The electrician shortage is real, and here to stay. Electrical contractors who put in the extra effort to distinguish themselves from the crowd, make their businesses more attractive places to work. Here are some tips to make it happen.
By Andrew Pempek
Many industries were transformed by the Great Recession. Some collapsed, and others emerged crippled or running on fumes. Then, there were those that saw their ranks depleted while being left with the profession itself still totally intact. Electrical contractors are one such group that’s unable to operate at capacity due to the electrician shortage. According to Manpower, a global employment consultancy firm, more than one-third of managers globally were unable to fill positions with qualified workers. Within that group, skilled workers (like electricians) topped the list.
Depending on your point of view, it can be a good problem (as an electrician) or a bad one (as a short-staffed contractor). Regardless, it’s a problem that can be fixed with the right strategy.
The solution is more than simply matching the right person with the right job; in a buyer’s market like this one, you have to actually compete for your potential employees. That means making your workplace more attractive. Below are four ways you, as an electrical contractor, can distinguish yourself and lure new talent.
Go High Tech
In today’s work environment, aspiring and current electricians are drawn to new technologies. They don’t have time for antiquated technology, and because they have so many options, they never have to settle.
It’s up to contractors to invest in cutting-edge technology and then showcase it to prospective employees. Demonstrate that you are ahead of the curve and that your employees will never be envious of the electrical contractor down the street. Similarly, be sure that your best practices are up to date. Work standards have changed post-recession. Employers — especially those with recruitment or retention issues — are challenged to be both progressive and efficient.
Define Clear Advancement Paths
Similar to the point above, today’s employees are not hesitant to jump ship for a better opportunity. Online job databases let them see who’s offering what far more easily than in the past. Plus, many young trade workers assume (correctly or not) that the only way to advance is to move.
For electrical contractors, that can mean laying out clear career paths within the company. Another approach is to offer employees plenty of opportunities for new training and certification. While you might be limited in terms of offering promotions, your employees will still appreciate your willingness to give them room for professional growth.
Be Open to New Thinking
This is a challenge for any industry. As a manager or supervisor, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your idea is best. It’s also easy to assume that as a higher rank, your way will be warmly embraced by everyone beneath you.
Listen to what your employees have to say. They’ve likely got some fresh, new ideas. At a minimum, listening improves morale and allows employees to feel more attached to your business. You will also hear new approaches to solving old problems that you hadn’t thought of before. And, you’ll probably hear from employees about new technologies they’ve found out about.
Pay Them More
You knew this one was coming. In a free market, it’s a truth that will never change: The people with the decision power get to set the wages. When pickings are slim in the job market, you have more flexibility in terms of personnel costs. However, when there are more open jobs than available workers, the onus is on the employer to pay up.
Consider it an investment: If you can use higher wages to attract new talent, you can also count on keeping them loyal to you and away from job databases.
Of course, it’s not always so simple. In many cases, you don’t have the ability to give everyone a raise. It’s certainly not an uncommon problem in any industry. Yet that’s where you have to get creative. Research different benefits plans that could lure employees. Consider options for allowing them to work and train simultaneously. Try flexible work hours, which are increasingly valued by young employees.
With the right approach, you can solve your electrician shortage, and ensure they stick around for more than just a little while.
About the Author
Andrew Pempek is Vice President of John J. Pempek, Inc., a commercial and industrial electrical contracting company specializes in industrial electrical power, maintenance services, control services and more for over 60 years