As a home service professional, you see the effects of the skilled labor shortage every day. All you have to do is look at how long it’s taking you to find and hire qualified candidates. Look at your turnover rates, too. Technicians can pick and choose among employers, job-shopping for the best. And even the best businesses are struggling to recruit.
Part of this is explained by what Business Development Resources (BDR) has labeled the “demographic trough.” We started sharing this with our clients in 2016. The United States entered the trough in 2016, and the recovery won’t begin until 2024, a full four years from now. We will be drastically behind the curve and will need a full two to four years after that to catch up (see chart).
The situation we are facing as a country is based on demographics and the shifting workforce. In other words, everyone is in the same boat. However, that acknowledgment won’t fix things for us. We need to outsmart and outthink not only our competitors but other industries as well. The good news for the vast majority is that we only need to focus on our limited geographic areas.
In fact, according to an Entrepreneur article, “The skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion.”
Those are huge numbers and probably hard to put in perspective. Here’s a ground-level statistic: The cost to replace an employee is roughly 20 percent of that employee’s annual salary, about $8,000 for an employee making $40,000 a year. In the meantime, you’re missing revenue and overloading your other staff, possibly leading to a more costly turnover.
Even worse, other industries are recruiting from the home services workforce. We’re seeing property managers and building owners hiring their own teams of technicians, making it even harder for contractors to recruit qualified, talented workers.
It’s vital for home service businesses to take an active role in building the next generation of young professionals, attracting them to the trades with more than a paycheck. Failing to act will impact your growth and profits in the future. Creating your recruiting and training systems is vital to your future success.
Here are some ways you can take action and do your part to build the skilled labor pipeline.
Welcome young people
The first step toward nurturing tomorrow’s technicians is to reach young people when they’re making career decisions. Young people today have the wrong idea about the skilled trades. They see these careers as too dirty, too hard, not lucrative or not respectable.
We know better, of course. Plumbing and HVAC careers take a massive amount of education, training and technical know-how. Technicians help people solve problems in their homes, requiring significant professionalism and trust. And that results in great pay and benefits. But young people won’t know unless we show them.
Reach out to your local high schools, trade schools and community colleges to offer internship, apprenticeship and ride-along programs. Bring students into your business so they can learn first-hand what it means to be a home services professional. Make their training hands-on, interactive and showcase all aspects of your company.
If it’s a positive experience, you may have created a loyal team member for life. But even if the students you host don’t go into the trades, a good experience for them could build word-of-mouth referrals.
Make your business better
To show young people that you’re a good employer — and retain the team you have — you’ve got to be a good employer. Take the time to work on your business and become the employer you wish you’d had. Many contractors today have built full training rooms with working displays, allowing the team to gather and learn together.
Writing paychecks isn’t enough. People need to feel respected, supported and fulfilled in their work to become loyal team members. Create an impressive company culture with a vision statement and sense of purpose. Look, work and act professionally, always.
Your team needs room to grow, and that means growing your business. Technicians want to move up in the company, evolving into sales or management positions. If they have to wait for someone to retire to advance their career, they’ll start looking elsewhere.
Work to grow your business so you can add the positions your team is looking for. Add SPIFF and incentive programs, too. If you can become the premier home service employer in your area, you’ll see plenty of benefits, including decreased turnover, shorter hiring times and improved employee engagement.
Building profitable maintenance programs creates recurring revenue and future work. The days of sending our employees home because we don’t have the work are over — unless you are trying to get rid of them.
Reach out for help
When you’re running a home service business, it can seem like an insurmountable task to put these initiatives in place. It’s not uncommon for business owners to struggle with the day-to-day tasks, putting out fires and fighting to keep the lights on instead of making the business better.
If that sounds like you, it might be time to reach outside your organization for help. Recruiting agencies can help you identify, attract and screen qualified talent. Business coaching can help you put plans and practices into place to improve profitability and give you the space you need to make real improvements.
These professionals can make the difference between being a short-term paycheck provider or being a premier employer with a reliable team behind you.
Time to take action
You can’t afford to wait when it comes to building the skilled labor pool. Currently, it can take nearly half a year, on average, to hire a qualified technician or installer. Skilled applicants aren’t just going to show up at your door unless you give them a good reason to be there.
What’s happening nationwide affects your business’s daily operations, so it’s not just your responsibility to take action — it’s in your personal best interest.
Flaunt the technology your company and the industry utilize to make your company attractive to younger workers. The perception of the trades — that we aren’t technologically advanced — is, of course, not accurate, but it is everyone’s responsibility to combat this impression.
By running the most professional business possible, you can elevate the plumbing and heating industry as a whole, making it a more attractive career path for young people. Using the resources available to you, you can improve your business and, at the same time, improve the industry.