17 Useful Employee Management Ideas for Integrators

Integrators offer solid advice to help their peers effectively manage employees.

8. Conduct ‘A to F’ Annual Evaluations: Doing job performance reviews are imperative, but often are perceived as a time-wasting chore by both the manager and the employee. “We did annual evaluations during which the employee grades himself A to F in various categories,” says Bodley. “An immediate supervisor does the same thing. You are looking for the gaps/differences between the two.”

King echoes this idea. “Make evaluations as easy as possible. They can’t be too complicated. We had them four to five hours long at one point. We changed to make them easy … even just a thumbs up or down.”
9. Give Employees Educational Assignments: One way to quickly determine if an employee is hungry to learn and grow is to assign them to take an online CEDIA course during their own time. Bodley recommends asking a technician to take a CEDIA networking course and see how they do. “It helps you determine how much investment you want to give that person ongoing,” he says, adding that it is helpful to designate a single employee who has an aptitude for teaching to be in charge of internal training.

10. Separate the Evaluations: If a performance evaluation is combined with a financial evaluation, it is likely that the employee is in a zombie-like trance during the discussion about their performance … he or she is only waiting to hear how much of a raise they are going to receive. That’s one reason Bodley advises CE pros to separate the financial analysis from the performance evaluation. One way to do it is have the performance review in January and the financial review in June or July. The added benefit of waiting six months into the year to dole out raises is that it gives you a good gauge of how the company is performing against budget for the year.

11. Create an Employee Handbook: Bodley recalls that years ago one of his employees had a parent pass away. “We gave that person a lot of time off,” he recalls. “Later, another employee had a brother die, but we did not give him as much time off. Were we discriminating?” Those circumstances forced him to create a solid Employee Handbook that specified exactly how much time off an employee received for a death in the family, for which relative, etc., to avoid such potential inconsistencies and address myriad human resources-related items. “We needed to lay it out,” he says. Crawford has a 30-page employee handbook for his six-person company
. “I love detail,” he notes, adding that his wife has a background in human resources, so that helps.

12. ‘Loan’ Employees Money for Education: Motivating employees can be difficult. One way to boost their morale and give them a glimpse of a career path is to subsidize their education. Bodley would loan employees money to enroll in CEDIA courses. “If the employee left the company before one year, he had to pay us back for the loan. If he stayed past one year, the loan was wiped out,” he says.

13. Bring Employees to CEDIA Expo: CEDIA Expo is not just great for company owners, but can also be a great carrot on a stick for employees. King asks his staff who attend the event to report back to the entire company what they learned from the courses and share handouts. In any given year, he has brought multiple employees from various positions to the show, with the exception of lower-level technicians. “You definitely need to budget for training,” he adds. Hansson echoes the benefits of bringing staff to the show. “Back in 2007 we had seven employees and brought them all to CEDIA. They are all still with the company and on our management team. We now have 25 employees,” he says.

14. Create Clear Career Paths: “Employees need to have a career path,” says Hansson. “They are not happy if they don’t know where they are going. They might want to become a programmer or engineer. Everyone wants to have a purpose in life.” To help guide employees, Hansson early on tells a new employee what he might aspire to become, starting with reachable goals. For example, he may tell an entry-level technician he wants him to eventually be pre-configuring all the racks.

15. Administer Personality Tests: It is one thing for an employee to aspire to be promoted to a particular position, but it is quite another thing determining if they have the skills for the job. Crawford says that he has twice had technicians say they want to become a field supervisor – primarily driven by the desire for a higher salary. “But when they get into the job, they realize that they aren’t cut out for it. Both guys said, ‘This is not for me’ after two months.” As a result, Crawford now performs psychometric personality tests, such the Predictive Index Test.

16. Write Down Training Goals: They say if you put a goal in writing, you are more likely to achieve that goal. With that in mind, King recommends dealers put their training goals down in writing. He isolates on five trainings he wants his employees to achieve during the year and writes them down, ranging from CEDIA classes to specific manufacturer trainings.

17. Track Employee Time via Software: Software for tracking employee time serves several purposes. The primary role of the software is to enable you to accurately bill employees’ time to a specific job. Hansson uses Toggl. When the job is sold, he creates a job number and job name. The technicians then use Toggl on their iPhones in the field. The software has “a giant red button” that cannot be missed by technicians and it has a checkbox system for each job. Time is then auto assigned to the correct job.

Hansson also puts in the estimated number of hours for specific tasks on the job so as the techs are logging in their hours to a project, Toggl automatically “eats into the hours. So on a daily basis I can see if we are ahead or behind on a job,” he says. “We used to be in the low 60 percent of total hours billed to clients. We are trying to get to 70 percent. We have technicians clock in for a job when they leave the shop, not when they arrive at the jobsite.”

Toggl is only $5 per user. Other recommended tracking software for custom integrators include TSheets and Harvest. Hansson does not use the software for design or engineering time, just for technicians in the field. Crawford has his technicians track their time on paper, then the project manager transfers it to QuickBooks. Technicians even track the time they spend pre-configuring racks in The Loop Audio Video’s 800-square-foot shop.

A secondary role of time-tracking software is its use as a management tool. The software can give the owner or project manager recognition if a particular technician is taking more time to complete allotted tasks on an ongoing basis. To that end, using the reports from Toggl, Hansson conducts a “postmortem” following every project. “By budgeting,” he adds, “we are learning which project managers are best at managing a job and which salespeople are best at estimating.”

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About the Author

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Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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