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Electrical Testing
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How Do You Keep Good People?

For many employees, opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge base may be a greater incentive than pay increases.

The owner of a small electrical shop complained that he just could not keep good people. Even hiring them in the first place was a problem. Stating that he paid the prevailing wage, he concluded that some competitors were targeting his best folks and offering them “another buck an hour.”

Following up with some of the former employees was revealing. One had actually taken a pay cut to go to a competitor, so the “buck an hour” theory didn’t apply there. Why would anybody take a pay cut?

The reason is he wanted to participate in an industry association and the new employer was supportive. Unlike where he left, the new employer provided time off and even covered participation costs. The financial support of his association activity more than made up for his pay cut, though at the time of the interview he hadn’t even considered that.

Another wanted three specific certifications. Unlike where he left, the new employer was actually looking for people interested in obtaining two of those certifications, and they agreed to support getting the third.

It may be that some people left for a small raise or perhaps a better insurance package. But normally people don’t look for a new job if they are satisfied with the one they have. The main drivers of satisfaction tend to be such things as recognition and chances for advancement.

Advancement doesn’t necessarily mean climbing the ladder of company titles. Technically skilled people often want to advance their mastery of technical skills. They got to be technically skilled in the first place for the same reason they want to learn more now: their interest in the technical is often passionate.

If you are “losing good people,” you are probably losing people who are passionate about their work, but frustrated because they aren’t recognized for it or can’t achieve technical advancement.

Recognition isn’t limited to handing out the occasional “attaboy” at the office. Industry associations offer the chance for recognition on a wider scale than that. Do you know which associations your employees might want to join or even volunteer to serve?

Certification serves a dual role of recognition and skill advancement. Do you know which certifications your employees may be eligible for pursuing? Do you know which certifications will also benefit your company?

Bill has been a job foreman for a long time. He wants to get certified as a manager by a management association that offers a study course and certification. Paying this small cost not only will give Bill more “I like working here” points, but also make him a better foreman.

Let’s say your sales manager tells you a few customers have been asking for your company to perform thermographic testing. One has its own camera, but something doesn’t seem to be going well. All of these customers want you to just handle this aspect. They don’t want to send their people to school to be certified because there’s not enough thermography work at their facility to justify it.

You don’t have a certified thermographer on staff, but three of your electricians have mentioned they’d like to pursue Level II certification. Should you spend the money?

If you dig a little deeper, you may find some good information to help you decide. For example:

  • In the Level I certification training, a student learns how to select the correct camera for the intended work.
  • The customer with their own camera has an inexpensive model that isn’t compatible with the demands of electrical testing. And it doesn't have a single person trained to use that camera or how to identify the right camera for the job. That’s why “something doesn’t seem to be going well.”
  • In the Level II certification training, a student will learn how to use the camera around all that shiny metal and get an accurate image. The issue that makes electrical thermography so tricky is called “emissivity.” Conquering emissivity requires both the right camera and the knowledge of how to use it.
  • A questionnaire sent to your existing customers revealed a much higher need for thermographic work than what they are having done. The number of incidents of failed and high-impedance connections, for example, showed an almost complete lack of predictive maintenance.

If your employees want certifications that align with your business goals, that’s ideal. Where they don’t align, that makes the certification more like an employee benefit. It may be worth providing, just to improve employee retention. Of course, you always have the option of digging into the area of interest a bit to see if there’s a business opportunity for your company.

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