According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for qualified heating, air conditioning and refrigeration installers is growing much faster than the national average for other types of jobs. In fact, by 2026, the BLS expects a total 10-year growth of 15 percent. Similar numbers impact the entire service sector. Plumber and pipefitter job numbers are expected to grow by 16 percent, for example.
The growing demand for skilled workers in the sector is due to a number of factors, including a large number of professionals planning to retire in the future and a low number of individuals coming into the field. The result is an environment where HVAC companies and other service-sector businesses compete heavily for the best talent. And while pay is always a factor in job-seeker decisions, increasing wages isn’t the only thing you can do to attract and keep great workers.
Finding New Talent in HVAC and Service Industries
The days of posting a help wanted ad locally or online and raking in the qualified resumes may be numbered (if not already over) for the service industry. The truth is that you typically have to work a little harder if you want high-quality employees. Here are three steps to take to ensure you have professional staff well into the future.
Spend some time in digital circles
Monster, Career.com and other online job boards can get your position more exposure than the local classifieds, but don’t forget the value of networking. Spend some time in professional forums and on LinkedIn to get to know talent before you reach out to them, and be open to connections on social media that may turn into a future hire. If you have a business profile on Facebook, you can post a job listing directly to the social media network.
Cultivate your own future technicians
Even smart marketers who get their openings in front of a huge audience aren’t guaranteed applicants, simply because the shortage of qualified workers is so real. One thing innovative companies in the service industry are doing is cultivating their own future worker pool by:
- Working with local school systems that have STEM and tech classes or programs to offer jobs to young people while they’re in school or just after they graduate
- Partnering with local programs (through schools, libraries or chambers of commerce) to sponsor education days, scholarships or internships
- Creating in-house apprenticeship programs that allow for hiring unqualified candidates who have other desirable traits and teaching them the trade
Offer nontraditional benefits that appeal to younger workers
Competitive pay is a must, and workers of all ages do appreciate traditional offerings such as health, dental and a 401k. But Millenials and Gen Z workers also look for jobs that provide them some flexibility in hours, health and wellness programs and even lifestyle solutions. On-the-job training and access to networking and career events such as Service World Expo are also benefits many young staff appreciate.
Providing such perks puts you ahead of the competition when younger workers make a decision about where to work.
Keeping Workers With Your Company
Once you hire and train your staff, though, what’s to keep the competition from poaching them?
It’s a real problem in the HVAC and service industry, where employees are often tempted away from current jobs by slightly more pay or better benefits. That can be devastating to your business, especially if you invested in apprenticeships.
One of the first things you can do to keep your employees loyal is communicate. Make sure staff knows about all the benefits and perks you offer and how they can use them, and then ensure everyone knows they’re appreciated. Take time to provide regular performance evaluations and feedback, and avoid staff stagnation by creating a path for growth within your company if possible.
Competitive pay and benefits is obviously important. For example, the average wage for an HVAC tech in the state of Florida is $20.32 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The same jobs pay an average of $27.09 per hour in California. You can find out more about the average pay for your industry and area via the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics database.
You don’t have to pay the best to keep your employees. Other important actions include:
- Working consistently to provide a safe, positive environment for all staff
- Including staff when you celebrate company wins
- Empowering techs and other staff to solve customer problems
Ultimately, employees that are engaged and happy with their work are less likely to go elsewhere, and because HVAC techs and other service industry specialists have plenty of places to go, companies have the burden of ensuring they don’t want to.