Looking for New Employees Entering the Trades

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A constant cry from across the nation: can’t find good employees. OK, in some cases, an employee of any kind. In Phoenix, my new home town, there is one estimate that if 1000 trained technicians came to town and were ready to work in our industry, we would not fill the gap—at least in our summer, which runs from March to Oct. What can an owner do to make sure his customers are served while he grows his business and remains profitable?

Couple of ideas. First, think outside the box. Or outside our industry. In some cases, a tech with a decade of experience walking into your place to apply for a job has some bad habits. They sometimes will say “we didn’t do that at the last place, here is what we did,” even if that thing they did will not fly at your place. Just to digress, I said in some cases. Please understand, a tech with 10 years of experience, who shares your company values, can pass a drug test and has a clean driving record may be the perfect fit for your company. Then hire them.

Back to my thoughts on outside the box. There are some great people in your market, people who may be working at Kinkos, a chiropractor, Starbucks, or any retail establishment. They love people, and just as important, like themselves, have a good self-image. They are not in our industry yet, but they may be a great fit for your company. Stay alert for the person helping you at a shop or restaurant. Do they smile, engage you as they help you? Could be perfect for the office or field.

One common concern is how long will it take to train someone outside our industry, teach them what they need to know. Depends, could be 4 or 5 months, or a year before they are completely productive. My response is always the same. We must think long term. It may be that you are just one man, working out of a truck, have to get some help, they have to have experience. If that is the case, then keep looking for the experience. On the other hand, if you plan on being in business next year, and have more than a couple of techs in the field, make an effort to look for a great person that you can train in the way you want, to do business exactly the way you want it done. Plan on them being in a training role for weeks, maybe months. I

In closing on this subject, if you do not take action today, you may well be in the same position next year, hoping the veteran with a decade of experience who can pass a drug test and has a clean driving record and will work for $10/hour will come thru the door. For an alternative scenario, see below.

Erv Dirks is a client who has a business in rural Wisconsin, town of 3200. Erv was getting work done on a van when the young man asked him what it would take for him to be in the heat and air business. Erv said he would have to start at a training wage, maybe several months to get the feel for the industry. Reader’s Digest version, Erv brought him in, he ran with another tech for weeks, Erv then started him on doing maintenance on installs they had done in the past few years, pretty sure they would be installed correctly and problem free. If he found a problem, he called Erv, got another pair of eyes on the system. That was about a year ago when he brought him in, Erv trained him in how he wanted the work done, exactly what to do, not to do. This summer that young man was doing tune-ups for their existing customers, he turned in 19 leads that Erv sold new equipment on in one 30-day period. Doing an excellent job, last year at this time he was putting brakes on one of Erv’s vans. Now he is making a lot more money, enjoys the work, gets to meet new people several times a day, life is sweet.

Another concept I have seen implemented is a way to use a life insurance policy to help retain the key employees. When you do have an employee who is making a positive difference with customers and their co-workers, keep them. Some of my clients use a whole life policy that builds cash value that can be set up as a carrot to stay with the company. It can be part of a program to keep the productive employees, a great idea.

In Phoenix, Collins Owens is the owner of Collins Comfort Masters, been in business since 1985. Collins hires four college-age young people, brings them into his building from 6am-7:30 am three days a week for training, then the rest of the time they are on the clock as a helper. They get to learn a trade without having to spend $9000 or more from their hard-earned savings.

Collins remarked that there are many HVAC owners in Phoenix who started in his in-house program. He is open about the program, I saw it on his Facebook page. Oh, while in that area, you do have a Facebook page, do you not? Collins has more than 4800 who have liked his page, almost as much who follow his page. He can run a special and get immediate response.

An interesting statistic, more than 70% of people who spent money on household improvements searched on Facebook for testimonials or reviews. You need to be in there, that is the new front porch. Back in the day we sat on front porches, called out as neighbors passed by, talked about what they were doing in their homes. Not so much anymore, now we go to the Internet, look up products and companies and do our research on our iPhone. So, get on their phone.

Jim Hinshaw is Western Division Manager, The EverRest Group, and associate, coach and trainer, Sales Improvement Professionals.