What is the biggest challenge facing the industry right now? It’s not a slowdown in business, as you can see in our 2020 state of the industry report. Some supply-chain issues may be on the horizon, but that isn’t it either. According to several of the presentations at CEDIA Expo and other industry sources, it looks like the main problem we’re facing is finding qualified employees to add to our staffs.
This isn’t a new problem. In fact, in both 2018’s and 2019’s CEDIA Size & Scope reports, finding employees was listed as the top challenge (29 percent in 2018 vs. 21 percent in 2019, so it appears some of us were able to score some qualified staffers). But there hasn’t been a windfall of new talent coming in to the industry, and with shops as busy as ever, the problem is reaching its zenith.
So what’s the answer? Unfortunately, there is no definitive solution to the problem, but there are things you can be doing to increase your chances of finding those special someones.
When I interviewed Angela Johnson, director of human resources for commercial integration firm New Era Technology, in early 2019 it was in a different world — a world where the economy was doing great and unemployment was low — making it difficult to find qualified integrators looking for work. Still, she had some tips on how to get noticed by anyone seeking a new job:
“For a small company, Facebook might be a good way to get something out there — social media, in general, works well for recruiting,” she said. “People don’t know about your company, so getting your company in front of people, marketed well, and shown in a positive light is a good thing.”
Now may be the right time for that tactic, with more integrators on the commercial side now available.
Of course, the right person may not even have any AV integration experience. In a Residential Systems blog from last September, Todd Anthony Puma describes a conversation he had with an integrator friend and that friend’s wife — who happened to work in HR. She asked them both to describe their ideal candidate, and they said someone who had experience in AV and was familiar with the brands they sold. Todd then relates how her next question changed their perspectives:
“His wife quickly interrupted us and asked about the best employee we each have and what their knowledge was prior to hiring them,” Todd wrote. “The answer was that they both came from construction/carpentry and had absolutely no knowledge of AV, networking, or the smart home. She also made us realize that our industry is changing so fast that even if someone comes with the technical knowledge, if they are not diligent about keeping that knowledge fresh, then it does us little good in the long run.”
Along that line of thought, in another blog from this past August, Henry Clifford detailed how his company uses the “pizza guy approach” to finding new talent.
“What we do takes a special person and a lot of training. That’s why we gave up looking for ready-made talent a few years ago and started focusing on hiring what we call ‘pizza guys’ (someone completely green to our industry) and developing them into home technologists over a one-year training period,” he wrote. “My company, Livewire, originally invested in a program we called Livewire University a few years ago and refined it to the point where we’re now able to hire ‘pizza guys’ regularly and turn them into successful technicians. This means our hiring pool now is much larger than before we embraced the concept of planting a lot of seeds and watching them grow over time.”
So the key to success appears to be hiring based on the qualities you want in a worker and not in their technical experience. Of course, in this case, getting them trained will be key, and CEDIA can help with their newly Career Center and Workforce Development program.
Also, Residential Systems now has a brand page on LinkedIn. If you’ve got any job openings, tag us and we will help spread the word!