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June 20, 2024

Employee Empowerment: The Secret to Running a Successful HVAC Business

Employees are the foundation of your business. Empowering them through communication and autonomy can increase productivity and improve your bottom line.

Employee Empowerment: The Secret to Running a Successful HVAC Business

It’s easy to get lost in the technical and routine of an HVAC business. But the center of your business is not something technical; it’s people. Between employees and customers, at the end of the day, HVAC is a people business. So, to run a successful HVAC business, you need to invest in your people.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, employees who leave their jobs commonly do so because of workplace culture, lack of appreciation, or lack of opportunity, among other reasons. You always want to retain employees, especially during a labor shortage. So, how can you invest in your most valuable assets? Begin with employee empowerment.

What Is Employee Empowerment?

At its core, employee empowerment is a trusting relationship between managers and employees. It’s the opposite of micromanagement, which results from a manager not trusting their employees. Managers who empower their employees trust them to make their own decisions and trust that their employees will learn from their mistakes. On the other hand, micromanagers don’t trust their employees and show it by watching their every move and immediately disciplining mistakes without providing room to grow.

Employee empowerment is a powerful management style for running an HVAC business. As you know, HVAC is a field that heavily relies on employees working on their own. Micromanagement and independent work don’t go hand-in-hand. But even if you’re not a micromanager, implementing an employee empowerment management style can foster a trusting relationship; increase employee motivation and productivity; and improve customer experience and your bottom line. Let’s take a look at what this looks like in HVAC.

Empowering Employees Through Communication

Communication is one of the strongest tools in a manager’s toolbox. Most employees aren’t mind readers, so you have to clearly communicate expectations and job responsibilities. You have to have conversations with underperforming employees and recognize employees performing well. It’s all part of being a manager.

But communication is a two-way street. As important as it is to give employees performance feedback, you should also ask them for feedback. Your employees are on the front lines and have the best insight into your HVAC business operations. It’s hard to determine what your employees need to do their jobs successfully without asking them.

Take the show Undercover Boss, for example. In this show, business executives go undercover as entry-level employees to understand their experience in the company. But would all this fanfare be necessary if they just asked for employee feedback regularly? It wouldn’t make as good a TV show, but it would undoubtedly be more efficient.

FTL Finance’s Director of People and Culture, Emily Dirkers, PHR, SHRM-CP, shares the benefits of receiving feedback from employees: “Genuinely seeking employee feedback, and then acting on it, cultivates trust and creates an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. This helps employees feel valued, respected, and supported, leading to stronger engagement and heightened productivity.”

While acting on employee feedback is important for ensuring your employees feel heard, you don’t have to implement exactly what your employees suggest. You can use their feedback as a starting point for your own idea. Or, if their feedback won’t work for some reason, let them know. You don’t have to give them the exact reason you’re not implementing the feedback; your employees will still feel heard and not ignored if you let them know their feedback won’t work logistically or you’ll revisit it later.

Empowering Employees Through Independence

Another way to build trust with and empower your HVAC employees is by providing independence and autonomy in the field. You likely hired your employees because you trusted their skills or because you could help them build their skills. Giving your employees independence as they build skills and perform well shows you trust them and rewards their performance.

Tenured employees often know how to handle customer issues and complaints appropriately and involve management only when necessary. Newer employees may need more assistance with problem resolution, but providing the tools they need in the field to solve problems themselves can help fast-track their learning process. For example, you can coach them to sell solutions like financing in response to customer pricing complaints and provide tools to help them sell financing.

Independence not only helps your team develop their skills, but it keeps them around, too. Emily notes, “When employees have the freedom to take ownership of their decisions and actions, it helps them understand the impact of their contributions on the business's success, which, in turn, leads to increased motivation, enhanced productivity, and higher job satisfaction. “

Each employee operates differently, and managers who empower their employees recognize that. For example, letting employees manage their own time prioritizes quality over quantity of work. Independent time management allows employees to take the time they need to do the job right the first time, reducing the likelihood they’ll have to return.

In contrast, micromanagers expect every employee to succeed under the same expectations with the same tools and may see less overall success. Independent decision-making, speedier problem resolution, and effective time management all help improve customer satisfaction and business profit margins in the long run.

Building a Positive Company Culture Through Employee Empowerment

Employee empowerment is a management style that reaches every part of your business. Building trust through open communication and independence gives your employees and customers a better experience. Employees with a positive work experience and culture are less likely to leave, improving employee retention. All of these factors help improve your bottom line. It’s a win for everybody and is key to running a successful HVAC business.

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