“Insanely busy” is how Tres Huber, CEO of HD Staffing, describes the current market conditions for custom integration companies amid the coronavirus pandemic. And logically, a high demand for qualified labor goes hand in hand with a filled pipeline of projects. COVID-19 has caused homeowners across the country to transfer expendable income that previously would have been spent on travel and dining toward home improvement, particularly in their entertainment and networking systems.
“The market has skyrocketed since the onset of COVID-19,” says Huber, who with partner Brent Wiseman started HD Staffing three years ago to specifically serve the labor pool needs of the custom installation space. Over those three years, the company has helped fill a multitude of key positions for custom integration companies across the U.S.
“When the pandemic first hit, there was maybe one or two weeks where the market paused. Literally, right after that our entire client base was firing back up with high demand that has even increased since then. For the past two months, figuratively our phones have been ringing off the hook across the country.”
Huber says in particular integrators who concentrate on second-home/vacation-home markets are overflowing with business.
“The ultra-wealthy are deciding to make those homes their new permanent homes during the pandemic. In mountain resort areas of Colorado and western Montana, clients have decided to stay there during the pandemic instead of go home. They are upgrading all their equipment. The integrators are insanely busy,” he says.
Analysis of Technical Skills & Cultural Fit Are Key
HD Staffing’s services include vetting potential candidates from both a technical and cultural standpoint through an intensive onboarding process. Both Huber and Wiseman are longtime industry veterans, both of whom were part of the VIA national rollup several years ago.
“With our knowledge of the industry, we take the B.S. factor out of the interviewing process,” says Huber. “Brent hones in on the technical skills of the candidate, using his intuitive knowledge based on years running operations for DSI Entertainment in L.A. I do the second interview looking at the whether this person is going to fit in culturally with an employer.”
“It really doesn’t matter if you are an eight-person integration company or an 80-person company, culture fit is the No. 1 criteria for finding the right employee.”— Tres Huber, CEO, HD Staffing
“It really doesn’t matter if you are an eight-person integration company or an 80-person company, culture fit is the No. 1 criteria for finding the right employee. Next comes technical skills,” he says. HD Staffing does not conduct background checks on candidates due to the confidential information laws; those must be done by the individual employer.
Huber says that with the labor pool so tight, employers are seeking candidates that have general technical aptitude, knowing that person can be taught particular types of equipment while on the job if necessary.
“A candidate does not have to be fully dialed in on every brand of equipment. There is definitely more openness to educating new employees now,” he comments.
“Hiring is an art, it’s not a science,” admits Huber. That’s why HD Staffing offers a 90-day full replacement guarantee for any candidate it places.
Pandemic Puts Emphasis on Culture
As noted, company culture is the most important factor for attracting the right employees. Huber says an interesting byproduct from the pandemic was that many integrators were just simply not prepared to address the situation with their employees.
“The high demand for employees has not really changed since the pandemic, but what has changed is a growing recognition among some employees that their current company may not treat them well. Many integration companies, and for that matter many businesses in general all across America, just don’t treat their employees that great. It doesn’t mean they are browbeating them, but they are just not recognizing their value. They are taking their employees for granted,” he says.
“Many integration companies, and for that matter many businesses in general all across America, just don’t treat their employees that great.”–Tres Huber, CEO, HD Staffing
“Now, more than ever, employees of all industries, but particularly in custom integration with such low unemployment, are looking for a better opportunity. For quality integrators that have a good reputation in their local market, this is a good time to be recruiting. There may be some opportunities to upgrade your staff,” says Huber.
He says that most of the technician labor pool for the market comes from within in the industry versus from other trades like electrical or security. That’s why it is vital that dealers have a solid retention program in place for their employees also, advises Huber.
“Any integrator, from five employees to 50 employees, who has put together a good hiring, training and retention program would not be in such a hurt locker right now if they had a way to develop their own talent. Those companies come to us, unfortunately, because often they have exhausted all their referrals and other methods of hiring,” he notes.
With that in mind, as part of its service offering HD Staffing works with employers who may not have an HR function in their company to advise them on how to develop an employee training program, how to develop sales metrics and goals, and what key performance indicators to analyze employees by.