Sometimes finding work isn't a company’s biggest marketing problem. It's finding employees to do the work. Given the state of the economy, it seems counterintuitive that finding plumbers would be a challenge. Don't the unemployed want jobs?
Feedback I've received suggests that many unemployed tradesmen are quite willing to interview, but less than enthusiastic about taking a job. The theory postulated by one frustrated contractor was that unemployment provided a steady check, which they could supplement with unreported side jobs.
Whether true or not, the best talent is not found among those looking for work, but those already gainfully employed. The challenge for the business owner is to recruit them. This is a marketing problem.
Use a marketing mix
Do you market for employees? Do you have a single piece of literature explaining why a plumber should leave his current employer and come to work for you? Is there a page on your website, proclaiming the benefits of working for you? Probably not.
Are you applying the marketing mix to recruiting? The classic marketing mix is product, price, promotion and place (or distribution). Apply the marketing mix to your employee recruiting efforts and supporting collateral literature to not only attract more candidates, but better candidates.
Product: The product in recruiting is the available job. It's the company. Identify the features of the job and company, and then assign corresponding benefits. The obvious feature is pay. Are there others? Do you pay for performance so that high achievers can earn more? What are your benefits? What is your reputation? Are your employees proud to work for your company? Do you provide training? Do you reimburse for continuing education? Does the company supply any tools? Are your trucks in good condition? Do you have an enjoyable culture? Do you operate a "jerk free" company? Do you host company outings, picnics, teams, etc.? Do you have an employee recognition program? Does your company give back to the community?
Everything an employee receives from your company is part of the job "product." Your job product probably contains more features than you might imagine. Ask a few of your employees why, aside from pay, they like working for your company. Pay attention to their answers. They might surprise you.
Price: The price is the demands you are placing on the employee. It's the price he must pay to receive the job product. This is not merely showing up for work on time. It's all of your requirements. If you require plumbers to complete all paperwork neatly, state it. Let them know your after-hours on-call requirements. If the employee is responsible for keeping the truck clean, tell them. If he or she needs to show up early for a weekly training meeting, be upfront about it. If presenting options and add-ons on service calls is a requirement of your company, make note of it. Tell them if your company requires wearing shoe covers, showing up clean and groomed, the absence of jewelry or facial hair, random drug testing, and any other aspect of your company that might be a stumbling block to a potential hire. Comb through your employee handbook to ensure you aren't overlooking any other requirements.
Why spell out the price? It's simple. If people aren't willing to pay the price required to work for your company, you're better off if they never apply in the first place. They will resist conforming and likely end up quitting or getting terminated, which is expensive.
Promotion: How do you promote open positions? Do you have a recruiting brochure? Do you have a page on your website with information for potential employees? Do you make use of Facebook, Linked In, and other social media vehicles to recruit employees? Do you subscribe to one of the plumbing industry recruiting services? Do you use Craig’s List and targeted social media advertising? And don't forget the newspaper.
Be unconventional: If you have several positions open, consider contacting a few local radio stations. You might get your openings inserted in the news on a slow news day.
I know a Nevada contractor who dedicates a huge billboard to recruiting. The billboard is located 100 yards from his largest competitor. A Virginia contractor parks panel trucks with large recruiting ads on the side down the street from the major supply houses.
Your promotion efforts should run year round. Do not wait until your trucks are idle and you're tempted to hire the first warm body with a clean driving record. Keep a database of qualified personnel you can call when you face a need. And it doesn't hurt to let your existing employees know you’ve got candidates ready and waiting to work for your company.
Place: The final aspect of the marketing mix is place or distribution. Do you dispatch the first call from the employee's home? How often are plumbers required to come to the office? Dispatching from home is another benefit, though care must be exercised to ensure you are not liable for the drive time to the first call (i.e., getting to work).
Some contractors go out of their way to avoid interviewing job candidates. They only want to talk with individuals who have passed the basic screening requirements. Others talk with everyone possible. Each interview represents an opportunity to learn something about the way other contracting companies operate, including better approaches to the business or contracting. For them, recruiting is not merely a means to attract talent, but a method for gather competitive intelligence.
Approach recruiting as a marketing problem and you will reduce the chance that you'll have idle trucks and lost opportunities when call volume soars.
Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, a business alliance of plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and service contractors. Learn more about the Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com, or e-mail Matt at: [email protected].