‘Just Passing Through’: Creating Career Paths for Retaining Technicians
One of the things many of my clients have in common is difficulty attracting and retaining quality technician employees. This is not a new revelation. All one needs to do is turn on or read the news and you would come up with the same assessment. Although it was a major concern prior to COVID-19 rearing its ugly head, it’s worse now. Lots worse. But for now, let’s focus on how we attract and retain the best talent—despite the existence of COVID-19.
Human beings, at least the ones we truly want to employ, have a desire—or even a need—to constantly learn and grow. If you accept this as a fact, then you’ll understand why we need to create an environment in which all our employees have that opportunity—not sometimes, but always.
Here’s what we need to do: we need to make sure our employees know where they want to go in our company. It’s our responsibility to listen and to help them find their way by first understanding what it is they want. Then, we can help them achieve that by training and preparing them to advance within our organization.
Sure, creating individual career paths and training plans is a lot of work. But, I would offer that constantly training new employees is far costlier in terms of actual training time, lower quality of work produced, and a company culture that’s not as strong as you’d like it to be.
In fact, according to Forbes, “Turnover can cost employers 33% of an employee’s annual salary. The culprit? The hiring of a replacement. To put a dollar amount on it, if the employee earned a median salary of US$45,000 a year, this would cost the company $15,000 per person — on top of the annual $45,000.” This puts into perspective how valuable having these career paths and training plans actually is for the average restoration company looking to keep quality technicians and save money in doing so.
Here’s a true story that will put this into perspective for you at the technician level:
Early in my restoration career, I was told by a consultant I had hired that humans can tolerate a lot if we view what we’re doing as simply “passing through” this work, this time, etc.
As long as we don’t consider what we’re doing right now to be our final destination, we can do anything.
An example of this goes back to when my company was very small. There were probably only four or five of us in the company, which led me to not having enough technicians to get a rush job done for a good client.
So, as business owners are inclined to do, I threw on the tool bags and proceeded to enter the crawl space of this particular home. You need to understand that I don’t like crawl spaces at all. I hate spiders, spider webs, snakes, skunks, raccoons, mud, and confined spaces. To make things worse, I had to crawl to the far side of the underside of the house. On my way, I had to squeeze between a floor joist and a plumbing waste line, and, as luck would have it, I got stuck.
So here I am, in the dark, confining crawl space of this home with the spiders, spider webs, and hundreds of snakes, skunks, and raccoons (not really, but in my mind there sure were). It was at that point that I was questioning why I was even in the restoration business and what my life had devolved into.
As I was about to go into a full panic attack, I remembered the words my consultant had told me to focus on, “I can do anything as long as I know I’m just passing through here.” I knew that I just had to get through this one job and I could go back to my more comfortable job and life. So, I took a deep breath, forced myself to calm down and relax, and I eased myself from that situation. No snakes, skunks, spiders, or raccoons assaulted me—although, by the time I emerged from that crawlspace, I was thoroughly covered in spider webs.
From Burdensome Backbreakers to Bigger and Better
This is a good analogy of what our technicians face every day. Sure, maybe it’s not a crawlspace, but it could be the fourth night in a row that the same employee has been called out to extract water from a customer’s home. Perhaps, it’s the eighth hour of work in full personal protective equipment (PPE) or tarping a roof in the middle of a rainstorm. You get the idea. The list of unpleasant things we ask our technicians to perform is endless. But, if we’ve set the stage properly, our techs know they’re just passing through here on the way to a better job and, ultimately, a better life. If an employee knows the path they are on within our company is headed to a higher-paying, more comfortable position, they can do anything for the short term.
It’s at this point where many employers ask the question, “What if I train my people and they leave?” My good friend Scott Tackett suggests a better question, “What if you don’t train them and they stay? What will that cost you?” Here’s another thought—if you don’t train your technicians and prepare them to advance in your company, there’s a good chance that your competition will.
Remember the part about “just passing through here?” The last thing you want is for your people to view your company as the thing they’re ‘just passing through.’ I would suggest that an organization that creates a path for each employee to learn, grow, and advance in has a much better chance of not only retaining its employees but attracting good employees as well.
There are many more pieces to the puzzle of hiring and retaining good technicians and employees, but helping employees find their vision and assisting them in obtaining it is a great place to start.
Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit violand.com or call (800)360-3513.