Recruiting and retaining: Are you paying your team enough?

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Perhaps the single biggest and most frequent issue I hear contractors wrestling with these days is finding and keeping good people, from installers and techs, to office staff and sales people.

What attracts people and keeps people excited about working for your company is by no means limited to the compensation you offer. For some, that may not even be the primary factor (I’ll talk about that more in a later post about other ways to keep good employees). But the reality is that for some earning $18/hour or $25/hour, an extra couple bucks per hour (or an extra $5 per hour!) up or down can make a huge difference. The difference is not just in their income or quality of life–it may be the difference in whether they can afford to stay with you.

And while I just use wages as an example, The wage (or salary) is only part of total compensation question. What about spiffs? Paid leave? 401K? Education allowance? And so on…

A lot of people don’t get too excited about crawling around hot attics or spidery crawlspaces day in and day out for $14/hour, with no vacation time or no paid health insurance.

Contractors who find and keep the best employees see the difference in their business. And to attract and retain the best employees, it doesn’t hurt to pay more than your competition. Not just pennies more. Enough to make a difference in their lives.

Here’s the rub. To pay more, you probably have to charge your customers more if you want to maintain fair margins for the company. To be able to charge more (and close sales), you have to be able to build value and differentiate. You have to deliver on the value, and meet or exceed your customers’ expectations.

To do that, yes, it helps to have good systems and processes. On the operations side, on the sales side, indeed throughout the company. But it also helps to have great employees to deliver on that system. To get and keep those great employees, you should expect to pay more. They’re worth it!

Wait, that’s where we started.

The pieces are connected. Start paying more. Start building better systems. Start improving your sales process to communicate value and improve close rates. When you pay more than the rest, it’s easier to attract and to keep the right employees, the employees you want on your team.

(Program folks, paying great employees more, and offering them the kind of benefits that many program staff get, so they’ll stick around and keep doing good work, costs more than the status quo, too. Are you figuring that, and a lot more, into your thinking when you start weighing in on what contractors charge? The company with the lowest prices doesn’t automatically deliver the best value (although they may), nor are they necessarily the company that will still be around in 5 years. Be careful about wading into the price conversation, even if you do have a handle on the real costs.)

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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+

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