Gone are the days of inboxes filled with qualified applicants within days of posting a new position. With today’s crazy labor pool and COVID-19 unemployment thrown into the mix, one of the most common struggles I hear on a daily basis from restorers is: “I have so much work, but not enough people.”
It’s a fantastic problem to have, and I’d take this problem over a sales problem any day, and twice on Sunday! Here are five things the restoration industry can begin implementing now, more than ever, to help alleviate the pain of today’s hiring challenges.
Listen to a BONUS episode of the Restoration Today podcast with Alex!
Always be hiring
The worst decisions an entrepreneur can make are when they find themselves in desperate situations, and the absolute worst time to hire employees is when we need them the most. We’re so pained by the lack of manpower and workforce that we feel the urge to just hire bodies to fill the positions. We come up with excuses like “Eh, he’s not the best but, it’s all I’ve got.”
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned after hiring a few bad fits is to always be hiring, no matter if you need the staff at the moment or not. Great employees are getting harder and harder to find, and a great fit should always be hired.
At our restoration company, Romexterra, and our software company, Albiware, we always have the door open and positions available regardless of need, and some of our best employees were hired in the times of least need.
Optimize your existing employees
A restoration operation should always run like a well-oiled machine, with each of the components firing in a rhythm and at full potential. This is absolutely crucial considering the amount of volume we produce in a short period of time as emergency-based companies. Therefore, it is critical to have people spend the most of their time doing what brings the most value based on their skillset.
Technology can help cut out the fluff and have your employees spend more time focusing on what they’re great at.
If your job management system doesn’t have automation, perhaps it’s time to think about investing in one. Zapier is a great automation tool. Think about it: Could automated emails, text messages, postcards, and voicemail messages to clients and adjusters help cut out unnecessary hours that your team is spending? Could automated reminders and tasks keep everyone on track? Could tools such as IINK Payments (digital signing of checks without having to go to clients’ house for mortgage checks or two-party checks) save the hour-long drive to and from the clients’ house? If so, these should be implemented STAT. Why? There is no shortage of automation, unlike labor.
Standard operating procedures are absolutely essential to the wellbeing of our companies and should be put together in the most efficient manner possible.
At our restoration company, we have implemented Matterport 3D imaging technology to save time and resources. The disconnect in communication of the scope between the person compiling the bill and those actually doing the work was huge. Furthermore, project managers (a.k.a. our sales people) were the best left doing sales and nothing else. The results? We had one person writing $8 million of emergency service work, four project managers seeing six jobs per day while spending less time on site visits and more of the time actually selling the clients, and 10 crews behind them doing the work and focusing their time on doing quality mit work.
This change within efficiency was huge and a big part of our success in scaling.
Training, training, training!
Did I say training? Investing in training your existing employees is absolutely crucial with the existing labor shortage. If you can get more output out of existing employees and sharpen the sword, you could potentially keep growing with the same number of employees.
Training your technicians to carry equipment on the way inside and trash on the way out on every trip to the truck can save 30 mins per job. If you do 10 jobs per month, that’s almost enough room for an extra job per crew a month! Well worth it!
Training your dispatcher to keep crews within a geographic area and efficiently move your crews and project managers across projects is also something that doesn’t take a lot of time to teach but can significantly increase output.
Furthermore, an onboarding process for each new team member is a must. Too many times I see “here’s your truck, tools, phone, now go do work.” This can lead to huge inefficiencies in the long run. A two-week new hire training program with specific objectives is crucial in the success and efficiency of the new hire. A clear path for growth with objectives that the new hire needs to hit to be able to be promoted is also very important.
Cast a wider net
COVID-19 caused a major paradigm shift in the entire world: “working” no longer means coming to an office and doing work. How does this translate for the restoration industry? While the staff in the field unfortunately has to live within your geographical location and go to your customers’ homes, your office support staff does not. Let’s say in your market there are only 100 qualified dispatcher or estimator candidates, how many are there in the entire U.S.? How about the world?
With great systems and modern-day technology, non-field workers can work from anywhere in the world. To compensate for the shortage, you can cast a wider net and attract more employees for certain positions. You can also leverage your competitive advantage within your market nationally. For example, a San Francisco-based company can pay a lot more for a team coordinator than a company in Iowa can. Therefore, a SF-based company can find one of the best dispatchers in Iowa that can work from home based on pay alone.
Keep in mind that you need to have great systems in place for this to work, and also remote managing is a different animal on its own.
Companies come in all shapes and sizes, and part of that is based on market size. Long story short: numbers and size matter.
I’ll take a $3 million emergency services only company with 15 employees and a 30% bottom line over a $10 million full-service company with a 5% bottom line and 45 employees, 39 trucks, and thousands of pieces of equipment. ESPECIALLY in today’s labor market! Why? The labor pool of restoration technicians is larger, and getting them promoted to lead technicians and project managers is much easier than finding and promoting reconstruction talent.
So perhaps now’s the time to get rid of those inefficient operations. How much headache is reconstruction giving you v. profitability? Are you really doing contents that well? What is your company doing best and what “fluff” could be eliminated and existing resources be used to higher potential and efficiency.