The trades are in desperate need of technicians. I think most companies agree with this statement, but what are we doing about it.
I’ve been the owner of a commercial truck repair shop for over 36 years, and there’s never been a time when it’s been easy to recruit great employees. It’s always been difficult — but never like this. With the rise of technology and the changing of times, we’re seeing more and more workers behind a desk or screen.
As a result, more and more often, young people are being guided to work at white-collar jobs straight out of school.
However, white-collar jobs are not all they’re chalked up to be. The reality is much different. Research confirms that workers are more disengaged than ever with remote and office-based work.
That’s because people in nine-to-five desk jobs find themselves overworked, undervalued, and cornered into cubicles rather than opened to new worlds of possibility.
The trades offer a much different story of working and hiring than that of the dreaded desk job.
With a career in the trades, you can expect the following:
Despite the facts and data about desk jobs and the trades, why do trade businesses continue to struggle with hiring?
The old way to solve these problems was through traditional advertising: the small business owner prints up flyers, uses word of mouth, and sends out letters and calls soliciting people with experience.
There may be better solutions though.
Yes. It’s true. There is hope. Hiring great talent can be — and has been — done.
The trick is that you have to invest some effort into it. You need to try different tactics, track success, and if something works, push on it.
The solution that’s been working for us at Pine Aire didn’t pop up overnight. It was developed over time, with attention to detail, and a relentless drive to learn trial-by-error countless times.
Plus, we’ve conducted tons of research on how other companies source their employees.
I could dive deeply into how we developed our method, and I’m willing to share. I love the subject, and I’m available to discuss it more, so please reach out to me.
Until then, I’d rather not waste your time. Let’s get straight to the point.
Attract and recruit for the person, not their experiences alone. I’m going to give you the extreme basics here. Here we go:
There is a whole world of untapped potential waiting to be discovered. You can target your advertising toward people, people without formal experience in your field.
Many talented people are out there who — with a good training program — could become your next superstar.
The most important initial step is totally about the person, your company culture, and whether they fit into your team.
At our truck shop, our ad posts and videos sound something like this:
If I were a framing company, I would target my ads to start with something like, “If you have ever built a shed…” and go from there.
When you’re hiring, discuss the benefits of your company: spotlight your culture, share the unparalleled level of support your new hire will have, and bring up invaluable mentorship and upward mobility they’ll soon receive from highly-trained tradespeople.
This is actually what separates you from the everyday competition. It’s what makes you unique and gives you the upper hand to attract and retain top talent.
You may be surprised that there are talented people who won’t respond to your ad if you have too many demands or your ad sounds like you’re looking for superman.
If your ad reads like you require a slew of experience, schooling, and a complete toolbox, you may be turning away your next great employee.
An example of this happened in our field with two of our current technicians in our company. They had some formal training and experience, but they stuck it out at a dealership changing oil and parking cars for a company that offered them no chance in sight for advancement.
When finding new talent, the idea is to lower the bar of experience and to look for a high degree of aptitude and attitude. You want someone who it pays to invest in.
Engage your team in this decision-making process!
This is where we had our major breakthrough. One of the second ways to hire and keep a winning team of people is with training.
I travel the country visiting shop owners, and then I go and visit their local successful businesses.
On one of my past trips, I paid a visit to a large landscape construction company in Los Angeles, and I adapted something that they were doing.
This landscape company builds very high-end backyards and has annual revenues above $50,000,000. They create mini teams consisting of a highly trained leader and three (on average) lower-level workers. The leader is called the maestro (Spanish for “master”), and his crewmates are called ayudantes (Spanish for “assistants”).
But here’s the best part: the ayudantes aspire to be the maestro and one day manage and have a team of their own. The ayudantes are not there solely to pick up the tools, work, and clean up; they’re also on the job to work as a team to finish projects on time.
We have training programs and actual physical tests. We use these tests to build great technicians. These specific training programs are a major draw for a person when deciding which company to work for.
While the apprentice is training, they’re earning instead of incurring debt with a trade school. And most people agree that hands-on experience is always better than classroom experience. This leaves the young technician debt-free and with less of a need for higher income.
These considerations are important because young technicians will push for more money because they can’t pay bills. They will grow your business while learning from you and your team.
Now, Jim’s production is tracked. In addition to his pay, he’s also rewarded for high production and quality work.
When Jim heard our request, Jim didn’t want to take on this apprentice. He feared that doing so would decrease his billable hours.
“Training an apprentice will slow down my production.” He was not happy.
I thought he might feel this way. As an experiment, I decided to compensate him at his highest bonus level for four weeks — that is, if he played all in. He agreed.
Jim went from producing 40 billed hours per week to 62 billed hours per week! And the apprentice learned the way we do things in our shop. We have successfully duplicated this practice several times since.
So, what did we learn? Your business can make more money while building a great team!
We’ve conducted plenty of research on this subject. The research all points back to the same result: investing in people leads people to be more loyal to your company and have a greater chance of sticking around for the long haul. We’ve had apprentices become amazing technicians in eight months, while others have taken a year or longer. Still, each time we’ve invested in our people, we’ve been productive.
It has been proven that employees are more loyal to the company that trained them. And it’s worth mentioning one more added benefit: investing in your employee training helps create great working environments.
Training employees and creating a great working environment will keep employees around for a long time.
And when you can create a situation where employees flourish, they’ll tell other great people to come and work with them. They’ll become recruiters for you (I wrote an interesting article on cloning that makes some good points on this topic).
This process has helped us. And it can help you as well.
I’m very passionate about the subject of helping small businesses hire winning teams and would love to discuss it further. Don’t hesitate to reach out. My next great idea may come from my conversation with you!
Collectively, we need to find ways for us to solve this problem. We need to improve the overall image of the trades.
(If you want a couple of laughs about my story, you can listen to this podcast about my humble beginnings as a small business owner)
And when you build a great team, don’t stop recruiting. Create a bench!
We at Pine Aire have created a great place to work. We have a great retention record. We have happy employees, and dammit, we love what we do!
Business is about experimentation, ups and downs, and trial and error to arrive where we are today. One thing we’ve learned is you can never stop striving to do things better.