13 Best Practices to Get and Keep Technicians

Oct. 30, 2015
Contractors should maintain a network of people who are identified as potential future hires for every position. Define what you want in a technician. Start with an identification of your values.

Do you have trouble finding and keeping technicians? Salespeople? Here are a baker’s dozen best practices followed by top contractors. Don’t try to do all of them. Just add one at a time that best fits your business.

1. Hire Slow
When there’s an idle truck and lost opportunities, it’s difficult to slow down the hiring process, but you should still do it. Take the time to fully assess candidates and never regret the people you turn away or who find another job because you didn’t act fast enough. Like rushing through a service call, rushing through the hiring process results in mistakes that cost far more than slowing down long enough to be thorough.

2. Hire For Fit
Define what you want in a technician. Start with an identification of your values. If you hire people who share your values there will be less conflict. Identify behaviors that characterize someone with each of those values and ask open end questions or create hypothetical situations that reveal whether the candidate’s expected behaviors are consistent with the associated values. Hire people who fit with you and your team.

3. Fire Fast
We all make hiring mistakes. The biggest mistakes are attitudinal. We compound them by carrying a bad apple, trying to turn him around. A bad attitude is a cancer in your company. Like any cancer, it should be cut out as soon as it is identified to prevent its spread.

4. Recruit Relentlessly
College athletic directors keep lists of potential hires for various coaching positions. They make an effort to maintain contact and relationships with these potential hires for years. When there’s an opening, they have a list of people to call. Moreover, because they have already assessed the candidates and feel good about their fit, they are well down the hiring process and can move quickly. Similarly, contractors should maintain a network of people who are identified as potential future hires for every position from CSR to service manager.

5. Look Outside the Industry
Few people plan to enter the HVAC industry. If people knew how good the pay and opportunities were, more would consider it. There are a lot of great people, working outside of HVAC who would be surprised at the industry’s freedom, advancement, and pay opportunities. They will need training, so they must be hired in advance of absolute need to give them time to get up to speed.

6. Plan Ahead
There are some great training programs in the industry that can take someone with no experience and turn out a functional technician, but they take time. Supplemental training might also be required. Once you identify the time required, work backwards from the peak season and get hiring. Hire sufficiently to meet your need for growth and to replace turnover.

7. Train
Athletes and performing artists practice hours for every hour they perform. We may not be able to practice that much, but we can train more than 30 minutes each week. In fact, top performing contractors report more sales, better attitudes, happier people, and reduced turnover when they practice a little every day. It can be as simple as asking a simple question and talking about it. For example, you could ask people to tell you about the best call they ran this week. Ask for the most difficult technical challenge. Describe the ideal customer.

8. Life Training
A few contractors are offering voluntary life training. Often, these start out as personal finance classes over lunch or at the end of the day. One of the reasons technicians are often broke, despite earning good pay, is a lack of knowledge about managing debt and money. This isn’t taught in school. Once technicians get a handle on personal finances, they are less likely to be lured away for a little more money.

9. Pay Well
Your technicians and salespeople are your rainmakers. They do not cost you money. They make you money. They are talent and talent gets compensated. Better talent gets better compensation, from you or someone else. Pay better than you competitors and charge more if necessary.

10. Pay For Performance
More and more companies are adopting performance pay. Once people get past their fear of change, they find they prefer it. It allows the best performers to earn the most money. Poor performers get with it or self-select out.

11. Full Benefits
The Affordable Care Act is causing larger contractors to offer health care, if they did not already. Even if too small to fall under the ACA, smaller contractors are going to need to be competitive. Why not be more than competitive? Why not offer 100%? The cost difference between 80% company paid and 100% company paid is not that significant, but it appears to be to the employee (and especially, the employee’s spouse).

12. Small Benefits
Don’t ignore the small benefits you could offer. These might be as simple as keeping snacks in the company refrigerator, paying for haircuts (which is the human equivalent of paying for truck washes), and so on.

13. Remember Spouses
If married, your technician is one half of a team. Accommodate the needs of the home when feasible and show the spouse appreciation. There’s a lot of truth in the phrase, “Happy Wife – Happy Life.”

For more recruiting and hiring information, ideas, recruiting literature, employment ads, and so on, contact the Service Roundtable or call 877.262.3341. The Service Roundtable provides all of this for the low flat rate of $50 per month, including the industry’s largest buying group, which will pay for the membership. Also, ask when a FREE Success by Design Day will be in your area.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.