What do you need to succeed?

There is a certain set of skills, expertise and overall talent that electrical contractors targeting the healthcare and other vertical markets need, and many of those requirements have to do with computer and information technology (IT).

Electrical systems and services continue to evolve to total integrated solutions. Long gone are the days when an electrical contractor (EC) performed only the electrical work. Nowadays, ECs are responsible for almost every system contained within a building or facility. Because of this trend, contractors have found themselves having to hire a new type of employee with different skill sets.

As electrical contractors continue to become more broad-based in their service offerings, they need to keep the unique needs of their customers in mind. As the healthcare industry continues to become more software-driven and information technology-focused, contractors who wish to remain ingrained in these facilities need to have employees who mesh with the requirements of the facility and the end-user.

“The challenge becomes finding the IT-savvy contractor who can relate to and understand the workflow of a clinician in the healthcare facilities,” said Michele Clark, healthcare specialist, SCW Consulting Inc., Westminster, Colo.

Because of the evolution across all industries, which places a greater emphasis on IT, contractors are in a position where they need to make sure their own employees have the ability to handle all aspects, including selling, supporting, installing and managing.

“Companies need to become more of a one-stop shop providing turnkey solutions to end-users,” said Tom Verzuh, president, SCW Consulting. “Not understanding the complex needs end-users face with today’s technology will put you behind your competition.”

This means contractors need to hire above and beyond cable installers and sales teams who focus purely on product. Customers have been using contractors more for total-building solutions, and that generally means every imaginable system contained within.

Project managers need to be on board, and employees need to be well-versed and knowledgeable about software solutions on the market. In addition, all employees need to approach customers in a more consultative manner, offering suggestions and solutions for their particular applications.

This also is important as the electronic medical records movement continues to gain momentum, creating an even greater reliance on IT at healthcare facilities. Relevant to a healthcare setting, this also is critical in terms of system and service offerings, and the medical industry has become increasingly reliant on security for various tasks, including employee, patient and data rolled into one.

“This in turn is forcing firms to recruit talented contractors who understand both the security equipment and how it relates to the major software systems,” Clark said.

As contractors become immersed in the hiring of internal staff, they need to understand that the demographics of the available labor pool are not only shrinking, but changing in terms of what employees truly value. “The single biggest challenge presented to our firm is having potential employers explain just what it is that attracts workers to their firm. Companies tend to think that since they are hiring, that is enough,” Verzuh said.

But it isn’t. They need to bring additional value and benefits to the table and the employee.

Contractors are all too aware that finding qualified and dedicated employees is becoming increasingly difficult. The generation gap is becoming quite apparent, and the labor pool that now exists places value on things many from the baby boomer generation cannot understand.

According to Verzuh, it is apparent that loyalty is fleeting as well. It is common for employees to hop from one company to another. This further adds to the overall importance of making sure the right people are hired for the right positions and that the company is willing to make the investment in those workers.

Keeping an open mind is one way to make sure that your company excels in its own hiring practices. It also is important to keep a pulse on the markets the company serves. For example, contractors who rely on hospitals for ongoing business would benefit by regularly assessing the changing needs of that particular client, such as streamlined procedures to aid in cost savings or other ways in which the end-user can bring value to the entire operation through systems and services.

This may mean stepping outside of your comfort zone, but as this industry has changed so much over the years, it may not be such a big leap of faith. Contractors need to figure out which kinds of employees they may need moving forward, mainly in regard to desired skills. Executed properly, the added expertise could ease contractors into more of a total-solutions provider.           

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.