Mastering the Art of Recruiting and Retaining Employees in the Trades
Like many other trades, the HVAC industry faces challenges recruiting and retaining employees. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Baker and Wood Boyle from Blue Collar Talent Scouts, a recruiting and retention consultancy firm based in Denton, Texas, on the HVAC Revealed Podcast. With over 40 years of combined experience, Dan and Wood provided invaluable insights on this topic on our HVAC Revealed Podcast.
Making the Trades "Sexy" Again
Unsurprisingly, the trades have seen lower recruitment over the past ten to fifteen years. Twenty years ago, the trades were abundant in new and young trainees wanting to learn all about the business. Still, as more of an emphasis is being placed on “going to college”, it seems there’s been a negative light cast on being an HVAC technician or a plumber.
“Kids these days want to be influencers [on social media],” Dan joked. But the truth is that the media doesn’t portray the trades positively. The younger generation watches movies and TV where plumbers are overweight and have cracks hanging from their pants. Electricians and technicians are shown as impoverished and having to work long hours. “We have to make the trades sexy again,” Dan added.
A great point that was brought up was teaming up regionally with high schools and other programs with adolescents and talking about how great the trades can be. “Business owners care about their image,” Dan explained, so it’s up to them to change the negative image that everyone else has around this industry.
It's About Relationships
Wood Boyle hit the nail on the head when he said, “Demonstrate that you want them, that you want a relationship with them.” Building rapport and loyalty, according to Boyle, is the cornerstone of retention.
“If the people currently working for you don’t feel welcome there, then I promise everyone in a fifty-mile radius will know it,” Dan added. Your image is the first thing new hires will see, and if you have the reputation of not caring about your employees, you’ve failed before you get one person in the door.
It is also important to give your employees the flexibility they need to work and have a personal life. “If you have an employee who needs to get to his son’s baseball game every Thursday, and he’s a great producer and gets his work done, you need to get him there,” Wood explained in this scenario, that you need to respect their work-life balance. As long as it makes sense and that employee is taking the time somewhere else to make up for lost hours, they will respect you for making it work.
“Build rapport, build loyalty,” said Boyle, who pointed out that a strong employer-employee relationship starts from the recruitment process and extends throughout the tenure of employment. In this industry, loyalty can be the difference between an employee who stays for six months and one who stays for six years.
Recruiting and retaining employees in the trade industry is an intricate process that requires more than just offering a decent salary. It requires building relationships, offering growth opportunities, and providing an environment where employees can take ownership of their roles.
Hiring For Growth, Not Desperation
If you only hire when your business is slammed with work, then “you have missed the boat,” Wood explained. You should constantly be recruiting and looking for the best in the business. Because when you hire them, you are adding to your team and choosing good candidates, and you can eliminate the bad performers or those who have checked out.
Hiring should constantly be a 24/7 job. Be out there networking and talking and interacting with potential candidates. Find the people who can help build your business. You want to retain these employees, and you should do what you can to build that rapport and loyalty with them.
Don’t forget that they still need the proper onboarding when they start. “Don’t just throw them in a truck and say, here is five calls today,” Wood added. Take the time and show them the ropes; don’t expect them to know everything about your company on the first day. Build that relationship front the foundation, and you will be amazed at how that effort boosts your profits and retention rates.
Listen To The Experts
Dan and Wood’s insights offer a roadmap for any business in the trades struggling with recruitment and retention. As the industry works to shake off outdated stereotypes and attract a new generation of tradespeople, their advice could not be more timely. Employers should focus on continually improving their image, building strong relationships, and allowing for personal and professional growth if they are to succeed in recruiting employees for the long haul. Check out HVAC Success Secrets: Revealed on YouTube or other podcast listening channels to watch this whole conversation.
Until Next Time
Evan and Thaddeus
About Dan and Wood:
Daniel Baker and Wood Boyles own Blue Collar Talent Scouts, a recruiting & retention consultancy company based in Denton, TX. With over 40 years of combined experience, they have developed effective strategies for finding jobs for skilled workers, particularly in the MEP (Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing) industry!