3 Step Solution to Staffing in the HVAC Industry

Ron Smith is an industry legend, coach, and author of the best-selling book, HVAC Spells Wealth. Ron’s dedication to introducing enthusiastic and bright people to the industry shows how much he truly cares for contractors’ success. In Ron’s latest edition of HVAC Spells Wealth, “More & New,” he touches on the six areas that must be addressed when staffing a company. This blog offers his insight on the first area, recruiting.

This probably won’t come as a surprise, but the HVAC industry, like most all other industries, needs more workers. I’ve been traveling for decades and no matter where I go I continually hear the same comments about staffing:

  • “I need two more service technicians, how can I find them?”
  • “Doesn’t anybody work hard anymore?”
  • “Why don’t the young people work like we used to?”
  • “Is there an on-line site where I can find installers and techs?”
  • “My workers are not loyal, they sometimes leave me for another 25 cents an hour”
  • “What must I do in order to staff up for the work I’m now doing and/or could do?”

Sound familiar?

For several years I’ve maintained and often said that everyone is waiting on someone else to fix the staffing problem. Clearly that approach does not work. You, as the owner or general manager of your company must accept the responsibility of developing and managing a serious coworker staffing program for your own company by committing to this three step solution.

1. Take the Staffing Challenge Into Your Hands

As a contracting leader, you must accept that you alone are responsible to correct the staffing challenge in your company, whatever it takes to do so. That’s a strong but critical decision. And, it’s an ongoing commitment.

There will always be a need for staffing so thinking about the future is a good place to start. The best way to prepare for future job needs is to start building relationships now.

Form a relationship with the leaders of your community’s high schools and vocational schools and ask if you can speak to the students in group sessions. You can even contact your local civic clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and other clubs and volunteer to be a speaker at one of their meetings. Explain the heating and air conditioning industry to the students and the opportunities it presents as a future employment choice. Be sure to tell them that they can contact you if they have questions or want more information. Feel free to donate used equipment to the vocational schools too.

After building these relationships, these groups are more likely to keep you in mind when they graduate from school and are looking for jobs. Your education will help them understand the employment opportunities available in the HVAC industry and can assist in your recruiting efforts.

Relationship building will assist in future staffing solutions when properly executed which is very important. However, they do not provide a critical “quick fix” to a present job opening.

In my blog, “How to Hire Co-Workers: Part 2 of 3,” I cover a lot of the items listed below to help with a current job opening. I’ll split them into different categories.

Company Specific

The following are some easy ways to recruit new hires without breaking the bank.

Company Website

This is the easiest, cost-free strategy for job recruiting. You already have a website so you mind as well use it for recruiting purposes too. A careers page is an easy addition to any website.

Online Recruiting

There are many of these type sites and it seems like there are more every day. Ask your contractor friends which ones they use and what seems to work best for them. If you belong to an association or alliance ask those members. I’ve found that a lot of contractors like indeed.com, some like www.craigslist.com and you should consider www.ziprecruiter.com who basically searches all of the sites for you.

Incentivize with coworker rewards

Offer a financial reward to your coworkers who recommend possible candidates. Make the reward whatever you wish it to be. As an example: Suppose a coworker recommends a capable service technician who is very talented and seldom changes jobs. The coworker reward might be $1500 upon employment and another $500 after six months of employment. Another benefit is that this method keeps your recruiting money “within the team.”

Conduct your own job fair

I have consulting clients who do this successfully. They promote the job fair and then wine and dine their prospect while trying to generate enthusiasm for the company’s job opportunities.

Media Advertising

Sometimes recruiting close to home doesn’t always work out. The following are other ways to recruit new hires, but will require some money from you to make them happen.

Radio and Television

I’ve personally had some positive results with radio, but I’ve never used TV in recruiting. TV is a powerful medium, but can get expensive unless you can use a local cable provider. One of my clients did TV recruiting and it resulted in both new hires and new CUSTOMERS!

Newspaper Display Ads

The classified ads just don’t work well anymore as many of us know. However, I’ve had success with nice clean newspaper display ads not only in our market area but also with out of town newspaper ads. Often, people from out of town, economically depressed areas of the country are considering relocation.

Truck Signs

This is basically a guerrilla marketing tactic used for recruiting. Often, it’s a small sign on the back of your trucks simply stating “OPENINGS FOR EXPERIENCED TECHS. Phone (contact person, phone number).” If you drive around enough, you may find some recruits.

If these tactics don’t work for you, you can also consider hiring people from other trades. I have been successful in my own contracting companies in hiring electricians and then teaching them the required HVAC skills in order to be high performing installers and service technicians.

2. Become the “Employer of Choice”

The next step is to develop and begin implementing the strategy that will result in your company being the “employer of choice” in your community and market area. Said differently you create an environment where people actually enjoy coming to work.

Coworker rewards were mentioned in the previous section to address the staffing challenge, but they are also a great way to become the “employer of choice.” That $1500 may seem like a lot of money, but remember you only give that money when you get a qualified candidate that you end up hiring. When your co-worker gets paid for helping to grow the team, their loyalty to the company also grows stronger because their reward is proof that you as an owner take their recommendations seriously. Plus, who doesn’t like bonus cash?

Another step for becoming the “employer of choice” is to reward coworkers with bonuses and recognition when they do well.  This not only gives them a self-esteem boost, but it also motivates them to continue to do better.

In my blog, “Motivating Co-Workers: Part 1 of 2,” I talk about recognition and how it shows them that you appreciate what they’re doing for the company.

But how do you monitor performance to know when to give recognition? Well, my good friends at FieldEdge allow you to track your coworkers’ performance with a revolutionary dashboard that shows all of your coworkers’ performance stats! This means you can see when workers are doing well. On the flip side, you can also see when they’re struggling to make quota and may need some assistance.

If you show your coworkers that you are here to help them succeed, they will also respect you for helping them advance their career.

In FieldEdge’s blog about growing and expanding your service business, they talk about getting your employees involved with your vision. This is also a great way to motivate employees to believe in the company’s mission. A contractor who believes in what they’re doing is more likely to go above and beyond in the work that they do, especially for that specific company.

3. Continue to Monitor the Staffing Program You Create

You continually observe and monitor the program as it is being developed and implemented. You should have lots of presence in the program as it moves forward. All coworkers should see and realize that the program is very important to you, that you are open to suggestions and that you fully expect it to be quite successful.

Once you follow this 3 step solution, those questions I mentioned in the beginning will be a thing of the past. Staffing won’t be an issue and you’ll build a solid team that will help your company grow! Happy hiring!

ron smith

HVAC Legend-Crusader is a term many use in describing Ron Smith. Throughout his HVAC business career, starting in 1961, Ron has enjoyed starting new ventures, developing and applying new creative ideas, freely sharing information and introducing enthusiastic and bright people to the industry. Many of his operational systems and processes, and marketing and sales programs are in wide use throughout the United States, Canada, and many other foreign countries.

To learn more, visit: www.ronsmithhvac.com