Workforce Development Exchange: Spotlight on Becoming the Employer of Choice
Nov. 7, 2017
By Akeem Favor, Web Content Manager
Building upon last year’s success, CONNECT 2017, Oct. 3-6 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, saw the return of Workforce Development Exchange, a targeted interactive session focused on recruiting and retaining the next generation to the plumbing, heating and cooling industry.
Co-sponsored by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Auxiliary and PHCC Educational Foundation, the Workforce Development Exchange placed the spotlight on the importance of engagement as an effective method of recruitment and on employers establishing themselves as “employers of choice.”
During the welcome speech for the event, Lynne Finley, 2016-2017 president of the Auxiliary, pointed out that in an employment environment filled with many choices, business owners need to take the extra effort to stand out, especially with potential employees from the next generation.
“Multi-generational employment is critical to the future of your company. Without it, one day you will go to work and be the only one there,” said Finley.
“Remember when you were coming up and you knew exactly which company would be your first choice for employment? They all paid about the same, so what made that company number one?”
“You knew that they had the best reputation in the industry, only accepted the very best employees and offered the best working environment for their employees.”
Millennials are becoming a major focus point for businesses. According to the Pew Research Center, the workforce consisted of 53.5 million millennials in 2015. That number is expected to rise quickly over the next decade.
The trades, by that same token, face the challenge of wooing a portion of those same millennials to the p-h-c industry. So how do you reach them?
“A key to workforce development is telling the industry’s stories,” said Cindy Sheridan, Chief Operating Officer of PHCC Educational Foundation.
“It is essential that chapters help tell the stories of contractors, apprentices and other members.”
Sheridan shared key recruiting resources that have been developed for contractor and chapter use, including a new youth-oriented website (www.phccareer.com), an online Workforce Development Resource Center (www.phccweb.org/workforce), promotional materials and videos.
Case Study on Engagement: PHCC of Indiana
If anyone has an interesting story, it’s Brenda Dant, executive director of PHCC of Indiana. Dant, who spoke as a guest speaker during the Workforce Development Exchange, helped lead one of the most successful and well-known recruitment programs created by a PHCC chapter.
In 2015, PHCC of Indiana launched “Best Career 4 You,” a website-based program that connects connected visitors with actual businesses in the area and provides a specific action point to accompany PHCC of Indiana’s numerous career fair appearances and school visits.
By the latest count, PHCC of Indiana has visited 45 schools, interacted with over 8,500 students and made 520 direct connections through the website.
Dant shared the results of her experiences, noting that when it comes to students, even those in continuing education training, don’t understand the breadth of opportunities the industry has to offer. Many are intrigued by the idea of apprenticeships and the prospect of earning money while they learn the trades.
The challenge is that many other industries have also recognized just how critical the shortage of workers will become. Competition is fiercer.
“Every single time I do a career fair there are more booths, more people who want workers,” said Dant.
“Your competition isn’t the contractor down the street – it’s the auto industry, UPS, Walgreens, health care … the pool of available workers is smaller.”
“Developing and growing talent takes time, energy, and resources. That requires patience and dedication, not just from one company but from all of us in the p-h-c industry.”
Becoming an Employer of Choice
Attendees broke out into groups to discuss what they were already doing to become employers of choice, develop new ideas and work on challenges they’ve been facing. Each group tackled one of four broad categories: corporate culture, family business, HR policies and low-cost perks.
Suggestions blended together both the well-known and the innovative. For example, some companies made use of social media to not only promote their businesses, but to also send out update Snapchat messages to staff while tweeting out compliments from customers.
Other trends tied together into overarching themes: establishing a reputation for fairness through clear HR policies that focus on the positive aspects of employment rather than the negatives, recognizing the success of employees by using gift cards or certificates and establishing a corporate culture that is both tech-savvy and fosters work-life balance.
PHCC Educational Foundation and the Auxiliary have assembled a list of helpful tips shared during the roundtables to reinforce the learning from the event and to help ensure that other businesses can take strategic steps to becoming employers of choice.
In the meantime, Dant left attendees with one important piece of advice.
“Positioning your business as an employer of choice is not necessarily easy and it’s certainly not a quick fix. It is something that requires a consistent and concerted effort and, above all else, follow through.”