Posted on January 05, 2015
Getting the right people has always been a challenge for employers, and it's even more difficult in the $61 billion heating, ventilating and air conditioning industry (HVAC), which requires more than specialized training. It requires people who not only have technical expertise, but also good people skills.
That was the problem for Minnick's, Inc., a 59-year-old company with operations in the Baltimore-Washington area. "Finding, hiring and training the right people has been one of the biggest challenges we face in growing our business," says Rob Minnick, President and CEO of Minnick's.
Minnick's services and installs forced-air, air-conditioning and hydronic systems as well as geothermal and solar thermal. In 2008, they began to focus on energy audits and a whole-house approach to providing energy solutions, and needed to staff up. Minnick’s projects its revenue to increase by $2 million this year. The biggest challenge, though, in sustaining its growth has been finding technicians with the mechanical aptitude and people skills required to be good in the field.
Finding the right employees is particularly difficult in an industry such as HVAC, with approximately 264,000 people working in some 78,000 businesses, and no one company accounting for more than 5% of industry revenue, according to a research report from Ibis World. With so many companies and so little industry concentration, employers are competing for the same experienced employees, and no one company can serve as a training ground for HVAC technicians on an industry-wide basis.
Minnick's needed to look beyond the usual recruitment methods to find qualified employees. Running employment ads with, "wanted: experienced HVAC technicians," just doesn’t work, says Minnick. "Good HVAC technicians usually stay put. If you hire someone else’s cast-offs they generally have a bad attitude and a lot of bad habits."
Chris Compton of HVACRedu.net, the leading online educator for the HVAC industry, introduced the Minnick's team to HireBetterNow.com (HBN). "There's a national shortage of HVAC technicians," says Charles J. Brand, creator of the HireBetterNow Hiring System. "People don't want to work with their hands anymore," Brand says. "What most HVAC companies do is look for experienced people, because they don't want to take the time or trouble to train them." As a result, companies attempt to steal experienced HVAC technicians from other companies. That's difficult, since if a technician is good, his existing employer does everything they can to keep him. If a technician is available, it means he's probably not a very good employee.
Brand himself is an HVAC contractor in Sussex County, N.J. He developed his hiring system over a period of 14 years as he dealt with hiring problems in his own business. "I came to the conclusion that I'd be better off finding people with strong mechanical ability, reasonably good people skills, and a good attitude and work ethic rather than hiring castoffs from other companies. Little by little, I put the pieces of a successful hiring program together," Brand says.
The HireBetterNow Hiring System, which has eight steps, involves hiring new employees who have the mechanical aptitude, work ethic and personality required to become excellent technicians, screening them and training them on an accelerated basis. Among the steps are what Brand calls “The Position Clarifier," which clearly defines the job responsibilities and "The Attraction Formula." This is particularly important, Brand says. “It's a way of writing employment ads to attract the right type of person. The trick is to talk about the person rather than the job”.
“HBN has made a huge difference in our ability to get good people and grow our business," says Minnick. "We currently have about 20 employees and approximately half of them have been hired using The HireBetterNow Hiring System. It's given us the ability to find people with just the skills we need to turn them into excellent HVAC technicians.”
“The system really works”, he adds. "HBN does all the work and presents us with 5 to 10 high-quality candidates. The mechanical ability, people skills and attitude of the people they bring to the table is far superior to anyone we were able to find on our own," Minnick says. "In one recent round of hiring we had over 800 applicants for the position. That kind of quantity combined with their unique screening techniques produces outstanding candidates.”