Five Tips for Hiring, Onboarding, and Retaining Great People
Finding great employees can be tough. And keeping them can be tougher. Jeff Gardner knows, and he wants to help.
Jeff Gardner is an industry veteran who became the Executive Director of ESPA (Electronic Systems Professional Alliance) last year, responsible for a key element of workforce development in the technology integration industry: Introducing electronic systems training to the academic channel. As Gardner says, “We have seen some great successes since then, and some of the programs we work with are now using both ESPA and CEDIA curriculum and certifications.”
In addition to his outreach to various academic institutions and trade schools, Gardner’s also been diligently developing coursework for CEDIA on the subject of hiring and retaining great people – once, of course, you’ve figured out exactly where to find them in the first place. (These efforts go above and beyond Gardner’s wealth of audio knowledge – he’s often brought in as a guest speaker at CEDIA’s Home Theater Boot Camp to share his knowledge on everything from speaker placement to sound absorption. He’s also an audio archivist – one of his hobbies is saving old tapes from the ravages of time, and he’s restored, remastered, and digitized dozens of recordings of historical significance.)
As the economy continues to grow, a great many firms have noted that the challenge of building and keeping a great team has become even more difficult of late. Fortunately, Gardner’s got allies, chief among them the staff and board of CEDIA (Gardner maintains an office at CEDIA HQ in Indianapolis), not to mention the Executive Director of the National Systems Contractors Association Chuck Wilson. Along with Wilson, CEDIA’s brought in member and small-business owner Amanda Wildman, who owns a Michigan integration firm (TruMedia) along with her husband. Wildman’s been everything from a CEDIA Outreach Instructor to a member of her local Home Builder’s Association. It’s a brain trust that’s cooked up a panel discussion for the next CEDIA show in San Diego called “Find, Hire, and Keep Your Next Rock Star.”
Bona fides aside, here’s Gardner with a preview of that panel – specifically, five tips you can begin using today regarding workforce development.
- Search out your local career centers and tech schools. This is where you will find young people with many of the skills you need. Every market has a high school career center and at least one post-secondary tech school. Call them — or just walk in and ask questions. Ask if they have an electronics or IT program that applies to what your company does. Ask if you can meet an instructor and talk to a class. Get engaged. These schools have advisory boards you can be part of — and even influence what they are teaching. The integrators who have this line of communication with a school are the ones who help shape the curriculum AND get to identify (and hire) the best students.
- Use the job boards. CEDIA has a great Career Center where you can post job openings in your firm. Other resources include job boards hosted by NSCA, among others.
- Encourage in-house referrals. There are differing opinions about hiring “friends and family” of current employees, but if done right this can work well. First, set the bar high. Make sure your people know you only want them to refer people who will be a good fit, especially in their personality and work ethic. Incentivize referrals by offering a bonus when the new hire has completed six months or a year on the job. Establish a trial period with the full understanding that certain goals must be achieved and make it clear that a complete assessment at the end of that time will determine whether or not they are offered a permanent position. Assign a mentor other than the person who recommended them.
- Make all your employees part of your training team. Establish a culture of learning for not just new hires, but everyone. Set aside time for online training and book study for all your employees, in addition to what they are learning on the job. This can be a combination of industry training (ESPA, CEDIA, CompTIA, etc.) and manufacturer training which directly applies to the work you do. Use credentials to clarify learning pathways and as part of evaluation and compensation processes.
- Keep them interested. Successful integrators of all sizes know that people want to be challenged and try new things. Discuss goals and opportunities within the company, including the development of entirely new positions that will keep them interested. Learn to recognize when someone needs a change, and talk to them about moving into a new role. This can keep people from looking elsewhere for new opportunities, and it creates a very “deep bench” in your company when people have experience in multiple roles.
CEDIA is the leading global authority in the $14 billion home technology industry.
CEDIA represents 3,700 member companies worldwide and serves more than 30,000 industry professionals that manufacture, design, and integrate goods and services for the connected home.
CEDIA is the brand of custom-installed home lifestyle experiences that define a pathway to prosperity for members and ultimate contentment for clients. This is achieved by engaging all integrators and manufacturers, regardless of level of development and geography, with forward-looking insight and the education, tools, relationships, and support necessary to provide clients with best-in-life experiences at home.