Invest in Your People: Education and Training Yield Big Dividends and Attract Talent

Invest in Your People: Education and Training Yield Big Dividends and Attract Talent

Try this tomorrow morning: When you’re ready to take a break, go outside your office building. Face the side of the building with the signage bearing the company name and logo. Now try as hard as you can to crank up your imagination.

Imagine you are one of those highly talented job candidates that your company would love to see walking through the front door any time. Now ask, “Why would I want to apply for a job at this company?” You might add, “Nobody outside of electrical contracting ever has much to say about electrical contracting. It may be essential. But it’s hardly exciting. It may be creeping toward the future. But I’d prefer something leaping toward the future.”

Don’t stop there. Keep that imagination of yours running full tilt.

Continue to imagine yourself as that highly talented recruit, and pretend it’s next year. You’re writing your letter of resignation. Explain in candid and honest terms why you have chosen to leave this well-respected company and all the wonderful people who work there. You have chosen to leave because, in a word, the company does not offer sufficient opportunity for your “advancement.”

Along the way, less-celebrated employees have come and gone. Sometimes they left because of a conflict with their immediate supervisor. That’s a typical complaint. But this highly promising member of the staff will depart for a more philosophical reason: lack of potential progress.

Closely aligned with the advancement of such individuals is the quality and consistency of the education and training that their company provides. This is especially critical to the success of a field service organization. Education and training will help move a field service organization from good to great. Education and training attracts the most educable and trainable people.

Undeniably, it provides tools to benefit everyone in an organization. You can’t change people. But you can improve their tools.

When most contractors and electricians think about education and training, they share a common vision—namely, their wallet. Electricians will enroll in an after-hours course on their own time if it provides a completion certificate that is required for hiring on to a particular project. Contractors will also spring to pay for a course for an entire crew if some sort of certification is a prerequisite for a project. That’s just a cost of doing business.

Contractors are not so quick to reach for their wallet when they do not see an immediate payback attached to it. Besides, they might be paying tuition for workers who sooner or later leave their company. Because they win only a fraction of the jobs they bid, contractors accept the fact that most of the cost of preparing estimates goes for naught. Yet, they are oblivious to the fact that the odds are more likely to favor getting a return on investment in education and training.

In another era, none of this would matter. In the days ahead, it will matter. Service and maintenance in the electrical industry is about to be swept over in a sea change powered by a new wave of internet-of-things (IoT) technology.

In a few years, electrical service and maintenance that used to pass will be as unsuitable and outdated as some of those items that have not moved out of the corner of a contractor’s equipment yard for as long as anyone can remember. IoT-enabled processes will completely transform delivery of electrical service and maintenance. As horseshoes differ from automobile tires, a “connected” style of delivery will make even the best of today’s means and methods obsolete when compared to those of tomorrow. The best and the brightest future employment candidates will place higher value on the EC service-oriented companies that use IoT capabilities. They will discount the ones that do not.

Contractors who are intent upon recruiting talented new entrants—including those candidates who traditionally might never have considered electrical contracting—should now be concerned less about designing desirable position descriptions and more about redesigning their service delivery systems. That kind of change will require education and training to implement.

A demonstrated commitment to ongoing education and training can be the best advertisement for attracting new talent that a company might undertake. It will not actually require placing any ads. Candidates will know all about it long before they come in for an initial interview.

About the Author

Andrew McCoy

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Andrew McCoy is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Department Head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at apmccoy@vt.edu.

About the Author

Fred Sargent

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Fred Sargent is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at fred@sargent.com.

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