Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While we’re experiencing something new in what’s been dubbed “The Great Resignation” it’s not all as new as it seems. Over the past several years, most of us have felt that something was coming to some sort of head, that something was going to happen. It feels very similar to a famous movie speech from the news anchor, Howard Beale, played by the brilliant Peter Finch, in the film Network, over 40 years ago:
“I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE! Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I’M MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
Ironically, some of the same issues are rearing their heads in American society again, and the sense of frustration and anger can feel like it has no target, or that everything is a target. We get it. You’re not alone, nearly every company is feeling it, and here in our industry where physical labor is a big part of the equation, we might be feeling it more than most.
It’s likely you’ve felt it in your business. You may have lost employees, been faced with increased demands for more pay, better working conditions, time off, a change in this or that, and it can start to feel like the whole world is just done with work. But, we here at Vapor Armour, are pleased to say we’ve tried a new approach and that approach has not only led to 98% employee retention through the pandemic, but we’re also experiencing record sales and profits, and our team reports being happier with their work.
How did we do it?
The temptation is to just state the obvious, stop treating people like replaceable units, and make sure they get a decent paycheck. But, of course, there is more to it than that, and we at Vapor Armour would love to serve as a model to elevate our entire industry, so what does that look like?
To answer that question, let’s go back to the beginning of the pandemic and the sense of dread that seemed to envelope us all, and shut some industries down, while seemingly paralyzing others. It was unprecedented in our lifetimes and figuring out how to navigate it was more than a little tricky.
Here at Vapor Armour, we determined we would start with a people-first mentality. To be fair, this was our philosophy long before Covid 19 came on the scene. In an industry that typically sees labor as a replaceable commodity, we decided to take a different approach. Our team members are professionals. From the first day they step onto the job, we treat them as such. They get the pay, the training and the support they need to live up to that expectation.
We started with basic benefits. First, we put a 401k in place, and we determined we would match 100% of their contribution up to 4% of their paycheck every time. That’s an instant 100% return on practically every payment they set aside. For us that seemed like a no brainer.
Next up we tackled health insurance. We determined that from the beginning, we would pay half of that for the employee from day one. After one year, we cover them 100%. After two years, we cover them and their spouse, and if they stay for three years, we cover their family. We want to reward their loyalty, and we know that those employees are worth keeping.
Then we looked at the job, what could we do to directly impact how they did their everyday job? If we wanted them to “stop air” and present themselves as technical experts both internally, and as they related to clients, we had to change the dynamic, so the understanding became: we are going to give you the time and pay you need to do the job right. Right is the priority, fast is secondary. This is a big switch in mindset for those with standard construction industry experience, where pay is contingent on how fast you get things done.
From there, we looked at other things that provide that professional appearance and contributed to that mindset. One thing we noticed was appearance. We provided some work gear, but in our line, it quickly begins to look worn. If you’ve ever worked with mastic, or butyl, two types of industrial sealing adhesive we use, you know, it doesn’t wash out. So, we doubled down. Instead of giving them new gear at random intervals, we made it once every two months. We find that when a crew is provided with what they need to present a professional appearance, they take pride in it.
All of this was in place before we even had to face the pandemic. Before anyone was talking about the “Great Resignation”. At Vapor Armour, we are our people, and they come first, before everything else, because we know that when we do this, they take care of our customers. We never have to worry about them doing their absolute best. It’s expected, it’s baked in, and it’s compensated.
So, when we were faced with the uncertainty that a global pandemic brought to the table, we had some tough choices to make, but we knew that whatever happened next, our team came first. So, the ownership got together. We took a look at our finances, and we knew that right off the bat we wanted to eliminate as much of the uncertainty for our people as we could.
So, we called an “all-hands”meeting.
We set the entire team down and told them what we knew. Then we talked about what we didn’t know yet, and we made them a simple promise. For the next year, none of them had to worry about their jobs. We would guarantee for one year that their base pay, and their position with Vapor Armour was safe. Whatever came next, and what that meant for our company, that was one worry they didn’t have to deal with.
Then we moved on to what was needed. First, we started with what was required, and getting that information at first wasn’t easy. It became aware that if we wanted our people to work, we needed our Company listed as essential. So, we took the initiative to find out what that took in our state, and went a step further. We provided documentation for every single team member who would need to travel, or be on a jobsite, explaining their job and their essential worker status for every state we were installing.
Next, we knew we had to address the fear of flying during the pandemic, and one of our owners stepped to the plate. He took it upon himself to meet with our installation crews and show them that we were in this together as a company by meeting them at the airport, with a boarding pass for himself, and making the trip with them. It was a risk, we knew, for them to travel in uncertain times, so we made it a priority to take that risk with them.
The amazing thing was, they immediately responded to this. No other explanation was necessary. If the boss could take a risk, they were going to back that up, no questions asked. It’s all part of our philosophy.
So, here’s what Vapor Armour would like to offer as a challenge. We want to encourage our client’s to adopt a similar mentality, but we’re not just sticking our noses in your business and offering zero support. Here’s where it gets interesting. We know this is expensive. We recognize it means some serious changes to your business model, and we’re here to help.
Hire us. Here’s what we’ll do. Our professional service is so effective at giving back to our customers that we will hand you the financial resources to make these changes. Why are we saying this? We’re in business, too. We know where savings go if they’re not earmarked. So, we want to put this forward, when you hire us, why not make a commitment to spending at least a portion of what we save you in energy on job security and career satisfaction for your people?. Take our savings and invest even more in your employees.
Here’s the thing, if the Great Resignation is going to end well; if we’re not going to shipwreck our economy, and go into a depression that may well end many of our businesses, it’s up to employers to set the tone. Hire us, pass a portion of the savings onto your employees. We believe that when you do this, you’ll find that not only will you reduce the strain on your HR and recruiting people, but you’ll do your bottom line a favor, too.