Taking Advantage of the Great Resignation: Challenges of a changing workforce

Published On
Feb 15, 2022

The “Great Resignation” has been all over the news, and many electrical contractors are blindsided by experienced employees retiring. Many face the challenge of hiring new journeymen and helpers educated enough to enter the trade.

Many new construction projects are beginning to break ground even with omicron’s continued spread. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. In “Who Is Driving the Great Resignation” by the Harvard Business Review, author Ian Cook found that resignations are highest in the tech and healthcare industries. His survey disclosed that resignations increased by 4.5% in tech industries.

Every labor shortage issue must be dealt with differently.

When was the last time you sat with your skilled technicians to find out their needs? To retain good people, you need to pay attention to those needs.

In general terms, many large companies, such as Target, Walmart and Starbucks, which face the same challenges, are offering incentives such as free tuition for all full-time employees. Amazon is reportedly offering signing bonuses to qualified new hires. Many companies have added free day care and matching 401(k) programs to attract and keep trained and valuable employees.

In Harvey Mackay’s “Tips to Overcome Hiring Struggle,” he writes, “Employers must understand that we are in a different landscape. The cost of doing business is going up, but the cost of doing no business is a downward spiral. Hiring the best people, or training them to be the best people, is an investment that every business must be prepared to make.”

The fire alarm field

In the fire alarm and life safety systems field, the needs are no different. You may be satisfied concentrating on your principal business, but perhaps someone on your staff wants to establish a fire alarm division within your company. That new opportunity changes the kind of technicians, journeymen and helpers you will want to target for employment.

People leaving other fields may be interested in working in “hands-on” jobs where they can learn new skills while using their existing training and knowledge for a better quality of life. This gives you a unique opportunity to sell what your company can offer.

Training takes on a new meaning in this dynamically changing marketplace. By providing the proper training, you offer a new hire the potential for rapid advancement, and such a training opportunity could make a difference to a prospective employee. Your company’s superior training may provide a distinct advantage over the competition in attracting new employees.

This opportunity is not beyond your ability to engage effectively. Use the same tools and technology you employ to win projects to find qualified new employees.

You should also target those technicians in similar industries who have not yet quit their jobs but are interested in performing services that can save lives. Of course, you could look at buying a competing company to expand the labor pool and develop the potential to cross-train individuals so they may enjoy their work better through a diversity of tasks.

Hiring for service

Hiring for service, not skills, is another approach to creating a culture with employees who are proud to work for you and grow in this technical field. A California contractor had difficulty hiring alarm technicians, so they hired roofers and fence builders and trained them.

Regardless of your approach, sitting by and wringing your hands is unproductive. The new fire alarm system technology in the pipeline—and some that is already available—will require technicians with a higher level of knowledge and training to sell and install these systems.

Rise above the chaos and remember to care about the work in the present while thinking about where the future will take you. For example, warehouses are being built with extremely technical robotic retrieval systems to serve the burgeoning e-commerce markets. Add that source of business to your potential market, as well as a host of other burgeoning industries. Remember that new technical markets will, in turn, draw people interested in the new and challenging work, which will help you retain and attract employees.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist

Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker, writer and expert in the life safety field, has been a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, as well as a former principal member of NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is the...

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