“We are in a war for talent.”
And the gauntlet was laid down.
That’s how moderator Jill Silman Chapman of Insperity Recruiting Services set the tone for “The CEO’s Guide to Talent Management,” one of several sessions at NSCA’s 19th annual Business & Leadership Conference focusing on addressing the industry’s talent recruitment and retention challenges.
Those challenges are well documented. Integration firm executives repeatedly bemoan that the youngest, smartest, most tech-trained employment prospects aren’t lured into their industry mostly because they aren’t aware of the industry or its rewarding career opportunities.
NSCA (with its Ignite program), InfoComm (with its grant program) and some integration firms through their own efforts are working hard to rectify that. However, the fact remains that once an integration firm has a great employee, it’s really important to retain them.
Commercial Integrator is NSCA’s media partner for its 19th annual Business & Leadership Conference. Find continuous coverage here.
To keep employees happy and inspire them to make career investments in your organization, integration firms need to pay more attention to their company culture. That was the opinion of both panelists in the session: Kelly Perkins of AVI Systems and Josh Shanahan of SVT.
“Happy employees lead to more happy employees,” Perkins said.
“I couldn’t have said it better,” Shanahan said. “It really is about culture.”
Of course, they got specific. Here are just a few of the ways in which they suggested creating positive company culture:
It’s proven that employees very much appreciate being able to work a flexible work schedule, Silman Chapman said.
At SVT employees have access to Microsoft 360 and other tools that help them to collaborate and be productive remotely. Shanahan said he did a casual survey of SVT’s millennial employees prior to BLC and learned that flexibility is a big reason why they like working there.
“We don’t care if you leave at 2:00 to pick your child up at work and then get back online later as long as you meet your objectives,” he said, quickly adding that some customer-facing employees don’t necessarily have that option.
“I think flexibility is so important,” Perkins added. That’s a “bit of a mind shift,” he said, but a good one since integration firms that actually use the technology that they sell can “feel their credibility grow.”
Providing Growth Transparency
It’s really important to “provide career paths,” Perkins said.
A big part of that is showing employees how to move along those paths, Shanahan said. SVT creates detailed career lattices intended to provide employees with career roadmaps.
“They make it clear that at a certain level you’re expected to have credentials that support it and at certain levels you need to be involved with continued education.”
By mapping out employees’ potential career future he said SVT creates a clear objective for them to work toward combined with a clear knowledge of how to achieve it.
That makes an impact. “For millennials, it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s fun an exciting. The environment is very transparent. There is no secret to what you have to do to achieve the next level.”
Of course, those career paths with clear objectives only inspire employees if they’re also provided with the resources to meet their objectives.
Both Shanahan and Perkins emphasized the importance of training within their organizations, but Silman Chapman emphasized that all training doesn’t have to be formal. She said managers can play an important role in inspiring employees simply be mentoring them.
Paying More than Lip Service
Just as Shanahan surveyed millennial employees about what they like about working for SVT, Perkins said AVI Systems is also looking to understand what its employees value.
“We went through a values exercise. What does AVI really mean to you?”
By understanding employees’ values and creating a company-wide value system, it pays dividends on the recruiting side, too, she said.
“You can teach tech to anyone, but you can’t teach value. So when you’re hiring on values you’re opening up to a huge pool that has more to do with people than technology.”
Engaging with employees about how they view company values and what they want from their employer are good steps, Silman Chapman, but companies run the risk of turning that positive into a negative.
“The most damaging thing you can do is ask them what you can do for them and then not do it,” she said.
That’s not to deter employers from engaging with their customers. She maintained that learning from employees is a critical step to creating a positive company culture, challenging employers in the audience to sit with their staffs and talk to them about what’s important to them.