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HVACR Industry Pros Share Tried and True Methods to Retain Employees

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We see it at every conference and in every peer support room: The toughest obstacle in the HVAC industry is finding good people to hire. But once you’ve hired the right people, how do you keep them on your team? If you are looking for a one-step easy solution used by the pros to keep their employee retention high, you’re headed for disappointment. The path to high employee retention is a positive culture, which is not a quick, easy solution. A positive culture is the result of a well-planned, multi-faceted team design. Let’s look at some successful employee retention methods used by industry-leading professionals. 

Career Paths

Create and install a clear career path for each division of the company. Provide a document outlining the ranking structure, pay rates, benefits, promotion requirements, necessary tools, required qualifications, and mandatory skills for advancement. As employees come to ask for a raise throughout the year, guide them back to the career path. Do they have the necessary qualifications, tools, skills, and experience? Employees need to act the role they want and earn the raise. With a clearly defined career path in place, employees can see what their future looks like and how to achieve their next promotion.  

Training Programs

Develop a training program for each division of the team. Your program should include a healthy mix of technical, communication, and personal development. Train your service team three times a week, sales twice a week, and installers at least once a week. Prepare for a successful session (and avoid wasting employees’ time) by carefully planning the subject you will cover. Successful leaders retain employees through thoughtful planning and well-developed training programs. 

Healthy Competitions

Creative competition amongst peers within departments adds a fun, more solid company culture. For example, challenge the install team to compete for the best install picture. This encourages installers to perform at their best consistently, take more pride in their work, build good habits, and push each other. This type of healthy competition provides you with pictures to use for marketing and training, helps you build a stronger culture, and gives you a team working at a higher level.  

The prizes for competitions can be performance-driven bonuses, tangible prizes (such as a PlayStation®, AirPods, sunglasses, tools, etc.), or recognition along with a certificate that goes on the wall for the entire team to see. Employees love to be recognized by management. Tangible items will often be far more desirable than a cash bonus of a higher amount. A $500 game console costs half of a $1,000 cash bonus—and the employee takes home a guilt-free toy they already wanted. The numbers do not make sense on paper, but we have proven time and time again that this works consistently.  

Work/Life Balance

In climates that truly do not NEED 24-hour service for the clients to survive, consider eliminating on-call service. The team already works hard, and work-life balance is important. Some companies use on-call service as a revenue generator, although if you look at the lower morale, decreased family support, and performance loss the following workday, you will find that the on-call service might not be as lucrative as you thought. Younger generations prefer a four- or five-day work week and will go the extra mile for companies that give them days off to spend with family. Make sure your Google business listing shows you can provide service 24/7 but specify your office hours.  

No Sign-on Bonuses

Avoid sign-on bonuses. Sign-on bonuses attract short-term, expensive talent with no loyalty. Yes, you can tie in a term contract to the sign-on bonus, although the employee is often looking for the next highest bidder when that term is ending. Meanwhile, discovery of the sign-on bonus leads your existing team to become disgruntled that they did not receive equal compensation. I have been asked for a sign-on bonus by many talented potential new hires. Each time, I told them about my philosophy on the bonus: I do not give them out. This earns respect for me and the organization. I have hired 100% of these individuals even though I did not pay a sign-on bonus. Comparatively, the one sign-on bonus mistake I made very early in my career—and all other sign on bonuses I have heard about in my area—have ended in short-term employment and no loyalty. 

Employee retention is highest in companies with a strong positive culture. Although not a quick and easy fix, these techniques from the pros can lead to a positive company culture: provide a clear career path, implement a training program, create fun competition amongst peers, establish a healthy work/life balance for your team, cut on-call service if possible, and avoid sign-on bonuses. 

Additional Resources for HVAC Employee Hiring, Retention, and Management

Did you enjoy this article? ACCA strives to provide a wide variety of tools to assist with your HVAC workforce challenges. Check out the following resources available for ACCA members:

ACCA’s Work Force Development Committee created downloads full of helpful tips and considerations related to HVAC employee recruitment, testing/qualifying/hiring, performance evaluation, and retention/career Path. Also included is a customizable employee evaluation form.

This webinar titled “Build the Best Techs, Don’t Hire Them!” outlines key strategies for marketing apprenticeship positions to local schools, how “Tech Up” is creating a new talent pipeline for Carrier and Bryant dealers, how you can apply a similar recruitment model to your local communities.

Chris Crew, owner of the Blue Collar Success Group, presented an informational webinar on “The 4 Keys to Hiring and Retaining Talent.” In this valuable presentation, Chris shares his step-by-step hiring and onboarding process so that you, too, can hire with confidence. As a previous owner and operator himself, Chris knows that the first day on the job is one of the most important experiences that can impact a new team member’s decision to stay or leave in the short term.

Not an ACCA Member? Click here to take advantage of all of the resources, training, and support ACCA has to offer. 



The upcoming ACCA 2023 Conference & Expo, April 2-5 at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, LA, is packed with sessions to take your HVACR workforce hiring management skills to a whole new level.


Can you afford to miss out? REGISTER NOW to join these in-depth, expert-led presentations on HVACR workforce hiring, management, and retention.

Cody Novini

Posted In: ACCA Now, Employee Training, HR, Leadership Development, People Management, Training

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