Hiring and retaining people is one of the biggest challenges a business can face. At the end of the day, no matter how good your work or sales pitch is, you can’t get it done without the right people. Skilled trades companies know how important it is to find both office staff and technicians with the right combination of technical knowledge and customer service abilities, and yet they seem to struggle more than others when it comes to hiring.
With this in mind, there are two major pieces of news going around right now: the “Great Resignation” and a severe labor shortage. Both are leading businesses to ask themselves some difficult questions about how they operate. However, what many are missing out on is that while on their own, these issues are a threat, when taken together, they are actually an incredible opportunity.
Let’s break it down and see how!
What is the Great Resignation?
The Great Resignation is a post-pandemic phenomenon, where employees have been quitting en masse, with the number of resignations in the millions. Some of these employees have worked throughout the pandemic, either from home or from the office/workplace, while others have had to rely on furlough schemes or unemployment compensation.
There isn’t a main direct relationship between either of those two cases and resignations, as people cite a variety of reasons for choosing to leave their job post-pandemic. To sum a few of them up:
- Having to work throughout the pandemic for an employer that didn’t appreciate their health & safety concerns
- Pandemic burnout: which is especially prevalent in industries with essential workers (essential retail, storage facilities, healthcare, etc.)
- Lack of openness to post-pandemic flexible working on behalf of their employer
- Faced with a life-threatening event, people realized their current job offers no personal satisfaction or growth opportunities
- The need for a change after a shift in priorities
It’s easy to notice how these reasons to resign fall in one of two categories: an employer’s behavior, or an employee’s reassessment of their life situation.
Smart trades businesses will see how there’s an opportunity in both. But first…
What is the trade employee shortage?
For anyone running a trades business, hiring great employees has always been a challenge, but nothing prepared them for the double whammy of an aging workforce and a lack of new entrants into the industry. Both of these have hit new peaks in the last few years.
According to Angi’s most recent report, 77% of tradespeople surveyed viewed labor shortage as a problem. This is higher than last year’s 71%, and significantly more than in other industries that have been hit harder by the pandemic. The median age of a tradesperson is 43 years old, which is 10% higher than the general population, meaning that without a big influx of new people in the industry, things are only going to get worse as more people retire.
However, this need for employees hasn’t yet translated into significant recruitment actions, with most companies still relying on word of mouth or unrequested applications in order to hire. It’s high time service companies opened up to the wealth of possibilities non-traditional hires bring and consider the opportunities at their fingertips.
How can the Great Resignation help you hire more technicians?
If you’ve read carefully through the reasons outlined above, you’ll have noticed that most of the issues leading to resignations don’t really apply to the trades industry. Job satisfaction is at an all time high in the trades, with 83% of respondents reporting to Angi that they’re happy with their work, while flexible hours and growth opportunities are already a mainstay in the industry.
For many people, choosing a career in the trades (or re-skilling and aiming for one) is an attractive opportunity, promising high wages, a flexible schedule, and a sense of pride in working with their hands, all without having to accrue costly student debt.
The main issue is that they’re not always aware of these opportunities or the benefits. There isn’t much you can do about pushing schools or local administration to advertise more, but there are certainly things you can do to get more employees out of the Great Resignation. Start by:
- Working with colleges and course providers to welcome both apprentices and mature employees looking to re-skill and learn a trade
- Showing potential employees that trades are a tech-savvy industry and there are tools, like job management software, that help make work-life easier and more engaging, in many ways
- Making use of your service van designto advertise jobs and learning opportunities in your company
- Advertising based on the benefits people missed in their old jobs (flexibility, learning opportunities, not being stuck at a desk all day, etc.)
- Making use of online job boards and non-trade specific hiring platforms
- The women in plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and other trades can struggle with employers’ preconceptions; make sure you’re advertising to them and not missing out on their great potential
If businesses are ready for it, the Great Resignation could provide them with a solution to the labor shortage they’re facing—which is only about to become more challenging, as the current workforce ages out of the market. By making an effort to open up the industry to newcomers and advertise its many benefits, those looking to change their field still have a chance to learn from existing experienced employees, and grow in their own career.
People want to feel a connection to the work they do and there is more than enough research showing that trades can satisfy a growing desire of having done something worthwhile with your own hands. At the same time, it allows them to connect to people and feel like they’ve contributed to someone else’s wellbeing.
The first step is a redefinition of the trades as crafts and changing the perception that such a career is a plan B for someone who isn’t able to go into higher education. At the same time, making the industry available to women will also provide a larger pool of candidates for businesses struggling with the labor shortage. All in all, there are many opportunities. It’s up to businesses to take advantage of them.