HVAC is a busy industry with a labor shortage, which is a recipe for burnout. FTL Finance managers Lauren and Jeffrey share some tips to keep team spirits high.
Employee burnout has always been an issue, but with the current HVAC labor shortage, preventing it is more important than ever. In the past year, 9 out of 10 Americans experienced burnout, with about 40% leaving their jobs.
Customer-facing employees are particularly stressed, with 74% at risk of burnout. This includes your HVAC techs, too — what’s more customer-facing than going into someone’s home, after all? As peak HVAC season slows down, you can use the extra time to create a burnout prevention plan.
To get some insight on keeping team morale high and burnout low, we sat down with Lauren Scanio, FTL Finance’s Senior Customer Service Manager, and Jeffrey Gaskill, FTL’s Contractor Support Manager. These teams are at the front lines of our company and answer questions from both homeowners and contractors.
Let’s dive into Lauren and Jeffrey’s advice for identifying and preventing burnout while keeping morale high.
LISTEN TO YOUR TEAM
The first and most important step to boost team morale and prevent employee burnout is listening to your team. You won’t know your employees’ pain points unless you hear from them, and you can’t address what you don’t know.
To get this employee feedback, Lauren conducts stay interviews. These interviews allow her to intentionally sit down with her employees and find out why they stay at FTL. She asks questions like:
- What makes you feel valued?
- Do you feel like your work matters?
- How do you like to receive feedback?
Asking these questions helps Lauren see her team as humans first, not employees. She keeps these things in mind throughout the year and meets with each team member weekly. This provides more opportunities to get honest feedback from her team so she can maintain an environment her employees want to stay in.
As an HVAC contractor, conducting stay interviews is a great way to learn from your team. You can’t always be with them in the field, but seeking employee feedback can give you relevant insight into how things are going.
For these insights to be truly impactful, though, Lauren recommends acting on employee feedback. It doesn’t have to be wildly complicated. Say, for example, one of your employees keeps mentioning that they wish they could go to their kid’s practice, but it’s on their late night. Next time you make the schedule, switch up late night assignments (as long as it works with employee availability). Not only will this show your employee you’re listening to them, but it also shows that you appreciate them.
SHOW YOUR EMPLOYEES APPRECIATION AND RECOGNITION
When was the last time you stopped one of your employees and told them thank you? When was the last time you recognized a tech for something they did well? If you haven’t done it in a while — or ever — it’s time to start. Lack of recognition is the third most common reason employees leave jobs. How silly would it feel to lose one of your best employees when there was a simple solution?
Both Jeffrey and Lauren find showing appreciation is essential to team morale. They’ve found ways to ensure each team member receives feedback in their preferred way. For example, one of Lauren’s team members likes to get two pieces of feedback each week during their one-on-one meeting. Jeffrey has some employees who prefer one-on-one recognition and others who prefer to be recognized in front of the team. He does his best to honor their preferences, but he will recognize everyone in a group setting at some point so their peers can celebrate their achievements as well.
If you don’t have enough time to meet with your employees one-on-one, especially during the busy season, try celebrating HVAC Technician Appreciation Day. This holiday is celebrated on June 22 every year. Consider bringing in breakfast and lunch for your techs, or if there’s room in the budget, toss them each a gift card. Same for your office staff on Administrative Professionals’ Day or Customer Service Week. A little appreciation can go a long way.
PROVIDE YOUR TEAM WITH THE RESOURCES THEY NEED
We’ve all started a project and realized we don’t have the right tools, whether at home or work. These inconveniences can be annoying, but it can be frustrating for your employees who don’t have any control over the tools they use. Jeffrey noted that one indicator his team is headed toward burnout is when inefficient tools prevent them from doing their job well.
This is another reason why listening to your team is so beneficial: you’ll find out what tools HVAC techs need to do their job more successfully. For example, maybe your team hears constant customer complaints about how long it takes to get service in the summer. One Maryland contractor loans portable air conditioning units to customers while they wait, with preference given to elderly customers and customers with medical needs. This way, your customer is content while waiting, and your techs encounter one less angry customer.
Or maybe work-life balance is a big issue for your techs (or yourself), especially during peak HVAC season. A solution may be to hire seasonal help, like we do at FTL Finance. Each summer, we hire interns for our customer service and contractor support teams. The additional help allows us to meet the higher volume of calls we receive, while ensuring our employees can keep that work-life balance. It also motivates current employees — new faces bring new energy. Jeffrey’s also noticed that training interns gives newer employees more confidence in their skills, which is good all-around for team morale.
Lauren recommends hiring as early as possible so you have plenty of time to get your seasonal HVAC techs up to speed. They don’t have to know everything but should know the basics for common calls. This helps lighten the load for your other techs and may even give you some time to get office work done during the workday. Or if they can’t go out in the field, maybe they can help with your admin work while you’re gone. There are many options; you just have to find what works best for your team.
At FTL Finance, we’ve found that our digital tools are a great help to contractors and HVAC techs. Talking to customers about financing can feel daunting, so the sales manager or owner is likely to have those conversations instead of techs. Our project estimator helps techs offer multiple financing options and send applications right from their phone — no special equipment or paperwork is required. This frees up more time to complete other work and gives your customers a better, faster experience.
A better customer experience means fewer complaints and less frustration for your employees. A career in HVAC can be demanding, but a little employee appreciation can make it more rewarding for everyone.