How CGL Tackles Challenge of Hiring, Retaining Top-Notch Techs
CGL Technologies President John Nemerofsky believes in a proactive approach to attract, hire and retain technicians. It’s a well thought-out, strategic process that can help other security dealers and systems integrators that struggle with a limited talent pool.
The other day I had the occasion to talk shop with CGL Technologies President John Nemerofsky, a member of SSI’s Editorial Advisory Board. The topic we indulged hits home with most every security dealer and systems integrator: the steep challenge of recruiting and retaining quality technical staffers.
An already difficult task has been made even more trying given the current record-low unemployment rate in the United States. Nemerofsky describes a job market that is now largely candidate-driven.
“It hasn’t been challenging to get resumes. It’s been challenging to get resumes that meet our qualifications,” he said.
Even prior to current marketplace conditions, CGL has proactively instituted measures to solidify its recruiting and hiring procedures to meet its strategic growth plans. And to compete with leading regional and national integration firms for the employees necessary to achieve those goals.
Nemerofsky spoke at length about his efforts in this area, which is detailed below.
Recruiting Ain’t What It Used to Be
“It is a challenging recruiting process that you need to be working on and getting your brand out there all the time,” he explained. “When you bring in new recruits, when you get somebody interested, the initial interview is no longer the old strategy of you are going to ask them questions. They are going to ask you questions.”
Young professionals especially will be eager to learn what a potential career path looks like within the company and what they need to do to get to the next step. Nemerofsky has experienced firsthand a frequent complaint about Millennials and their oftentimes unrealistic expectations for being promoted, expeditiously, with frequent bumps in pay.
“They haven’t even been offered the job yet, but they want to know how to get to the next step. That has become part of the recruiting process,” he said.
Nemerofsky continued, “There is no one-size-fits-all scenario, but the way to lead and mentor young professionals today is to be talking to them about where they want to go next. And what are the things they need to do to get there. That is the way to build some longevity with them.”
To assist in showcasing the company to job candidates, CGL put together a marketing presentation that highlights aspects of company culture, employment perks and more. An overriding goal is to create awareness about the breadth of the company. This helps to get current as well as prospective employees excited about the direction of the company and their potential for prospering along with it.
“What we have been trying to do is roll out a number of different events on a daily basis. These are thought leadership events around technology; things going on around the industry. Challenges with efficiency in the workplace,” he explained.
That type of brand building and spreading awareness about the company includes hosting lunch ‘n’ learns that are not just open to end users but also the technical community from around the industry.
“We just did one on cybersecurity and we had more than 45 people. We had people attend who were from Securitas, which is a competitor. We had people attend from G4S, a competitor. But we are educating the market and they are becoming more aware of CGL,” he said.
CGL distributes a monthly newsletter of sorts to highlight its special events, training sessions and other goings on at the company. Included in the May installment is information about CGL’s 20th anniversary party (May 17), with invitations also going out to industry friends and colleagues.
“They get to see how we operate in our office and how things are different. That is a very indirect recruiting method, but they are still going to see that, ‘Wow, CGL has fabrication. They have staging. They’ve made investments in inventory and warehousing and a training center. It is a lot different from where I work. Maybe this could be better.’ It’s about creating that awareness and getting the employees excited about all the initiatives you have going on.”
Contractual Agreements Can Help Retain Employees
Once a decision has been made to extend an offer to a technician, engineer or project manager, CGL’s efforts to ensure employee retention — and safeguard its investment in recruitment and training — come immediately into play.
“We’ve built in some fundamentals into our agreement where if we invest the money in you and you come onboard and we train you, and three months later you leave and go to another company, you are responsible to pay that back,” he explained. “We sign that right away in the handbook, in your offer letter, so that it is all upfront.”
As many systems integrators will attest, training costs are no small investment. Nemerofsky estimates, for example, a weeklong Software House certification program will run the company in the neighborhood of $7,000 per employee. That includes airfare, hotel, food and the training course. The newbie employee agrees to foot all or a portion of that cost, depending on the time frame, should they elect to jump ship for another company.
“If you leave within 2 years, we get half of that money back for the training. If you leave within 3 years, we thank you very much and wish you well. But what this does is it’s just another little piece to keeping the employee intact,” he said.
The contractual agreement has proven successful in the past for CGL. Nemerofsky describes a scenario where a recent hire may receive an offer from a competing integrator at a marginally higher rate per hour. Should the employee accept the competing offer, CGL conducts an exit interview during which the employee is reminded about the outstanding invoice owed to the company.
Nemerofsky: “In some cases the technician will say, ‘$7,000? I’m going there for a dollar more an hour? That’s $2,000 more a year, but I owe you $7,000. It’s going to take me three years to make this money up. Can I stay?”
While that scenario is not common, Nemerofsky explains it does build awareness throughout the company that it does exist. He is also quick to make clear the agreement is not intended to be viewed as a negative. CGL builds a lot of incentives into its employee agreements to also help retain employees and foster a positive culture. Bonuses, for instance, are doled out for referring job candidates, end customers, workplace efficiency ideas, customer satisfaction performance, among others.
“It’s not just a one-way street where we are keeping them captive,” he said.
End Users Hire Away Top Talent Too
Leveraging contractual agreements can go beyond protecting against a competing integrator from poaching another company’s workforce. CGL also weaves similar agreements into end-user contracts.
The marketplace has become so competitive for technical talent and project managers that even tech firms, universities, hospitals and other network-centric organizations will compete with integrators for the best talent. CGL has learned this the hard way, and has taken action to fortify its ranks as a result.
“After you make your investment and you recruit this employee and you bring them onboard and you train them, and you send them to a customer site, the customer is impressed with your employee,” Nemerofsky explained. “So guess what they do? They hire your employee.”
Nemerofsky shares an eye-popping story about the day CGL lost one of its very best technicians who had been servicing a client in the Silicon Valley — a global social media behemoth — that soon took notice of his skillsets and hired him away. How’d they do it? Easy. They ponied up 3x what CGL was paying him.
“When you see a technician making $75,000 or $80,000 move to the West Coast to make $225,000, you can only wish them well,” he said. “You learn that you need to adapt and put things in place. It doesn’t have to be the largest social media company in the world to do that. It could be a regional hospital or a university.”
CGL builds a recruiting fee into many of its service agreements with end customers to protect against somebody from its technical staff being lured away. An end customer may be willing to pay a couple dollars extra per hour for the employee, but it’s a bit more painful if they have to pay CGL a $50,000 or $75,000 fee to hire that person.
Negotiating the recruitment fee can be expected. Nemerofsky explained questions about the fee begin to arise as you move through procurement process and the client’s legal team begins to ask about it. However, typically the fee does not cause consternation for the end customer.
Should they be in the market for, say, an engineer or project manager they would likely have to hire a professional recruiter to fill the position. And the fee to do that would be in the neighborhood of 30% of a first-year salary, Nemerofsky explained.
“So putting this in place is a good business practice,” he said. “Does it get negotiated? Does the fee get moved? Yes, it is different per end user.”
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