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How to Attract, Grow and Retain Field Service Technician Talent

Jul 1 • Water Cooler • 3555 Views • No Comments on How to Attract, Grow and Retain Field Service Technician Talent • By Steve Teneriello

Earlier this week I wrote a quick article on how to develop a field service employee hiring checklist.  I’ve always wanted to write an eBook about the subject – so I’ve started the framework with a series of blog posts. As Steve Berman noted in his recent blog post – 3 Ways to Make Sure you Hire the Right Service Technician on The Smart Van –   I didn’t dig in deep enough and give you the “How To” on finding qualified field technician talent.  I’m going to step it up and not only give you the how to but also give you tips on programs I’ve personally implemented to grow and retain talented individuals.

It’s July 1st and I’m sitting in the Starbucks section of a local Barnes and Noble. Something I love to do but rarely have the time.  Next to me believe it or not is an interview taking place and a huge motivator for me to write this.  A high school student is being grilled by who I assume to be the Barnes and Noble hiring manager on the retail floor for a part time $7.25 per hour job. Personal questions like – what would you do in this situation and how would you handle that and tell me about a time you saw something wrong and how did you react – all being discussed next to customers.  My customer experience is still good though – they make a mean cup of iced coffee.

The hiring manager is reading from his one page high school resume and the questions keep on coming.  45 minutes of a Jack Bauer style interrogation.  The kid could be at home sitting and playing video games – he seems like a go getter and obviously has a great deal of patience.  I would have left five minutes into this interview.  He seemed like a good fit for one of my clients – a Commercial HVAC company right up the street.  They always hire kids in the summer to answer phones and deal out service calls.  So I got his contact info and lined up an interview for him after the holiday.  As you can tell I’m not a big fan of the old school hiring process.  I was in his shoes fifteen years ago interviewing and ultimately getting a job working for a retail lumber company during high school.  It was almost identical to what I went through –the same old format, the “challenging” questions and the hardass interviewer.

The reason I wrote that first article this week is because that same client of mine in the commercial hvac business was experiencing a huge issue with turnover during this peak season.  Field technicians were showing up late, others would call out sick and he had a few who couldn’t do the job as expected. He pays well and treats his employees like gold. What else can he do to attract and retain talented field technicians?  I’ve had some experience on the subject having been contracted in the past to implement hiring and employee growth strategies. Here are some of the tips I shared with my good friend and client:

Newspapers Don’t Work

For some organizations newspapers work.  A commercial HVAC company looking to fill a void in peak season will attract unemployed and unattractive job applicants with a newspaper posting.  My client will be evaluating and implementing a new operations system at the end of the year so he will need technicians comfortable with technology. I have always found that the newspaper attracts a less than desirable prospect when it comes to technology like smart phones and even something as simple as email.  I recommended he place ads on LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and connect with an industry specific recruiting agency that I worked with in the past.  Most recruiting agencies will do all of the vetting and leg work for you.  Good agencies will guarantee placements for a negotiated period of time.

What do you Have to Offer?

Size up your marketplace.  What are your competitors offering?  Do you have a package that will make talented field technicians happy to want to work for you over a long period of time?  If you are looking for a short term fix or bodies to cover overflow and have no interest in developing long lasting relationships with employees– place a newspaper ad.  This is not for you.

Identify Personality Attributes of Qualified Field Service Technician Candidates

Take out a sheet of paper and write down all of the qualifying personality characteristics you are looking for in a qualified field technician.  Here are a few ideas to get you going:

Does the candidate exhibit proven leadership experience?
Is the candidate a self starter?
Does he or she have a willingness to be coached or learn new things?
Does he or she look at this opportunity as a job or a career?
Is the individual a team player?
Can the candidate think on his or her feet and apply creative solutions to issues?


I typically like to gauge these characteristics in a real world setting.  Setting up mock calls or customer interactions is a great way to understand the true personality characteristics of an individual.  The whole resume and interview process will only provide surface data.  Remember it’s okay not to hire someone on the first meeting. As long as you communicate with the prospect your methodology and hiring process and remain impartial throughout the candidate selection process you can have as many meetings as you wish.  You are about to make a substantial capital expenditure on training, benefits and ramp up of this potential new employee.  Rushing into a decision can be costly.


Identify Motivators

I’ve taken several personality profiles and have always tested the same.  I’ve learned that I’m motivated by money and have high dominance which makes me a perfect fit for any role that requires performance.  There are several organizations that offer personality profiling and testing for field service technicians.  Take your best technician and profile him or her.  Use that as a control when evaluating prospective candidates. These tests will help you determine how the candidate is motivated to perform.  You’ll find techs motivated by money, others will be motivated by recognition of doing a good job. These profiles are a good tool for managers – they can see how to respond and interact with employees.

Develop a Career Path

Implementing a career path will foster personal growth for field technicians.  You can setup a system where techs who meet certain criteria are promoted internally.  Get creative and establish formal titles and responsibilities.  Hiring and promoting within your organization is a great retention tool.  Sample titles include:

Field Technician I
Field Technician II
Senior Field Technician
Junior Project Lead
Project Manager
Commercial Field Technician Supervisor
Director of Field Technician Operations
VP Engineering


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