Why Is It So Hard to Recruit and Hire Good Pro AV Employees?

The AV industry finds it hard to recruit good employees, settles for retreads and has lousy demographics to show for it.

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The AV industry finds it hard to recruit good employees, settles for retreads and has lousy demographics to show for it. That was a topic of discussion during the 8th Annual Integration Business Outlook Presented by CI & NSCA, moderated by CI editor Tom LeBlan with panelists Chuck Wilson of NSCA and Kelly McCarthy of Genesis Integration.

It’s well covered ground that the AV industry struggles to recruit and hire good employees who are young and technology- or business-trained.

It’s not likely to become easier in 2018 with many predicting low unemployment rates to continue creating a competitive job market.

Well, it won’t get easier for many AV professionals unless they rethink their recruiting and hiring approaches.

This was a topic of discussion during a recent CI webcast, “8th Annual Integration Business Outlook Presented by CI & NSCA” (archived here), which I moderated with panelists Chuck Wilson of NSCA and Kelly McCarthy of Genesis Integration.

Leading up to the webcast and CI’s 2018 State of the Industry Report we conducted a survey of 188 AV industry professionals and took an industry demographic snapshot that captures:

  • Only 12% of respondents are female
  • Largest age range is 55-65 years old
  • Clear majority of the industry is over 50

This Is a Business Problem

Our survey didn’t ask about respondents’ race but, as I mentioned during the webcast, the industry has a reputation for being dominated by older white men – more so than other industries.

Dismiss it, call be a “snowflake” if you want. But I’m telling you that this is a business problem for the AV industry. The demographics listed above aren’t exactly ammunition for recruiters.

So instead of hiring a well-qualified person who will bring a fresh perspective, AV businesses often settle for castaways from other AV businesses, described McCarthy.

Dismiss it, call be a “snowflake” if you want. But I’m telling you that this is a business problem for the AV industry.

“Often what’s happened over the years is when we go to recruit we end up with, for lack of a better term, retreads,” he said.

“So it’s the same people who have been in the industry, they have failed someplace else and somehow you magically believe that they’re going to perform wonderfully because they’re going to join your organization.”

Meanwhile, our survey found that the average respondent’s company was currently looking to fill seven open positions that the most difficult positions to fill are tech-oriented.

Wilson agrees that it’s a business problem. “If you extrapolate those seven open positions times 2,500 integration companies and that’s a lot of people. We’re cranking out 600 students a year out of our [ESPA training] but that’s nothing compared to the 17,000 positions per year we need to fill those open positions.

“A lot of times we don’t interview well. We don’t present our companies well. That’s what this whole Ignite program is about. They’re trying to get awareness to our industry and then fill this void, so yeah we’ve got a problem all right.”

About the Author

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Tom has been covering electronics integration since 2003. Prior to being named editorial director of CI, he was senior writer and managing editor of CE Pro. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication.

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Comments

  • Peter Stern says:

    I will not say that attracting young people to the Audiovisual discipline isn’t a problem, but perhaps the problem is calling it “AV”? I have long contended that part of the issue is that too many look at this as a stand-alone system, when in fact AV is an integrated sub-system to the construction process, as vital to a company as HVAC and IT. Once people are thinking that they are part of something larger than them, they tend to get more excited and involved. Perhaps people are looking at recruiting in the wrong way and looking in the wrong places…AV can be learned, but the love of what you are doing cannot.

    All that being said, and being that I am in my 60’s, I strongly disagree with the term “retreads” and the idea that “…it’s the same people who have been in the industry, they have failed someplace else and somehow you magically believe that they’re going to perform wonderfully…because they’re going to join your organization.” Sure, sometimes people need a change of scenery, but that can be for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with failure.

    The fact of the matter is that I grew up with a certain work ethic which younger people today can neither understand nor match. I find that it is often as simple as knowing how to work. There was an idea put forth that older people can’t learn things; my contention is that this is a strictly individual thing. I am learning new things every day, whether it’s about AV, IT, Electrical, Lighting, or the software tools I use; exemplar gratis Microsoft Office Applications and AutoCAD…yes, I write my own VBA and LISP routines. Coupled with my experience, I am quite secure in what I can do, plus I just don’t feel old.

    Keep us grey-haired folks engaged, and you may very surprised by what you get!

  • George R Crosby says:

    Easy,
    AV companies have NO culture of training or nurturing employees.
    A/V companies fire quickly, many are run like a small business everything is personal.

    Lastly A/V companies have VERY WEAK hr departments. As a result there are no standards of training or treatment or pay. There is no ONBOARDING and employees are expected to hit the ground running (unless they are the owners nephew).
    Often the culture is hostile or unfamiliar and there is no expectation of current employees to make newcomers welcome.

    Oh a one more thing. Skill sets required now are VERY HIGH. Yet employers in this industry have been very SLOW to raise salaries. That means technician can earn more and work less by going into operation at a law firm or corporation or government office. And go home on time for once lol.

  • David Leinenbach says:

    Refreshing to see an organization who acknowledges the existence and practice of ageism right up front.

    This is an easy one to explain.
    Any millenial who posseses the “desireable” traits of being young and technology AND business oriented will clearly lack the desire or intent to spend their entire careers (and life) in the endentured servitude of making vast sums of money on behalf of a large corporation who will require them to commute long distances every day, place them in a cubical or office, afford them marginal benefits when compared to their actual need, no flexible schedule, goal posts constantly being moved, lack of appropriate pay when compared to their need to raise a family, constant pressure of their value being measured only in terms of highly technical metrics, and a complete and total lack of empowerment in solving problems. These kids are well aware that all the information in the world is in their back pockets and Im certain that alot of them are not going to tolerate business as usual in the corporate – employee relationships. Most of the ones I talk (the most talented ones I can spot) are going to start their own enterprise and take their chances. I dont blame them. Corporate America is going to have to realize sooner or later that they are going to have to change the way they think when it comes to what they offer their employees. Because the ones they truly are looking for are at least smart enough not to work for them. That leaves the least deaireable to choose from in the candidate pool.

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