Gaining an Edge in Talent Recruitment

The success and sustainability of any HVACR company is tied to the strength of its team. Yet, as many in the field (and in the office) can agree, finding the right talent is no small challenge. With industry veterans heading for retirement and skilled worker shortages creeping up across the trades, filling your roster takes more than hanging a 'help wanted' sign on your door.

“The HVAC industry is grappling with a multi-faceted challenge in talent acquisition, resulting in significant recruitment hurdles that wholesalers and distributors must overcome,” says Larry Smith, President of Kathbern Management. “And in the competitive talent acquisition landscape, HVACR employers must position themselves as employers of choice."

Surely, the most effective recruitment strategies today are those in which the employers are doing the courting. This is a perspective shared by Aman Malhi, Director of People and Culture at Refrigerative Supply Limited, who shares, "About three years ago, we thought that instead of asking 'What do people bring to us?', we should start focusing on 'what can we do for people."

"That perspective shift has paid off in the sense that we've been very fortunate to be at a place where we don't have to go looking for people," she adds. "In fact, we've started developing a pipeline of people wanting to join us."

There’s no secret formula to becoming an “employer of choice,” but Smith and Malhi have a few considerations for HVACR employers:

l Be competitive with compensation: The first – and perhaps most obvious – strategy for attracting talent is ensuring your compensation packages align with your competition. For example, says Malhi, "We have revamped our compensation program by doing a market review of our salaries and making sure we were paying competitive market salaries. At the same time, we ensured we had a performance bonus program implemented that recognizes people's individual and group efforts."

l Don’t forget the perks: Including competitive benefits like robust health insurance and retirement plans can tip the talent acquisition scales in your favour. The same goes for benefits like mental health and wellness supports, maternity top-up programs, parental leave, more vacation or personal obligation days, and other work-life balance supports.

l Sell a career, not a job: Your potential recruits (and existing employees) should see that a job with your company can lead to a long-term career.

Establish robust training programs that promise skills development and career progression, and show that the company is committed to developing its team.

l Connect with schools: Investing in apprenticeship programs and partnerships with technical schools builds pipelines for new talent. For instance, adds Mahli, “We’ve invested in partnerships with trade schools like BCIT [British Columbia Institute of Technology] and SAIT [Southern Alberta Institute of Technology], and we just invested in mini-MBAs for 21 members of our team through HRAI.”

l Appeal to the generational interests: "There's value in emphasizing the cutting-edge and sustainable nature of the industry, be it the smart homes, green technology, and the importance of environmental control systems," says Smith. "These aspects can appeal to the tech-savvy and environmentally-conscious younger generation."

l Don’t underestimate workplace culture: Building and maintaining a culture of fairness to all people in the field or office will draw attention from potential talent and differentiate you from other employers.

l Strengthen your brand: Become a company that employees want to brag about. Says Smith: “Building a strong employer brand, both online and in the physical communities where it operates, is crucial. This involves storytelling through social media, testimonials from satisfied employees, and visibility at community and industry events.”

Becoming an ‘employer of choice’ is one part of the talent recruitment puzzle. The other is engaging in modern and impactful talent outreach approaches. For starters, says Smith, a modern recruitment strategy should begin with narrowing in on the skills and attitudes you’re looking for and then choosing the recruitment channels that might reach them: “With a clear understanding of their value proposition and desired candidate profile, HVACR employers should start their talent search by leveraging both traditional and innovative recruitment methods.”

Traditional methods include networking through Associations like HRAI, partnering with trade schools to offer internships and co-op programs, engaging a recruitment firm, or even setting up a referral program that incentivizes current employees to recommend potential candidates. Meanwhile, more innovative approaches include using online advertising services, leveraging the might of social media, or creating programs that engage and inspire up-and-coming talent in their schools or communities.

“Employers should also not overlook the power of social media and content marketing to showcase their work environment and culture, which can attract passive candidates who are not actively job searching but might be enticed by the right opportunity,” adds Smith.

Lastly, it pays to broaden your recruitment horizons. Consider connecting with Canadian newcomer groups, First Nations communities, women in construction, and

other under-represented demographics to find talented individuals who are more than capable of doing the job.

Talent is a peak commodity in the HVACR community. Finding and keeping the right people can be tricky. Still, there are advantages to exploring all your options, offering a value proposition that stands above the competition, and creating a culture that does the recruiting for you.

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