above.

    Technicians and installers in our industry can make a very comfortable living compared to many, if not most, other industries. It's up to us to make sure that we find the right potential candidates and sell them on all of the benefits our industry has to offer.

    Butch Welsch, Guest Columnist, Owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling, St. Louis, Welsch1@primary.net

    Publication date: 04/24/2006