How to Keep Employees in Your Field Service Business from Quitting

Linda Formichelli

We're facing the biggest talent shortage since 2007, says workplace solutions provider ManpowerGroup—and the number one role employers are finding hardest to fill are the skilled trades, like plumbers and electricians.

We had your back with our recent posts on how to hire the most skilled field service engineers, how to select the best candidates, and the secrets of effective job interview questions. If you followed this advice, you probably have a sparkling new employee or two on staff. Congratulations!

Now you want to hang on to those new, skilled employees as if your field service business depends on it—because it does. So what happens when you can't afford to pay as much as your larger competitors? Once you get your new employees on board, how do you keep them on board even though you're unable to provide them with fat checks and big bonuses?

Luckily, while salary is a big part of the reason your employees show up for work every day, it's not the only reason. Here are our top tips for employee retention that go beyond the paycheck.

1. Make plans.

Too many employers, once they have an employee on board, set their business to 'autopilot' and expect their staff to work tirelessly like robots fuelled by coffee and money. You probably created a strategy for hiring new employees, but you also need one for keeping them.

Draft a written employee retention plan with details on your staff's objectives and how you'll communicate them, the ways you'll recognise employees for a job well done, and how you'll make your field service business a great place to work in general. We have more advice below you can add to your plan, and feel free to add other categories that suit your business.

More reading: Is your office manager bored? Maybe that's because you're not letting them do any work. Here's how to get started delegating to your office manager.

2. Share the results.

We humans are very goal-oriented, and we love to know our actions are making a difference in the world—and in the workplace. That's why Entrepreneur magazine says, 'Study after study confirms that people have a deep desire to feel they're succeeding and that their talents and capabilities are being used in a way that makes a difference to the business. When people sense their actions are fulfilling this desire, they begin to develop a sense of belonging and a feeling that your company is their company'.

Instead of offering up vague feedback at annual performance reviews, share concrete results with your staff on a regular basis to boost your employee motivation. For example, you might share:

That's not to say you want to share only good news and back-pats with your employees; they want and need to know when profits, productivity, or customer satisfaction ratings are going down as well, or when a sales promo didn't do as well as expected. Engaged employees feel like they're part of a team and are intent on helping the business succeed, so sharing bad news gives them the opportunity to brainstorm new strategies for coming out on top. 

Little extras like pizza parties and handwritten thank-yous go a long way toward motivating employees.

3. Teach them.

Imagine walking into the workplace on the first day of brand new job, and feeling completely overwhelmed. You don't even know where the stapler is, much less what exactly is expected of you and how to fit into your new company's culture. If no one steps up to make you feel comfortable in your new role or to help you find your way, chances are you won't last long at that job.

That's why implementing new hire training is key to employee retention, according to an article in The Balance. Creating a training plan shows your employees that you're invested in their success.

New hire training starts with a comprehensive, up-to-date employee manual that's written in a user-friendly style. (Read: No corporate-speak!) You can even incorporate multimedia components like orientation videos, or infographics that explain the structure of your business.

Your new hire training might also include assigning a seasoned employee to mentor the newcomer, and offering a live orientation session on your procedures and policies.

Don't let the learning stop once a new hire has settled in. Continuing education classes or training sessions will keep your staff up-to-date on new policies, best practices in your industry, and cutting-edge technologies—and will also give them the opportunity to keep growing and learning, which is highly motivational.

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You had a strategy for HIRING employees, but do you have one for KEEPING them? Here's how to keep top talent happy.  [TWEET IT OUT!]

4. Have fun.

You've heard the expression 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'. Well, the same can be said of your workplace. Employees can always use a little fun to break up the days full of hard work, deadlines, and customer hassles. Integrating little extras into the work environment will keep your staff motivated and happy, and can save them from the brink of burnout after an especially difficult week.

Here are some ideas for upping employee retention by infusing your field service business with a sense of fun:

  • Hold a weekly (or monthly) 'pizza day', or break out a grill and cook up burgers and dogs for the team.
  • Celebrate employees' birthdays with a party—and, of course, cake. (Singing is optional.)
  • Replace that cheap instant coffee in your break station with gourmet Senseo coffee pads or K Cups and a selection of flavored coffee syrups. Or, believe it or not, you can motivate your staff and save money over time by splurging on a fancy espresso machine, as I talk about in my book How to Save Money on Coffee. If your employees spend time every workday running out to get coffee, an espresso machine can pay for itself in as little as a month.
  • Treat star employees to an adult education class of their choice, such as cooking, French, or woodworking.
  • Mail thank-you notes to employees after a job well done. Printed and mailed notes create more impact than an emailed or verbal thanks.
  • Mention your employees' achievements at a team meeting, in your email newsletter, or on your company website. These are also good places to celebrate an 'employee of the month'.

You may be scoffing at the idea that inexpensive perks—or no-cost surprises like a written thanks—will motivate your employees, but research shows these are even more effective than monetary bonuses. 

In his new book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, Dan Ariely described an experiment he and other researchers conducted with the company Intel. In short, they discovered that a texted "thank you" from the company's leadership motivated chipmakers more over the long term than a voucher for a free pizza, and the gap was even wider when they compared the simple thanks with a monetary bonus. 

Need more free and cheap ideas for delighting your staff? The Insperity website has a list of 52 Epic Ways to Reward Your Employees. 

Hire right.

A big part employee retention is hiring the right employees in the first place. If you're in the market for a new staff member, find the most skilled and motivated employees using our free downloadable checklist that walks you through the entire hiring process, from writing the job ad to interviewing candidates. Get your checklist today by clicking below.

Hiring process checklist

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