Every successful business has one thing in common: great employees. Employees are the most valuable asset to any business and the most difficult part is finding them and then keeping them. In today’s very competitive market to find and keep the right people, we landed upon some strategies that have worked for us.
One strategy we implemented 10 years ago was to focus on hiring “green” helpers with little or no experience who desire to become electricians. We know it is extremely difficult to recruit and hire experienced electricians and foremen. We believe in recruiting and training green help and promoting from within to fill most or our internal needs for electricians and foremen. The best recruitment tool we have is utilizing the list our IEC Atlanta chapter provides us that includes apprentices who are looking for employment and their contact information. This is our number one recruiting source. It’s free and the people on the list have already expressed interest in becoming electricians.
The second most successful recruiting source we use is an online job post on Indeed.com. We also post our positions on our company Facebook page, website, and LinkedIn. Our employees share the posts and this can generate a lot of free exposure if done strategically.
Third, we have implemented a pretty rewarding employee referral program with bonus levels starting at $300 if an employee refers a green helper to us. When the new hire crosses the sixth month of employment, we pay the bonus to the employee that gave us the referral. There are higher bonus levels for different positions. This also helps our overall employee benefits package.
Other forms of recruitment we utilize are local job fairs and getting into the high schools to talk to seniors about our company. Schools are not giving the skilled trades enough exposure, so you have to get in front of them and spark their interest. We often have a project manager share their personal experience of becoming an electrician and then moving up the ladder.
Development and Training
When we decided to promote from within 10 years ago, we also decided to have a goal of at least five or more new apprentices starting first year at the IEC – every year. We have more than 30 in school today. We will have seven graduating this year alone, and half of them are already in a leadership role in the field. This is an investment. We pay 100% books and tuition if the apprentice’s grades are a B or better. We ask them to pay $1,000 to start school that we give that back to them if they are still with us when they graduate.
As well as IEC, we have an internal training program in place that we offer free to any employees who want extra training. We offer a couple of classes a month on Saturday mornings – all free to our employees and with voluntary attendance. Classes are taught by our safety manager and/or project managers and include classes like OSHA 30, NFPA70E, First Aid/ CPR, Blueprint Reading, Conduit Bending, LOTO, and Leadership. We offer a bonus incentive at the end of the year if an employee attends a certain number of these free training classes. We also train in the field as needed for scissor lift, fall protection, PPE, etc. Our safety manager is also in charge of production quality which goes back to training. We also try to have quarterly foremen training meetings and offer tutoring to any of our apprentices who request help.
Training is an ongoing process and if an employee feels as though the company cares enough to train them – they are more likely to stay even if the hourly pay rate is not as high as other companies. It brings value to the company from an employee’s perspective. All of the training and development gets support from the company president and all of management.
We strive to be the employer of choice. It’s not always about the hourly rate, but rates should be fair and offer regular performance raise reviews every six months for apprentices. We offer an annual cost of living (COL) raise in September for every employee, taking into consideration the national COL average. Benefits include paying at least 50% of any medical plan an employee chooses – even if it’s family coverage. Extra self-pay benefits are offered like dental, vision, accident, and voluntary life plans and the company offers a retirement plan after two years through a Simple IRA matching 3% and paid time off benefits. As part of our safety emphasis, we offer a boot allowance of $125 per year per employee.
The highlight of the year is our annual employee Christmas lunch where we have all of our employees meet at the venue at noon and we pay them for their full eight-hour day. We have a great catered lunch and then hand out several employee awards. We recognize our apprentices, employee of the year, apprentice of the year, rookie of the year, and others. We begin planning in August for the Christmas party and get input from our foremen to assist in deciding who gets awards. Awards usually include monetary gifts and a certificate. Games and door prizes are a part of the day and they get some type of nice gift (i.e., jacket, sweatshirt) to take with them along with a bonus check of some sort. Years of service awards are hard hat stickers. It’s the one time a year we see our employees together.
In the spring, we host our Family Fun Day and employees can bring their entire family to this event. We plan activities for kids and give door prizes and include adult sports like flag football. During the rest of the year, we plan a deep-sea fishing trip for foremen, buy lunch for a jobsite after a wire pull, hand out gift cards for gas for those employees who may have stayed late or helped above and beyond the call of duty, and look for opportunities to help employees who may be facing personal challenges from time to time.
Every month we produce an internal email newsletter with birthdays, employee anniversaries, post pictures of our new hires, announce training opportunities, how to become an apprentice, a note from the safety manager, and any other important news we want to communicate. We also survey employees periodically to measure how we are doing. Becoming an employer of choice has to be agreed upon and supported by all of the upper management.
What does that cost? Employees are the most valuable asset. They can make or break the company. The better trained the team is means using less people who are more productive and efficient to complete a job and ultimately save labor. The better the company does at taking care of employees – the fewer people they lose to other companies and the company employee turnover percentage stays low. We went from 114% turnover rate in 2014 to 15% in 2021. It’s a shift in how management thinks, leads, and communicates.
Look for opportunities to impress your internal customers – your employees. The initial investment in training and safety saves on turnover, morale, less injuries, better employees, and a more successful company ready for growth. Two quotes we use to guide our day-to-day actions:
- A happy crew makes a happy you!
- Employees stay when they are paid well, mentored, challenged, promoted, involved, appreciated, valued, on a mission, empowered, and trusted.