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Hey folks! Phil Zito here and welcome back! Alright, so I lately I’ve been hearing folks and reading posts from folks saying, “Hey! We’re hiring!” I mean, literally, if I open up LinkedIn, I’m going to find someone who is hiring, or I’ll see a post about someone talking about hiring someone.

I have to say, at no point in my career, which has spanned a long time, have I seen so many open positions, so many people openly asking to hire folks, so many people taking people from other companies. And really like just for 50 cents more an hour! It's crazy! So, what can you do?

Well, if you come out of this post with one thing, I want you to come out with an appreciation for talent management as a strategic tool. So, whether you are a manager, whether you are a business owner, or whether you are someone in the market who's a technician looking for a promotion, or maybe you're looking to get your first job in building automation, you have to understand that talent management strategy is critical, in my opinion.

In my opinion, talent management strategy is on par with sales strategy and operational strategy, as far as its ability to affect and predict the success of a business. You can often say that you can predict the success and health of a business by looking at their sales pipeline and close rate, and also looking on their slippage and their performance to estimated revenue. You can look at those metrics and pretty much determine if a business is going to grow or if it's going to die.

I would argue that with the talent shortage, with companies like Verizon offering I think it's like $16 an hour minimum wage to anyone who works there, you have a very competitive environment for talent. So, let's talk about the five tips to implement a talent management strategy.

  1. Identify your current talent structure
  2. Identify your 1, 3 and 5 talent goals
  3. Identify your talent leaks
  4. Allocate time and funding to your talent management strategy
  5. Measure the success of your talent management strategy


Identify your current talent structure

 So, in order to manage anything, you need to know what you're managing. This is true of sales, right? In order to manage a sales pipeline, you need to understand the deals that are in the pipeline, you need to understand the average volume per customer, your average pipeline. How long does it take to go from, in our case, target to close? So, how long does it take to make those things happen?

Well, the same is true with a talent structure and you have to identify it if you're going to implement a strategy. That structure is on the three buckets we want to really identify: talent recruitment side, the talent development side, and on the talent retaining side.

Talent Recruitment Side

  • How do we recruit talent? How do we bring it into the organization? Where do we recruit from? How do we draw talent in?

Talent Development Side

  • Then, how do we identify talent and develop it within our organization? Does that look like a formal process? Does that look like an informal process? What does that look like?

Talent Retaining Side

  • Then, how do we retain talent? What are our talent retainage mechanisms? Is it simply raises? Is it quality of life? Is it doing personality assessments on your team and understanding how they like to be led and relating to people?

I like to believe here at Smart Buildings Academy, we have a very family-oriented atmosphere. We are very quality-of-life balanced. We have a pretty nice package, as far as incentives go. We pay pretty well and we take care of our people. We genuinely care about our people.

All of that comes into talent retaining, right. Now, if I were to look at areas we could improve as an organization, I would say it's probably talent development, which is funny coming from a training organization. But you know, when we post a job posting, we get so many people who apply just because they like our business, they like our mission. So, we don't really struggle there.

We are so busy, and we're growing so fast, that slowing down to implement processes around talent development is very difficult for us. We're negotiating deals with large OEMs for large scale training agreements, and at the same time, we're trying to balance employee reviews, so it's kind of crazy.

So, you know, that's one of the things that I know I need to improve before this calendar year is over is talent retention. Our teams, they love working here, or they're really good at lying to me, but they love it working here. The things we put in place, you know, we do team lunches, we send people hams on holidays, send people birthday cards, we do shout outs, we celebrate, we do all sorts of fun stuff, which for a remote team really kind of gels and brings everyone together. So, what does that look like for you?

So, let's talk about maybe a system integrator with 10 people, maybe doing $5 million, right? So, you have $5 million in revenue, you have 10 technical people, maybe you have two or three salespeople supporting those 10 technical people. Well, first thing we need to do is we need to know where we are going. We need to understand where we're going so that we can recruit the right people, we can analyze our pipeline, we can understand where our pipeline is going. Then, based on where our pipeline is going, we can start to place the right people.

As far as pipeline goes, I see people with 16-week lead times on getting controllers and that's like a good lead time, which is crazy. It used to be that overnighting stuff was a good lead time. Now it's, you know, I got my controller in 16 weeks, it's great! So, you need to be able to predict kind of what you need.

Once you know what you need, then you can properly recruit and that may be partnerships with local community colleges, that may be using an organization like our own, where we help identify talent that can go into our talent development pipeline, that you then can work with. It may be something like simply hiring from some other company, which is kind of my least recommended strategy, but it's the one as an industry we used to go to all the time.

Alright, then you have to develop your talent. I've talked ad nauseam about talent development, so I'm not going to really hammer that here. Then finally, you have your talent retention. I like to say, if you treat people the way you want to be treated, if you treat them like family, if you try to actually understand your people, and you don't just work them like horses, they tend to reciprocate. Bad talent will tend to flush itself out if it clashes against the culture of the team.

You also have to ask yourself, and be brutally honest, if someone's clashing against the culture, the team, is that the person? Or is there potentially an issue with the culture of your team? You need to be honest enough and reflective enough to analyze that and understand maybe there's an issue with our culture.


Identify your 1, 3 and 5 talent goals

From there, we move on to identifying our 1, 3 and 5 year talent goals. Now, you may be saying, “Phil, 5-year talent goal? That's insane! We can't even predict 18 months, and you're asking for 3 and 5 year talent goals?!” But here's the deal. If you've been in the business for more than a couple years, you've seen the ebbs and flows, and yes, COVID. This Ukraine situation, and supply shortages, and inflation, they have all thrown us for loops, right? It's all just really made, how everything works, just crazy.

So, how do you develop 1 to 3 to 5 year talent goals with that happening? That's a great question. What I'm not saying, when I say develop talent goals, is that you necessarily have to execute the talent goals, but if you have no plan, you'll end up anywhere. Anywhere is a good destination when you have no plan, because, hey, you'll get there, and hopefully you'll figure things out.

At least if you have a 1 to 3 to 5 year plan, then you can say at year one, maybe year 1 is a specific hiring plan. You are actually planning out who you're going to hire, you're putting job postings out, you are actually budgeting for these things, and you're putting them in place. That's a good 1-year plan, and you can execute on that 1-year plan.

Then, based on the performance of that 1-year plan, whether it is achieved or not achieved, then you can decide, all right, we hit that 1-year plan, it was achieved. We're looking at our pipeline, we're trending in all the right directions, all the economic indicators are still in the right direction. So, we can then go and actually look at how we approach our 3-year plan.

You can have that mapped out, and based on what we're seeing in the market, based how we're seeing our business perform, we can then project these things out. Then 5-year plan is projected out even further, but you don't have to commit to a 3 or 5 year plan. You can shift those plans based on what's going on.


Identify Your Talent Leaks

Next up, you have to identify your talent leaks. This is where you're losing talent. Now, losing talent does not necessarily mean someone is leaving the business. People often think of a talent leak as people leaving the business, like someone's quitting, someone's retiring, someone's going to another job.

Well, another form of talent leaks is simply not investing in talent. So, let's say that we're back four years ago and IP controls just came out with plant controllers. Everyone's kind of using plant controllers for IP controls, and they're starting to learn that stuff. Well, the challenge was, there wasn't really a market. Now, I know looking at it today, almost everything's IP controls and you're like, there's a market.

Some companies, not a lot, were early adopters, and they trained their team on IP controls. They learned it. They learned IP controls, they learned cybersecurity, they learned certificating, they learned virtual servers, they learned cloud, they learned all of these things. From those things, they were able to be positioned in such a way that they were able to address the IP controls market, and they had that early mover advantage. They were then able to actually succeed as IP controls became more popular.

Then there were people who were kind of, middle-of-the-road adopters, and they learned, but they weren't necessarily building up a solid base. So, they started to be able to work those, but they had issues, they had slippage, they messed up their first couple jobs, and there was a little less forgiveness in the market because it was less of a new product. Additionally, it caused some issues with them, because they weren't able to necessarily compete with companies that had that early mover advantage.

Now there's companies who are just now starting to focus on IT, they're just now starting to focus on IP controls, and they are playing massive catch up. That, my friends, is an example of a talent leak. But folks don't think about it like that. They think of talent leaks as people leaving the workforce, people retiring, people quitting, people switching to another job. They don't often think about if people aren't keeping up with the current technology.

Now, you may say to yourself, “Okay, Phil, but who could have predicted IP controls? Right, who could have predicted that IP controls are going to actually be the big thing?” Yeah, good point. They couldn't predict that, but can we predict that PID loops are important to know how to do? BACnet MSTP and IP are important to do? Could we agree that mapping in a BACnet chiller is something that's probably important, yet, I can't tell you how many people come to our training organization, from large companies, and do not understand BACnet trunks? How many who do not understand basic PID loop tuning, who do not understand basic BACnet integration, who do not understand things like basic programming of certain design patterns.

These things are talent leaks, because people aren't identifying them, and they're not creating a solution for the problem they've identified. So, you have to adapt. How do you identify a talent leak? The easiest way to identify a talent leak is to be using job task coding. Please, I preach this all the time, but use job task coding to determine what job tasks you are doing, then have people actually use the right job tasks on their timecards, and then look for the inefficiencies.

Oh, this installation took 18 more hours, then it was estimated to. Is this an estimating issue? Is this a sales talent leak? Is this a design issue? Is this an install issue? What is the issue? Then, once you pinpoint that issue, that is a talent leak that you can fill with training, with processes and procedures. Doesn't have to be training, doesn't have to be processes, doesn't have to be procedures, usually folks pick one of them. If you can do all three, if you could do training, and you train people to a process that is part of a procedure, what does that mean?

A procedure would be like installing a VAV box, the process would be to connect the pedo tube to the VAV controller, so you mount the VAV controller on the actuator when the damper is in the open position, etc, etc, right? That's your process, and then you train to those procedures and processes.


Allocate Time and Funding

You have to allocate time and funding. I will tell you, being a training organization that has trained over 10,000 people, worked with over 2,000 companies, some of the largest companies in the world in the building automation space, the most difficult thing we have in getting from our customers is not money. Money is quite easy. You know, it's just a matter of getting in there at the right time, allocating the budget, and showing them the data of how we've reduced time to revenue, we've increased utilization, we've decreased slippage, we've increased margin per employee. We show them the data that proves that, and the money magically appears.

Where we struggle is getting people to allocate time. I can understand this. We're a training organization, they come to us, they expect us to train, but there is a point. My wife is a therapist, so it's kind of like, you go to therapy, but the therapist isn't with you all day. So, you need to do the work outside of the therapy session. So, getting people to allocate time to what they are learning, to what they are being trained on, to these processes and procedures, that is the most important thing.

I would argue that funding is easy. If you do things right, you can always make more money in a business, but you can't get more time. So, if you decide to hire a bunch of people, put them on large scale VAV box jobs, but don't train them on how to do a VAV box because you're like, “We're so busy, we can't spend the time, we don't have the time,” and all it would have taken was one Friday, a few hours of having them drill through installing VAV boxes, and then you send them off to do the VAV boxes. Then, 25% into the project, you pull them back, you drill again, 50% into the project, you pull them back, you drill again. That 8 to 12 hours, compared to multiple callbacks, multiple commissioning agent meetings because something was done improperly, it's literally going to pay for itself. Then, the nice thing is you've invested that time to learn that process and procedure that is going to then pay off on every project moving forward.


Measure the Success

Finally, we have to measure. Anything that is worth doing is worth measuring. I do not want you to do these things just because Phil Zito said to because he runs the largest building automation training organization in the world, so I should just take his word for it. No, what I want you to do is I want you to try these things on a small scale, and I want you to measure the results. I want you to measure employee satisfaction. That's easy to do. There are tons of free surveys, especially if you Google “free employee satisfaction survey.”

I want you to measure the revenue per FTE, full time equivalent, and margin per FTE, pre and post. I want to see those increase, and they should increase, if you are following these five steps. Finally, I want you to measure the average volume of sales per customer.

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Phil, if I train my technical team, what the heck does that have to do with average volume of sales per customer?” If you're training your technical team, your technical team should be completing jobs faster. They should be completing jobs better. So, you want to measure sales volume, because what you're measuring is, “Hey, did I actually execute work faster, work better?” That should result in increased sales volume.

The reason it should have resulted in increased sales volume, as I mentioned, is because as you're doing stuff better, people are going to be happier with you. Your people in the same 40 hours are going to get more work done, which means you can do more jobs, which means you can bid more jobs and execute more jobs.

So, those are the four things I want you to measure: employee satisfaction, margin and revenue per employee, utilization per employee, and average volume of your sales.

Alright folks, I hope these five tips have helped you out. I hope that you have come out of this with an appreciation for talent management as a strategy. If this is something you want to hear more about, you want to learn more about talent management strategy, leave a comment and let us know. I would love to explore this topic because I'm very passionate about this topic. I could literally do a post on each one of these tips in itself.

Thanks a ton and take care.

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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