Searching for Shiny, Happy People

In all the hubbub and discourse about new cutting-edge technology, systems integration and physical-logical security convergence, the human element is often forgotten. Several integrators at the recent PSA Security Network TEC 2007 event in St. Charles, Ill., told me their greatest business challenges were more closely associated with troubleshooting personnel issues rather than circuits or computer networks. 

Mike Kordick, vice president of Fire/Security for Des Moines, Iowa-based Baker Group, laments the difficulty he has in finding “people persons” who are capable of interfacing with customers in a friendly, courteous, proactive and responsive way. He is not alone. 

As products and systems continue to become more reliable across the board, installation practices become more standardized and foolproof; and as market penetration shrinks the customer base, it becomes increasingly essential for integrators and dealers to differentiate themselves with superior customer service. 

It used to be in this industry that an installing security company could be successful if it had decision-makers with strong technical backgrounds or savvy business instincts. Eventually, you pretty much needed both attributes on board. More recently, it has become necessary to possess aptitude and expertise in the IT space. Today, on top of all those facets, you also need strong interpersonal skills. 

The problem is — perhaps due to the impersonal nature of the Internet, the isolation of iPods, the placation of video games and the specter of doom emanating from terrorism, war, global warming, etc. — finding young people with the necessary drive and temperament seems tougher than ever. I know they say that about every generation, but some are more glum and difficult than others. Too many young adults today are only interested in doing the bare minimum to get by and simply refuse to do tasks they deem tedious or unpleasant. 

To make matters worse, many areas of the country have experienced a labor shortage in a variety of lines of work the past few years. Hence, more time, money and energy are needed to recruit and train new hires. Many of you are paying more for less qualified people with poor attitudes and work ethics than in the past. And let us not forget that the nature of our industry dictates you must remain steadfast about background checks. 

Compounding this dilemma even further, Americans are more transient in the workplace than in generations past. This situation actually began back in the 1970s as Corporate America began downsizing and workers were forced to take on the tasks of two or three people for the same pay. That greedy approach is now backfiring, as workers continue to be transient, but usually by choice due to the many opportunities available to them. 

Continuing with that thought, the capper of this perfect storm is that our industry has never been more competitive. Thus, installation companies are at each other’s throats trying to attract, lure away and hold on to prized — in some cases, merely competent — employees. In short, retention has become as difficult as recruitment. 

So what’s a hiring manager to do? For recruiting, I recommend considering: targeted, multiple online and print listings; networking at industry and community events; passing word along to friends and family; offering bonuses to existing employees; soliciting competitors’ staff; canvassing local high schools, colleges, universities and trade schools; providing internships; and, if appropriate, contracting with head hunters.

For retention, consider: fair pay; a pleasant work environment with positive feedback; competitive benefits; stock and/or profit-sharing options; up-to-date tools and resources to accomplish tasks; open lines of communication; training and continuing education opportunities; and a clear career path with identified goals and rewards. 

Let me know if you share this pain and what you are doing to overcome it.

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About the Author

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Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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