It's too late to find, buy, or bribe an experienced service technician to come to work for you now. That process should have begun 12 to 18 months ago, and, in fact, should be an on-going, never-ending process. And even if the perfect candidate magically appeared (and I guarantee it would be magic or blind luck), a problem is probably lurking somewhere. Who lets a skilled, professional service technician get away in the summer?
So in the meantime, what should you do? Hang on. Make it through the summer. Wear yourself and your people out so that the pain will be bad enough that, come the end of August you will do anything to make this pain go away. And then, perhaps, you will be primed to really implement a successful hiring process for skilled technicians. Here’s how it’s done.
Creating a Successful Hiring Process for Skilled Technicians
1) Become known as a great place to work.
Analyze and compare your pay structure, incentives, benefits, and work environment to other service oriented companies in your area. Compare yourself to other HVAC and plumbing companies, but also compare yourself to the franchised brake repair and oil change companies. Are your employees proud of where they work? If so, you’re on the way to being a company of choice for future employees. If not, work on this first.
2) Tell your employees you are always interested in hiring good people. Once you’re a company of choice your employees will tell their friends, neighbors, relatives, acquaintances about their job and your company. Good people generally associate with other good people who could be great employees as well.
3) Regardless of where you are during the day, be prospecting for new employees. Constantly observe people. Interact with your wait person. Talk to the employee at the franchised brake repair shop. Ask probing questions of that young person at your church who has decided that college is not what he or she wants. Does the computer geek at the local big box store have the attitude and personality to be a good technician? Even when on vacation, keep your eyes open, watching out for good attitude and mechanical aptitude. And, as I have written previously in this column, don’t overlook women as potential technicians.
4) New hire rides with lead technician or technicians for at least two weeks. The attitude is good; the mechanical aptitude test results are good and the personality fits your company. The new hire is on his or her 90-day probationary period. They ride with your lead technician and then at least one of your other technicians. Ask for feedback on how well the new hire catches on to the technical parts of the job, her interaction with customers and how well she fits your company profiles. (ed. note: However, as Vicki would agree, do not camp out at distributors' counters looking for employees.)
5) New hire receives inside training on educating customers. The new hire needs to be taught your company way of educating customers — how to present maintenance agreements, how to explain the benefits of replacing rather than repairing and why indoor air quality accessories and other upgrades can make a home more comfortable.
6) New hire goes to outside training for a week. The new hire signs a promissory note or equivalent document stating that he will owe the company the cost of the investment in training if he leaves of his own choice before a specified time period. A number of good technical institutions offer week long training courses that produce qualified maintenance technicians. When the new maintenance technician returns, have a seasoned technicians observe the new hire for a few days to verify the newly acquired skills.
7) Newly trained technician conducts maintenance calls and helps on installations for a minimum of six months.
8) Send the seasoned maintenance agreement technician to a minimum of a four week outside training class. After approximately nine months, you know if this maintenance technician is a good fit for your company and has the aptitude necessary to become a troubleshooting technician. Now, make the real investment in them. And once again, a promissory note is signed.
9) A lead technician rides with the new troubleshooting technician for at least a week. As before, verify the newly-acquired skills by having a senior experienced technician observe and coach the newly trained technician on the job.
10) Celebrate the new skilled, trained, experienced technician’s success. Whether a raise, a bonus, qualifying for new incentives, special recognition in the company newsletter, or a pat on the back, let the now trained, skilled professional technician know how proud the company is of his accomplishment. And don’t forget your personal celebration, because the coming summer will be much easier than last summer. Then, start all over again!
Vicki LaPlant has worked with HVAC contractors for the past 30 years as a trainer/consultant. She helps people work better together for greater success. Vicki is a longtime ContractingBusiness.com editorial advisory board member and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at 903/786-6262.