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Author: Jeff Revlett | November 25th, 2023

Tips for Territory Managers – Overcoming Labor Shortage Challenges | EGIA Contractor University

As the weather changes, and fall turns to winter, dealers across the country are gearing up for increased demand. Hopefully, your dealers are staffed, trained, and ready to go for the spike in inbound leads right around the corner. If not, this is usually the time of year when the final pieces of the labor must be put together.

One of the hottest topics I hear from TMs right now is that their dealers can’t find enough labor to supply the demand, particularly service technicians and installers. In this month’s edition of Tips for TMs, I will lay out some best practices that you can discuss with your dealers to help overcome some of these challenges.

Company Culture

I know what you are thinking: What in the world does company culture have to do with recruiting techs and installers? My short answer is everything. People want to work for the most respected companies in their town. I am not just talking about the most respected HVAC company in town, I am talking about THE most respected company regardless of industry. The way you do this is by establishing a company culture that promotes its core values. Some examples of core values include, but are not limited to, honesty, integrity, trust, fairness, and respect. Those core values not only apply to external customers but to internal customers (employees) as well. Those core values transcend through customer reviews. Job seekers are very adept at researching top companies to see if those core values are practiced via Google reviews, social media, and various other platforms. As a TM, you must set the expectation with your dealer that this is a long-term strategy and will not fill all the gaps overnight. However, companies that practice this will be much more likely to have talent seek them out versus those companies that are looking for a quick labor fix.

Have Fun

This idea of having fun may be considered a subcategory of company culture. Have your dealers answer the questions, “How do you show appreciation to your employees?”, “What community events do you get involved with?” and finally, “How do you show the world that you are a fun company to work for?”

Always Be Selling

It is common knowledge that successful HVAC dealers need to have a sales culture. After all, they are in the home selling new equipment, service calls, maintenance agreements, IAQ, accessories and the list goes on. But what I am referring to here is to always be selling your company to potential candidates. In fact, given the current labor crunch, I would argue that selling and marketing how great your company is to work for is just as important as selling your products and services to your clients.

Build It And They Will Come

Build a career path. No one wants to come to work for your dealer and be stuck in a dead-end job. Encourage your dealer to have a structured training program that will clearly lay out the expectations of the candidate. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their dream job is. Once they have that information, the job of the owner or manager is to find a path to get them there in a structured process with timelines. One word of caution to coach your dealer on: don’t be in a hurry. For example, those candidates coming out of trade school often have the expectation of becoming a senior technician with senior technician pay on day one. We know that is not realistic and, if we tried, both the company and the employee would become frustrated, and most likely, the employee would leave.

In contrast, using the above example, consider setting the expectation that we will allow the new hire to first job shadow, then become an install helper, then an install crew member while being rewarded for that advancement. Then we get to the conversation of a potential service position, giving the employee time to not only learn the install process but also how the company does things. This is a path.

Encourage Your Dealers

This topic of labor shortage is real. It keeps your dealers up at night and creates a lot of stress. I recall when I was a TM and asked the question to my dealers about how it’s going with labor. I would often get the response, “It’s horrible – I can’t find people anywhere!” As a TM, a natural response is to say, “Yeah, it’s tough everywhere. Everywhere I go, I hear the same issue.” Now ask yourself a question: Did you make your dealer feel any better about the situation? Did you do anything to separate yourself as a TM compared to your competition? What if you offered an encouraging response such as, “Yes, I understand it is a real challenge out there, but I also know you have great people that can overcome this challenge. If I can be of any help, please let me know.” Which one of these responses puts you in a better position as a TM?

Resources

You may be wondering how to get your dealer support on overcoming labor shortage challenges. There are several articles and resource materials on recruiting practices found at https://mycontractoruniversity.com/.

There is an entire section devoted to hiring, recruiting, and training practices for virtually every position in HVAC contracting. There are also EGIA Contractor University Marketplace partners that can provide support in this category as well. Check out these resources:

    Hire Dimensions

    Work With Your Handz

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