Providing a path for advancement results in happy, loyal employees
Up from the ranks
We’re getting a bad rep!
A young man that recently started working for me has noticed a trend while using social media to meet people in a new city. In his efforts to become friendly to female prospects and perhaps land a date, he noticed that the prospect terminates the chat or friendship upon learning of his employment status. You might rightfully expect the chat to end if he revealed that he were underemployed or unemployed. But this eligible young man is gainfully employed with a career path that has no limits. So then what’s the problem? Why the disconnect? What’s the turnoff? It’s his line of work. That’s right, the conversation ends when the young man reveals that he works for a plumbing company.
There is a stigma attached to our industry that has been around for decades. If you don’t believe it, you are in denial.
Not only is there a shortage of qualified service technicians in our industry, there is a shortage of applicants or candidates desiring to get in our industry. Whose fault is this? It’s your fault and mine. I’ll give you three reasons why:
- We, as an industry have done very little to promote from within;
- We have done very little to provide an excellent workplace environment; and,
- We have done little to nothing to offer a starting place or recruit.
I never like to present a problem without providing a solution. To do otherwise is to just complain or nag. Follow me here.
The typical starting spot in the plumbing service industry is not a white collar job, or even a blue collar job, it’s what I call a “no collar” job. It’s a job working a shovel. I speak from experience. Not only have I seen many start in the ditch and know many who got their start in the ditch, it’s exactly where I started. Over the years, I have hired more people than I can remember to work a shovel.
A nice revenue stream at Plumbing Doctor comes from sewer replacements. Even though today we use trenchless technology, there is still a fair amount of shovel work that needs to be done. If I allow my mind to drift back to the days before we had pipe bursting and pipe lining technology, I’ll recall that there was a whole lot of digging to do.
Unfortunately, the turnover for that job description is high. There are two reasons for this. One, it’s physically hard, nasty work. The other reason is, the guy working the shovel has ambition. That’s right, he sees himself doing something other than running a shovel for the rest of his career.
But, let’s take a look at who these shovel operators are and evaluate whether they are candidates for a white collar or blue collar job.
The shovel operator is typically willing to take this low-pay, low-level position because he is unqualified for anything better. There are barriers, such as language challenges (think “immigrant”), academic challenges (think “drop-out”), learning challenges (think “dyslexic”), or good citizen challenges (think “arrest record”).
One or more of these barriers may disqualify the candidate for much more than life on a shovel. Personally, I can claim at least one. But it doesn’t eliminate me from dreams, desire and ambition.
Often, when I tell my story, I say, “I wanted to change my view. I did not want to spend my life in the bottom of the ditch looking up, I much prefer the view from the top of the ditch”.
If our industry doesn’t provide a pathway for something more, these ambitious individuals will move on. They will always be looking for a better opportunity because they are ambitious. It is up to the business owner to recognize the unrealized potential of these ambitious, hardworking folks, and provide for them the opportunity for personal and financial growth.
Remove the ceilingNaturally, the ambitious laborers will desire to get out of the ditch and into a truck, but they often lack skills to do so. A blight in our industry as a whole, is the lack of any kind of training or replenishment system.
So, if you want the next generation of service plumber at your company, you must train them yourself. There are great advantages to this method. It is an advantage to train them in your system and not have to un-train them from somebody else’s system, or worse yet, to have to break bad habits because they have had zero training and operate like a wild thing. It is also an advantage to your company because you will train those who have ambition and will be loyal and grateful for the opportunity you provide. This is great for company morale and creates an excellent company culture.
A natural progression for the shovel handler is to become a “helper or trainee.” This represents a career move up the ladder. In order for this step to be realized, you must provide the pathway to accomplish the goal. It won’t happen by accident.
At Plumbing Doctor, we encourage our service technicians to allow helpers wishing to invest in themselves to ride along with them on service calls. This provides an opportunity for the shovel operator to accompany a service technician in the truck and begin to get their hands on the tools of the trade. In addition, the helper begins to learn how the Plumbing Doctor system works, best practices, and how to provide “The Feel Good Plumbing Experience.” I think it’s important for you to know that this ride-along opportunity is not for everybody. It will only work for those diggers who are ambitious and willing to invest in themselves. Let me explain.
The ride-along typically takes place on Saturdays, Sundays, or another of the helper’s scheduled days off and it is completely voluntary. They are given the opportunity to use their free time to invest in themselves, just as they would do if they enrolled in a trade school, however in this case it is completely free and costs them nothing. In addition to the ride-along opportunity, we also provide a curriculum. Yes, that’s right. Hit the books. We have created a curriculum that is specific to the plumbing service industry. They will learn everything from proper terminology and codes specific to the plumbing service and repair sector, to the fundamentals of drain, waste and vent systems. Our system is developing every day, is yours? Be sure to stay tuned. Next month I’ll continue providing solutions to the problems our industry faces.
The Doctor Is Out