It's no secret: The home services industry is facing a staffing crisis that experts predict could diminish the industry within the next decade. There are steps companies can take, however, to protect themselves from the looming talent gap and foster long, fruitful tech careers at their company today.
In 2015, the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation estimated that, by 2022, there would be 115,000 new HVACR technicians needed throughout North America to sustain the industry. The number of estimated new professionals entering the industry in 2015? Just 21,000. In your community, you might find that you and your competitors are already experiencing a sudden drought in technician applicants. The industry is changing — and experts are advising that companies of every size adapt to ensure that their business stays staffed with confident, capable professionals.
Why the Talent Gap?
Even before the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation study, you and your colleagues may have noticed that hiring techs was becoming more difficult. According to Mike Moore of VAC Learning Solutions, part of the issue is generational. “One of the problems that we have is that as an industry, we have to let potential employees know that there are opportunities out there,” Moore told Field Service Digital in 2011. “Because a lot of people when they’re growing up or they’re graduating from high school or college, they don’t necessarily think about the HVAC industry when they’re looking at their career choice.”
Erin Morrison, the operations manager of Brandon’s Plumbing in Oklahoma City, says her company has sensed of similar perception of the industry among young people. “Nobody grows up and says, ‘I want to be a plumber.’” she says. “I told my husband a couple years ago, ‘We need to make this look like attractive again, it's so necessary.”
What Your Business Can Do
Fortunately, experts believe that there are measures home services businesses can take to not only hire reliable, valuable techs but retain them for long-term careers, as well.
- Be Realistic with Your Job Listing When looking for a new technician, it’s easy to want to find a seasoned pro who can slide seamlessly onto your team, put angry customers at ease, make upsells, and do everything else experienced professionals regularly do. However, demanding 15, 10, or even five years of experience dramatically narrows the candidate field and can intimidate eager applicants that may be curious to learn about opportunities in the home services industry. If you have the time and resources to mold less experienced candidates into effective, knowledgeable techs, consider casting a wider net with your job listing.
- Keep a Lookout for Atypical Candidates Without realizing it, you may have rigid preconceptions about what a technician at your company should be like, what their background should be, or even what their education or interests should be. However, like other industries, home services has a lot to gain by courting candidates with diverse talents and backgrounds. The technical skills needed for the job can be taught, but relatability, salesmanship, sensitivity, intuitiveness, and various other “soft skills” are the factors that can make a tech excel with customers.
- Consider Establishing an Apprentice Program One the best ways to find new talent is to grow it yourself. By implementing training programs or apprenticeships, you can take new tech candidates under your wing and show them the ins and outs of the industry. Remember: With these programs, you aren’t just teaching candidates technical skills, you’re introducing them to an industry (and a company—yours) that can provide lasting, long-term opportunities and a satisfying career path.
Brian Hortin, Chief Marketing Officer for Absolute Air Heat & Water says that finding young hires hungry to to be a part of the industry has helped them develop promising techs. “We hire for attitude and drive. You know, they have the attitude that they want to build a career. They want to learn,” he says. “We have continual training going on. We help them get certifications. We kind of build them into technicians and start to give them more responsibility, and they get to move up into the second team and in the first team of our technicians where they can do more of those involved things.”
- Evaluate Your Company Culture It can be difficult in the home services industry — especially for small businesses — to put a concerted effort into company culture when booking and completing new jobs is the utmost priority. However, it is highly advised that all businesses take a hard look at their company culture. Is your company a place where your techs want to be? Do they feel taken care of? Engaged? Do they see a future with you?
Company culture can be defined as the vision, values, and assumptions of an organization. Culture exists independently from employees, however, it’s crucial that employees feel aligned with the company culture to ensure retainment. An employee with little experience, but who fits in well with the company culture is more likely to remain employed at an organization opposed to an individual who has a lot of experience, but doesn’t align with the company culture. That is why it is so crucial for businesses to communicate their vision and values to existing and potential employees.
Brian Hortin says that improving company culture is also a great way to retain good techs in a cutthroat market where poaching is all too common. “We need to continue to build our company culture so that we are in a kind of place that they'd never wanna leave even if they were offered a dollar more an hour,” he says. “That's something that we're working on and that's always a challenge.”
Growing your business can be difficult and the marketplace is always becoming more challenging. With the right strategies and technologies in hand, however, even small home service businesses can find the foothold they need to maintain an upward trajectory, expand their earnings, and thrive in their community. Learn more with ServiceTitan’s “How to Grow Your Business” blog series.