Recruiting and retention headaches

Andrew Fleet of Technical Recruitment Solutions talks about some of the issues around both recruitment and retention of staff in the air conditioning sector.


ecruiting in the air conditioning sector is becoming tougher every month. With an increasing number of recruitment

companies popping up and promising the earth and employment at an all-time high, there is a huge shortage of engineers, sales professionals and administrators in the recruiting market. The air conditioning industry in particular is hard pushed as, unlike a lot of industries, there simply is not necessarily the option of training someone for a role that requires the specialist knowledge and experience required. Companies no longer have the luxury of being able to pick and choose from ten CVs, fi ve fi rst interviews and three second interviews, unless they consider people from either outside the industry or other closely aligned industries, but of course with the specialist skill-sets necessary in the air conditioning sector, this is often impossible for a company to do. The one area we fi nd bucking the trend is the

very senior end of the market – a senior sales manager or sales director can wait up to six months before fi nding the right type of role. There does not seem to be an easily identifi able

reason for this other than there simply being less room to move and less positions of that type within a company – you would like to think companies typically only need one sales director or one service director at any given time.

A good engineer could approach a recruitment specialist with his or her requirements and have three or four job interviews that same week – more than likely, there would be job off ers from all of them, such is the need for a good engineer. When it comes to accepting the off er, the current employer will commonly make a counter off er. In the last 12 months alone, I have experienced up to £10K pay rises being counter-off ered – and in one case a directorship. No matter how much you pay your top engineer or your top sales person, it will normally cost 5% more on average to replace them, plus either a hefty recruitment fee or a week or two of someone’s time within the business.

Shortages and solutions An unemployment rate of 3.5% for air conditioning engineers is extremely low – when I fi rst started in HVAC recruitment this was up at around 15%. If you then compare it to mechanics at 5.3% and 6% for plumbers, you can see both the diff erence and the diffi culty that air conditioning companies have in fi nding engineers and other staff . While wages across the UK stagnate, we are fi nding that the air conditioning market wage rate is rising. For example, in the South East of England:  2010 – AC engineer: average salary £32k + van + overtime @ £40k

 2018 – AC engineer: average salary £38k + van + overtime @ £48k

 2010 – AC sales engineer: average salary £35k + car, benefi ts

 2018 – AC sales engineer: average salary £45k + car, benefi ts.

There are plenty of solutions to ease the talent shortage, but it is hard to envisage a time within the next fi ve years where there will not be a skills shortage across the air conditioning industry – the problem will not simply go away. Luckily, solutions are readily available, easy to implement and should not always have to cost money.

We are being drawn into spending icreasing

amounts of money and while there is merit in that, putting a price on everything means that you are only valuing people in monetary terms. The danger with this strategy is that then people can be bought. If money is the only hook or sweetener you are off ering your staff , you cannot expect them to remain loyal to your company, nor should you be surprised to fi nd their notice on your desk if the company up the road off ers them more money than you are willing or able to pay.

How can I retain my staff? There are many ways to retain your staff and I will highlight just a few, based some of the reasons people in the air conditioning sectors give for changing their jobs.


July 2018

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