We’ve been helping people develop their HVAC careers for the past 23 years and although the industry has seen some huge changes in that time, the reasons people give for leaving their job or choosing to stay have stayed pretty constant.
In this article we’ll share some of our insights from more than two decades of working as niche recruiters in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. We hope these will be useful for employers who want to attract and retain staff, as well as helping candidates gain a better understanding of their decision-making process.
Financial stability has always been a key factor in employment. If someone feels they are well-paid and valued in their role, they are less likely to be tempted by new opportunities elsewhere. Benefits also go a long way when it comes to generating loyalty, particularly incentive schemes such as well thought out commission structures. You can read more about the impact of incentives on recruitment in our article What is the difference between commission and bonus and which one is best.
This factor has risen further up the list in recent years. Hybrid working and the work from home revolution have changed perceptions amongst employees. So much so that work-life balance is almost taken for granted and has become a must-have for many staff. We know from experience that good candidates will turn down a fantastic role if it doesn’t give them the flexibility they’re looking for. Equally, a high performing candidate can be persuaded to move if the culture is more amenable to flexible working than their current job. Flexibility is a powerful tool for employers who want to attract good people to work for them.
A large proportion of the roles we recruit for are in HVAC sales and we find that sales engineers love to be at the cutting edge of their industry. It’s far easier for them to take pride in their work if they are representing a company that is recognised as a leader in its field. Over the last couple of years we’ve see high levels of interest from sales engineers for roles in companies that are investing in product development in renewables such as heat pumps. In other HVAC engineering roles, new graduates in particular are wooed by green jobs and the excitement of being part of the shift to heating and cooling decarbonisation. Roles with up-and-coming controls manufacturers are proving to be equally appealing.
This is another area that has moved up the rankings over the past few years. Employee expectations are high these days when it comes to wellbeing, equality, sustainability and sound management practices. It isn’t enough to have a job that pays well. Today’s HVAC engineers want to work for companies that foster a positive culture, look after their staff and understand the wider impact of their business on society and the planet. Companies that can demonstrate a strong ethos of employee wellbeing and corporate social responsibility will find it much easier to recruit and retain staff than those which don’t.
Having said that flexibility and working from home are important, location is still a factor for many HVAC job candidates. For sales roles, the size and location of the patch is a consideration too. We are well-versed in helping candidates weigh up the pros and cons of relocating, looking at cost of living and house or rental prices in different areas compared to where they currently live. Recently, a candidate chose an office-based job in a new location over their current work-from-home role, partly because the living costs and career opportunities outweighed the convenience of remote working.
We’ve put this on the top of the list because the vast majority of candidates we come across are looking for a new role because they want to develop their career. This might be because they want to work in a different area of HVAC, such as heat pumps or other renewable technologies, or because they want a step up and can’t get that with their current employer. Sometimes it’s because they are moving into HVAC from a different industry, or moving from machines to office work (see our article on moving from a technical engineering job to an office role).
This is another common factor that candidates share with us when they apply for new roles. Time and again we hear that they feel undervalued or have experienced poor leadership or communication within their current organisation. We have written in more depth about ways companies can improve their image, both for retention and recruitment, in our article 5 unexpected ways HVAC companies are making themselves more appealing to candidates.
We’ve talked about flexible and remote working above, and it’s certainly true that a lack of flexibility from an employer can push people to look for a new job. This isn’t just in terms of hybrid working or working from home. Candidates have often been prompted to leave because of an employer’s poor response to a period of illness or due to difficulties arranging time off for medical appointments or holidays. This ties in with the point above about leadership and culture and can have a huge impact on a company’s ability to hold onto its staff.
This is an evergreen reason for leaving. People have always moved jobs for more money. In fact, offering more money is one tactic employers use to try and hang onto staff who have been offered a job elsewhere (see our article on how not to lose candidates between offer and start date).
Again, this is a popular reason for leaving a job. Good candidates like to keep developing their skills and trying new things. They may want more responsibility or to work with different members of the engineering team. Perhaps they want to work with other types of customer or a new industry sector. This reason for leaving is hard for employers to counteract. In fact, it can sometimes be a positive thing for the employer to support a team member’s decision to go elsewhere to gain more experience. We have seen plenty of instances where candidates have gone off to develop their skills with another company, only to return to their original employer, bringing their additional experience with them.