We all know that HVACR staff and field technicians are your most valuable assets when it comes to keeping your customers satisfied. Without an enthusiastic and productive team, your productivity and profitability would plummet. But just like businesses, people also suffer through ebbs and flows when it comes to personal motivation. We’ve all heard of the Monday Blues. And, there is a reason why Wednesday has been nicknamed hump day – it’s halfway to the weekend. When it comes to the holiday season, it can be even more of a challenge to keep your team motivated and in the flow with so many days off and work interruptions. While it might be acceptable for some types of businesses to slow down a bit right after New Year’s, in the HVACR industry – a seasonal and demand-based industry – the winter months are when your team must be extra-spot-on. So, after all the downtime and over-indulgence in food and drink, how do you keep motivation and productivity at peak performance levels? Believe it or not, a simple pep talk, like, “OK, the holidays are over. Let’s get back to it,” isn’t always the best strategy. And while holiday bonuses do go far to demonstrate appreciation for your team and have been shown to result in an increase in productivity and loyalty, not all company owners can afford the extra expense right now.
What are some extra steps you can take to assure that your team is at its best and ready to roll right now – not in a couple of weeks when everyone feels a bit more settled – and ehem, just in time for Valentine’s Day?
Here are a few creative ways to motivate your HVACR team and avoid the dreaded holiday slump.
1. Offer Short and Long-Term Incentives to Kick Off the New Year
After your team has returned from vacation and recovered from all the holiday parties – this is a great time to convene to inform the entire team of new incentives. There is nothing like receiving an incentive of an extra few days PTO, or a paid commission structure, or even a gift card, to get an employee back in the flow at the start of the year. Studies show that employees who can accrue vacation time and sick time are more likely to stay committed to their work. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one study (https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/workers-taking-more-vacation-.aspxore) People Are Taking Time Off, and That’s Good for Business (shrm.org) found that 78% of managers agree that vacation time improves employees' focus. If you can do it, it is the perfect time to offer these creative PTO incentives to the highest-performing team members who meet certain benchmarks.
For technicians, you might offer a commission structure or added PTO, after they receive a designated number of positive reviews at service appointments, or as a reward for the most sign-ups for maintenance plans and long-term contracts. And, for sales and CSR, offer incentives for new customer sign-ups or sales quotas. If your company cannot afford to add PTO or commissions, offer a gift card, or a dinner for two at a local restaurant.
2. Reward Training Progress
Training is an investment in your employees. But it’s also an investment in the future of your company. Unmotivated recruits struggling through lackluster training, isn’t the best foundation for success. To avoid a holiday slump or interruption in the flow of training, especially for new recruits, reward them for training progress. Since online HVAC training (http://interplaylearning.com) technology can now monitor employee training performance, you can offer an incentive as the recruit meets certain training benchmarks. This also shows value to the new guys since they can’t take part in contract sign-up incentives. You can also offer training as the actual incentive. Perhaps you have employees who want to grow from field technician to management, or CSR to field technician, offer a training jumpstart for anyone who wants to take advantage of it. You can allow them one day or a few hours per day while working in their present position. Again, this shows employees that you appreciate their efforts, and it goes miles to interrupting a lack of motivation after time off. It can be especially effective now since many people set personal career goals at the start of the year. If an employee is feeling a lack of growth, this can be the push they need – but again attach it to an incentive or add it as a reward for performance.
3. Inspiration Leads to Motivation
Sometimes, all it takes to motivate a team is an inspiring leader. If you believe in the goals ahead, and you can deliver that message in a way that inspires your team to get behind that messaging, then that is half the battle to interrupt a holiday slump. Perhaps you can share a video from a philanthropic event that you were able to attend or donate to because of the success of the team over the past year. If so, directly connect the company’s productivity to your ability to donate and change lives. Example: You show a video from a visit to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and then remind the team, “So, let’s double our efforts this year so we can help these kids again.” Or you might offer to match. For instance, for every five hundred dollars extra that the team brings in, you might offer to donate a percentage to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital again or a local charity that the entire company can get behind. But inspiration doesn’t need to involve money. You can have a meeting where you thank each team member for being the best part of the company and then read some of the top testimonials from the year – show the employees that they matter. Or you can have an employee celebration breakfast. But make it all about the employees. Inspire them to keep doing the great work they have been doing and thank each member of the company as you kick off 2023. Or just offer a tips box. Let every employee write down one amazing thing about working in the company, and one suggestion for change, and keep it anonymous. Read them off at the morning meeting and promise to review all the suggestions. If your employees are feeling low after a slump, it’s a great way to inspire plug-in, and take a collective morale temperature check.
4. Part-Time vs. Full-Time Employees
Many HVACR organizations rely on part-time and contingent workers to fill gaps in their employee scheduling – a common practice for most HVACR owners as it allows them to scale their capabilities during the peak and shoulder seasons. Although these workers may not be considered full-time employees, don’t discount their contribution to your organization. They are still considered the front line of your company and affect your customer retention. If you think your company team – a team inclusive of all types of employees – needs an energy or morale boost post-holiday season, the disconnect may be in the lack of clear communication and expectations. Sometimes all that’s needed is a clear set of expectations or a review of expectations, and a chance for your employees to meet performance benchmarks based on these expectations. If you are hoping to inspire motivation and avoid a slump, designating one day where you schedule induvial team member meetings (group meetings) to reassess expectations and set 2023 benchmarks, can be all that’s needed to reset. But particularly when it comes to part-timers who may not always be there but only work on-call or to fill a gap, they may often fall through the cracks or be excluded from team expectation meetings. Be sure to include every employee – whether a part-time or full-time employee – in this expectations day.
5. Lead by Example!
The last tip is simple in theory but requires taking some personal inventory. Is your team lacking motivation? Does the moral seem so-so? Whether it’s a slump due to the holidays or not, you may need to look to leadership for the fix. There is an old (rather strange) saying – water seeks its own level. Figuratively, it means people tend to become like their associations. If you are a leader and you aren’t motivated or feel blah about business, your team will pick up that attitude. If you are an HVACR owner or high-level executive, you set the example. And there may be no one to inspire you or offer an incentive. If you can’t find motivation, look to your team and recognize the great ones with a handshake or a personal visit to a field service appointment to tell them how great they are doing. Give what you lack, and soon, you will be back in the flow.
Heather Langone is Managing Editor at HVACR Business Magazine. For questions or comments email: firstname.lastname@example.org