Business Tips

How to Retain Employees in a Competitive Market for Skilled Service Technicians

Jackie Aubel
January 25th, 2018
7 Min Read

In a world where good technicians are hard to find, keeping them is critical.

Studies on the topic of turnover costs never turn up consistent numbers, but we can all agree that the costs exist. A review from the Center for American Progress shares that "for workers earning less than $50,000 annually—which covers three-quarters of all workers in the United States—the 22 case studies show a typical cost of turnover of 20 percent of salary, the same as across positions earning $75,000 a year or less, which includes 9 in 10 U.S. workers." But one thing is for sure: acquisition costs more than retention.

Because service technicians must have or attain certain skills to be capable in the field, and because these skills are rare in the general population, your workforce presents a larger challenge than do most.

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To help you beat that challenge, we've created a list of our best recommendations for retaining your best people.

1. Hire the Good Ones

First things first, you must understand that hiring is the initial step on the path to retention. Without an excellent hiring process that gives people due process and ensures quality, you'll end up with technicians that aren't committed. They might have chosen your company just because they wanted a job, not because they wanted this job. Just as it's important for your technicians to be a great fit for your company, it's important for your company to be the right fit for them. Help them decide whether or not you're a fit by being as transparent as possible about your values and the day-to-day work. Consider creating shadow days for potential new hires to have them fully grasp what their duties would entail. If they've worked at other home service companies, a shadow day is a good opportunity for them to see the values of yours in action and let them decide if they could picture themselves on your team every day.

2. Train Well, Train Often 

Speaking of hiring, onboarding is one of the keys to retaining any employee. Everyone wants to feel competent and valued — great training from the outset helps. And so does ongoing training on topics specific to your organization and to your technicians' own, individual skills.

How do you achieve excellent training programs? First, ask your people what they want. Get them involved in thinking about and communicating how they learn best. Then incorporate those ways of learning into your curriculum. Offer training in the field and in the office. Offer it through multiple mediums. (Maybe one guy learns best through videos but another likes reading instructions.) Most importantly, offer training that benefits the individual technician, not just your company. Soft skills like conducting sales conversations, committing to details, troubleshooting and time management are great places to start.

3. Commit to Engagement 

According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report, "85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work."

Jim Harter writes on the Gallup Blog that "The economic consequences of this global 'norm' are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity. Eighteen percent are actively disengaged in their work and workplace, while 67% are 'not engaged.' This latter group makes up the majority of the workforce — they are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organization. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas. They likely come to work wanting to make a difference — but nobody has ever asked them to use their strengths to make the organization better."

As you can see, the costs of lack of engagement are massive. If your technicians don't care about your company and aren't engaged with it, what's to stop them from seeking out another home services company where they feel valued and involved?

Gaining engagement is easier said than done. But you at least have to commit to the effort in order to find out what will work and what won't. Great training is a good step; so is regular employee review and meetings with leaders to address the ideas the Gallup report mentions.

That brings us to the next way to retain your technicians.

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4. Provide Opportunities for Advancement 

Opportunities for advancement go beyond training. They include clear paths to promotion and/or higher compensation and new skills training.

That Gallup blog post we just shared? It goes on to discuss how engagement has been disrupted by poor performance management. In other words, no employee will stay engaged with your company if you aren't investing in their movement forward — as an individual and as an employee. Most businesses rely on annual reviews that focus on weaknesses, but your workforce — especially as your workforce's age begins to skew younger — wants new opportunities, great conversations and coaching. Annual review won't necessarily provide that.

Offering opportunities for advancement requires clear definition of how you both assess and communicate about performance. It requires you to go all in on leadership; either find team leaders that you know will be encouraging and fair, or be one yourself. It requires you to consider what "moving up" means in your home services company. Though a tough challenge to tackle, defining these opportunities will help you provide them; providing them will help you retain your best techs.

5. Give Them the Right Tools 

Obviously, your service techs need to have the literal tools for the job. But a technician's job has moved beyond finishing the work involved in the customer's request. They must know how to educate customers, communicate effectively and contribute to your bottom line. The right technology will give your techs the information, insight and capability to enable them to perform better in the field. And of course, it will also be easy to use.

When employees feel enabled, work takes on a new meaning. Competence in work allows us to feel comfortable identifying with our roles and committing to them. Conversely, lack of capability or frustration with tools can overtake confidence. That can hurt performance — and through it, retention.

6. Promote Confidence in Company Health 

Your technicians should have confidence in both their own skills and in your company. If they don't know how your company is doing, how are they supposed to feel involved? You need to share your successes and enlist help with your weaknesses. (Just doing that will help you achieve a few of the keys to retention listed above.) By offering transparency, you can help your technicians remain confident your company will take care of their interests. When they're doing well, you're doing well, and vice versa. That's a sure way to keep your best and brightest on board.

Retention Is Always Happening 

Your work toward retention isn't just a one-and-done type of deal. Retention is an ongoing effort. The steps above are designed to help set you on the right path, but there are a lot of steps within those. To help them stay engaged, for example, you need to offer new, valuable experiences. To help techs gain confidence, you need to provide a way to follow best practices.

However you go about enacting tactics to help retain your skilled team members, just focusing on this at all is a good start. You care about keeping your techs around — it's always a good time to show it.

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ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.

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