<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2854636358152850&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
17 min read

SBA 215: Onboarding BAS Professionals

By Phil Zito on Aug 17, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Topics: Podcasts

In this episode, we discuss how to develop your building automation employees so that they are profitable and proficient from day one.

Click here to download or listen to this episode now.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Employee ON BOARDING Checklist


  • Complete HR Requirements
  • Perform Role Based Assessment
  • Review Role Expectations and Company Processes
  • Review Role Based Assessment Results within the Context of Role Requirements
  • Align Role Based Assessment with Professional Development Plan and Year 1 Goals
  • Establish Benchmark Measurements and Touch Point Cadence
  • Assign Quick Hit Skill Gap Training
  • Release to Project


Subscribe via iTunes

 Subscribe via Stitcher


Phil Zito 00:00

This is the smart buildings Academy podcast with Phil Zito Episode 215. Hey folks, Phil Zito here Welcome to Episode 215 of the smart buildings Academy podcast. And in this episode we are going to be talking through onboarding new VA s professionals. And this episode is sponsored by our online building automation skills assessment. If you have employees, either new hires or existing hires, and you are trying to identify skill gaps that way you can manage their learning and development path then you definitely want to check out our online skill assessment. It will give you clear quantifiable data that defines skill gaps across multiple different technical domains for your employees. So feel free to go to smart buildings academy.com and Check that out. And this episode is going to be at podcast dot smart buildings academy.com forward slash 215, where you'll also find a link to our online skill assessment. So what is this concept of onboarding? You know, I've had the fortune of working for very small companies, working for mid sized companies and working for Fortune 100. And across that experience, I've seen all forms of onboarding. I've seen onboarding that has been so formalized, to the point where it's not effective. It's literally just doing a checklist and there's no real emotion behind it. It's very robotic, and you really don't get to know your employees. On the other hand, I've seen onboarding, which is literally like, Oh, thank God, you're here. Here's the tools. We need you on the job site because we're getting yelled at by the GC and you know, Neither of those really work quite effectively. The problem is that they really don't understand the employee as an individual. And what those that employee's strengths and weaknesses are, what their learning style is, what their motivational styles are. And I know that may seem kind of touchy feely, but the reality is, you can get the most out of your employees, when you understand their motivational styles. When you understand what makes them tick, whether they learn visually whether they learn kinesthetically, whether they learn by hearing or doing all these things that at the beginning of that employee journey, you have the opportunity to really understand and shape the development of that employee and why would you want to do that? Well, statistically, it's shown that having a clear onboarding process reduces your Time to profitability by 62% 62%. So if the average technician, you know, you hear all sorts of numbers thrown around two years, one year, 18 months, if the average technician let's just land in the middle there takes 18 months to get really profitable and you cut by half, then you're taking a technician that's 18 months to be on the job doing stuff on their own, and you're making them fully effective, fully utilized fully profitable within nine months. So you're essentially eliminating nine months of margin degradation nine months of not really fully utilizing that technician or that programmer against backlog. You know, that's nine months of not having to charge the overhead. Those are all highly beneficial things to the profitability of your business. But there's a softer side of this as well in how it engages your employees, it keeps your employees loyal keeps them constantly developing, which enables you to do higher level work, which is increasingly more profitable. So there's so many benefits to onboarding yet. It is really often an afterthought. So let's talk through how onboarding traditionally works. This is going to be pretty short how it traditionally works, because it's traditionally a pretty short process. You get the new technician, whether it is someone moving into a new role, or it's a new hire, and you put them through the HR stuff,


Phil Zito 04:35

right? You have them watch the safety videos, go through the diversity checklists, go through their compliance checklist, get their it gear set up, get their phone set up or purchase card, if they have on their truck, all of that and that takes anywhere from one to three days. You get them tooled up and kitted out, you know they go with a senior tech to Granger, grab their stuff, or maybe you have a process where you actually have a kit At Granger and or wherever you're buying parts from, and that kit is automatically pre purchased, doesn't matter, they get their stuff. And then by the end of the week, you're rolling them out to a site and you're sticking them under a senior tech. And you're hoping they learn the same way you learned which was on the job, experiential training, which can be very effective, but can also be very not effective. Because you're at the mercy of several things, one of which can the senior tech, even trained senior tech may be really good at what they do. They may be really poor at passing that information on to someone else, as well as going and taking that information that they have, right that that process and skill and understanding, not only being able to pass that on, do they have that ability, but do they have the time to do that? See, therein lies the other challenge is that having the time to actually go and teach someone, and teach them effectively, can be quite challenging. And the third thing is do they have a process for teaching and developing this person, because it's one thing to have the time, it's another thing to have the ability, but then you have to have a process because you can be bouncing all over the place one day, you may be teaching that technician how to download controllers, just assuming they understand the basic fundamentals of mstp, assuming they know the basic fundamentals of supervisory devices. So there's so many underlying knowledge sets that are required in order to properly teach and explain processes to folks. Which brings us to a new model for onboarding. And this is going to look a little different. One thing I really encourage you to do before you ever do any model for onboarding, we're gonna go through a couple different models. But before you do any form of onboarding really encourage you to map out your current employee lifecycle. And what do I mean by this? Well, I want you to look at an employee or the employees that you've hired. And I want you to ask yourself a couple questions. One, are you losing employees? Are they quitting? Are they retiring? What's going on? When are you losing them in the employee lifecycle? Do you get folks who come in straight out of high school straight out of trade school and they work with you for 2030 years? Great. Is that what you want? Do you want folks working with you 2030 years in the same role? Are you expecting them to gradually work their way up into management? What are the what is the employee lifecycle? When are they leaving your organization and how are they moving through your organization? Which brings us to the next question, our employees getting stuck in development cycles. So the natural progression for some When coming into our industry is usually they work in construction. And they will work under senior tech. And then from construction, they will have a choice. They can either move into design, and then move into programming, and then move into integration or project management. That's one path. That's typically the construction path. The other path is they can move from technician in construction, to technician in service to senior service tech, and then basically lead service tech, right? Those are the two main paths. Now there is a sales path as well. But those are the two main paths for technical staff. So you have to ask yourself, are people getting stuck in development cycles and then you have to ask yourself, why are they getting stuck in development cycles? If your goal is to do commercial real estate work, and you are teaming for that, then your team structure is going to look completely dead? Then if you're doing like tier four data centers or high end hospitals, the staff and


Phil Zito 09:06

technical capabilities of your team are going to look different. So commercial real estate you may be fine staffing heavily with technicians and light with designers and programmers. Because most of the programming and designing you're going to do is for plan and spec repeatable projects. Whereas with healthcare, you may be better off stacking light on technicians and stacking heavy on programmers because most of what you're going to do is going to be complex programming and complex troubleshooting. So understanding the vertical markets you serve, understanding your strategic growth goals, understanding how you want to deploy your team is really important. Once you understand that, though, then you can identify the development cycles that your team runs in, you could say, okay, most of our folks are technicians but they're five years old. tax, and you talk to these people, and they want to move out of the tech role, but they're not what is the barrier. And so this in brings in a nother strategic decision, which is creating thresholds and criterion for moving across those threshold barriers, right. So the threshold from a technician to a designer, from a designer to a programmer, from a programmer to an integrator, those should have clearly defined tasks, and those task lists, and that's something we provide our customers when we onboard our customers, our corporate customers, we provide a task list to help them identify what tasks their different employees should be able to do in order to move into specific roles, because we find a lot of small to medium sized organizations do not have that structure. But that's something you want to start stablish and then you say, Okay, if they don't have this, what do they need to do to get that? And I will tell you, from my perspective, having ran a $60 million p&l with 22, technicians, and running, gosh, man, it was like 120 projects at a time. I will tell you, it is a lot easier to develop people at the beginning and the end of their development cycles than it is in the middle. What do I mean by that? If you have a new hire technician, it's a lot easier to do an assessment, understand their gaps, and then close those gaps in the beginning, and then do another assessment right before you bring them you're saying oh, this technician has some talent. I want them to move into a designer role, then do another assessment or take the existing assessment and just read it and run them through that. Figure out Okay, these are the gaps. They're missing for designers. I'm going to take them out of the field, and I'm going to put them through an intensive in a designer. That is, in my experience the most effective way of employee development. I want to repeat that for a second, because it's something you don't see a lot. But it's something that's highly effective. You will see it though, in a lot of IT organizations, which is interesting. But what I'm saying is you take the employee, you bring them on, you identify their gaps, and you train them to close those gaps so they can do their role. When they're getting ready to move into a new role. You then take them back out, again, do an assessment, close those gaps, again, doing a tensive at the end of their technician lifecycle, to move them into that designer lifecycle. And by doing this, you're reducing learning on the job or you're mitigating learning on the job as much as you can. I don't want to say you're eliminating learning on the job because there will always be OJT on job training.


Phil Zito 12:58

How Ever, the more you can mitigate that with core underlying skills, the more profitable and the more proficient your team will be. So, right, you want to know why you're losing your employees, what their lifecycle is and where they're getting stuck in development cycles. And then you want to identify, and really, I guess you could have done this First, identify your strategic goals for your organization, you want to understand what are your growth goals? What does your team structure need to be in order to execute those growth goals? You know, a hundred million dollar team is going to look completely different than a $10 million team. And it's going to look completely different than a $1 million team. So depending on what you want your revenue to be each year, which is a good static measurement of strategic goals for your organization. I tend to find companies will be like I want three branches and I want each branch have this many to people and you say, okay, that's great. But what do you want your revenue to be? Because having branches just for the sake of having branches, and having people just for the sake of having people is not necessarily a good strategic goal you want to understand what vertical market are you serving? What revenue targets are you looking for at what percent margin? Do you want to execute that revenue? And how much of that executed margin Do you want going back in your business? So you could say, effectively, I want to do 10 million a year and I want to do that at, you know, 12% margin, but I am willing to accept my executed margin at 10%. Because I realized that to step into this new vertical market, maybe I'm shifting from commercial real estate to K through 12, or I'm shifting from commercial real estate to healthcare, to go and address that new market. I'm going to have a learning curve, and I'm going to have to pull my guys out And gals out and train them in order to execute this new vertical market and the nuances with it. And that's gonna go and cause some margin reduction. And you can reasonably accept that. But it all starts by understanding your revenue targets, understanding the verticals, you want to serve those kind of things. Once you understand this, then you can say, Okay, how do I want to develop my talent bench? How do I want to structure my team in order to execute these strategic goals? Does that mean that I need more technicians now than I've had in the past? Because I'm going to go after the real estate market or I'm going to go after the K through 12 market? Or do I need more programmers because I want to shift to more institutional markets. I want to shift to data center markets I want to shift to healthcare markets. Understanding this will go and drive how you develop your talent bench. With all this being said the model I recommend for onboarding is a, I guess you could say it's like a six, seven step model, the steps flux and flex based on your organizational structure. But what I like to look at is I like to look at a process that takes about two to three weeks for onboarding. And I know some of you are cringing, you're hearing that you're like, but Phil, I've got backlog to execute. Now the economy just opened back up, or we just won this huge job, I need to execute this backlog. And I understand that I totally do I get the pressure from GCS yelling at you. Why aren't you on this job? You told me you could complete the job. There's liquidated damages, we're going to build you, we're going to charge you. We don't want to wait for certificate of occupancy because of you darn controls people holding up everything again. I totally get it and they usually don't use that nice of language. I understand the pressure you're under. However, you will always be under that kind of pressure. And increasingly my experience has been that pressure will just increase. If you don't have a process and you keep doing things reactionary, if you react instead of being proactive, you will go and find that you are still getting that pressure because let's be honest,


Phil Zito 17:17

you take a brand new technician, you stick them out on a job site to go and just execute backlog because the GC is yelling at you. That technician messes up, reverses all the valve polarity, or doesn't properly terminate some sensors and next thing you know, now the tmb folks in the commissioning folks are coming after and saying, Oh, look at the punch list. Oh darn controls, folks messed everything up again. And you're still in the same position you are, if you had just taken a little bit more time and properly on boarded that person, you could have gotten slightly ahead of the curve and it's micro increments that add up over time that make you able to be more process driven, more profit. And more ahead of the curve. So the onboarding checklist, right, there's always complete the HR requirements. I mean, I'm not going to get into that with you too deeply. Because it's pretty straightforward, right? It's all of your tax documentation, all of your policy, documentation, etc, they usually takes one to two days. The good news is, is if you've got a signed offer letter, you can sometimes get ahead of that, and complete a lot of that before even starting the onboarding process. Now, next up, what I like to do. And granted, we do have a solution for doing this through our online skill assessments. But you can do this yourself is to perform a role based assessment and it's really important that it is a role based assessment. It's an assessment that is going to test the skills of that person based on what they're going to be doing in their role. And this is really important for two reasons. One, a role based Assessment assessment should include some psychological questions things like how are you motivated? How do you best learn? What is most important to you? These are things that you as a manager can then use to understand how do I motivate my employees? How do I guide my employees? How do I assist in their development, but it should also have role based questions. So it should be asking questions specific for a technician to electrical to IO to controllers, to field buses to it to h back to programming, some of the basic programming aspects right, just understanding basic logic because oftentimes, you have to do some field modifications, even as a technician. Understanding the results of these assessments, right, is going to be very important to you as manager. Now before you review these results with your employee, I highly recommend and this is something I also don't seen done a lot review Role expectations here at my company every week, we have a meeting, where we discuss our goals, our strategic goals and our weekly goals. And we go through all right, what's most important? What should we be focusing on. And that is built back into our role expectations. So when someone comes on board to the company, first off, we complete the HR stuff, then we assess them based on what they know. And we go through the expectations of the role at our company processes. And then based on those role expectations and company processes, we then review the assessment results and we do that within the context of the role requirements. Now granted, we're a training provider. So our assessment process, our expectation process, looks different than what yours would, but I did this back when I was running an operations team as well. looked very similar to what you're going through. So I would go and say, Okay, this is what I know about you based on what I asked. And because at the time I didn't have a formal tool to do it, I just use questions. And I would say this is the role expectations.


Phil Zito 21:15

Here's our processes. And then I'd say based on what I've learned from talking to you, here's where I think you have areas for development. And they tie into these aspects of your role. So, you know, if I found someone was very weak electrically, but they were strong with h fac, and they were strong with controls, then I would say, Okay, my expectations of you as a technician are this and we know that you tested kind of poorly in this area. So here's what we're going to do. We are going to look at your professional development plan which you should have for your employees and your year one goals. And we are going to align the results from the assessment to your development plan. We're going to set up markers for one month. three months, six months, nine months, 12 months, where we're going to re measure what you know. Now I know as a manager, you're like, Man, this is freakin a lot of work. But if you do this, then you are now managing, and you're not out in the field doing the work, because let's be honest, how many of you as managers are really your technical leaders, and you're going out into the field because your guys and gals can't figure out that Modbus integration, or they can't figure out how to do this wiring scheme with that four to 20 sensor. And because of that, you're actually out in the field, you're not leading a business, there's no working on your business and working in your business. And as a manager, you want to be working on your business. And to do that you need to set up these development plans with concrete quantifiable measurements that you can then use to drive development. So once you have those, right, you've established your benchmark measurements, and you've established your touchpoint cadence. Then I hired recommend you assigned quick hit skill gap training. So this is training that can be done. And it can be done in one to two weeks. And it will close the gaps on whatever skill gaps your employees have. Now, you can do this by having a professional training team in house. And you can go and create your own training and create your own trading processes. I've seen some companies do that. You have companies like our company that do this for you which we do the assessment and we do the training, and we help you close those gaps. And then we help you to continue training that person over the period of their first year. Whichever way you choose to do that, just have some process. I would highly recommend unless you are higher than 100 million in revenue a year. I really cannot recommend developing your own training organization. The cost and time To do that is extensive and the skill sets required are extensive. I would rather you take that, you know, million to $2 million, it's going to cost to develop a trading company, ply that to profitability and growth. That is, in my opinion, your best success strategy. Once you have done that, though, once you've closed the gaps with that skill gap training, then you release them to the project and you're going to see a phenomenally different result. I know I'm using some nice colorful, big language, but I cannot tell you enough how or I can't emphasize enough how much impact it will have on the profitability and proficiency of your employees to follow this process. This is something that very few I don't want to say very few. A good portion of company Do not do. And then they wonder why they're stuck under 10 million in revenue for year after year after year. Because they don't create a process. They don't have a strategy. And they don't run their business like a system. Because at the end of the day, your business is a system of systems and you run those systems and the systems have direct feedback loops. And you use the feedback loops from those systems to incrementally improve performance and to drive profitability. At the end of the day. If you're not profitable, and you're not bringing cash in the business, your business will die. And one of the best ways to be profitable is to have technicians, programmers, designers, who get the job done the right way, the first time within cost constraints within timeframe constraints. And in my experience, the best way to do that is to properly onboard and develop those employees. I have hope that this podcast episode has been informative. I've hope that it's given you a different perspective on how to approach things, how to go about taking your talent from the starting journey to the


Phil Zito 26:16

end, and really gives you some tools that you can apply to your business right now, at podcasts, smart buildings academy.com forward slash 215. There will be a short onboarding checklist that you can download. Feel free to go download them sure my marketing people want me to put that behind an email, but I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to have it as a PDF on the web page. So I mean, literally just go to podcast dot podcast dot smart buildings academy.com Ford slash 215. You'll see the PDF download link and you can click on that I'm not promising you it's going to be anything fancy, but just go download that build upon it and utilize it. Remember that progress, not perfection, I see so many people who they get these ideas. And then they try to do it all at once, and they get really down on themselves just a little bit. Even if you just implement an assessment and you implement a professional development plan, you are already ahead of the curve, because at least you know what your people know and don't know and you have a development plan for them. I really recommend you follow this entire process. But even if you just do that, you will be very far ahead of the curve. So I hope this podcast was helpful to you. We're going to be doing a couple more weeks worth of kind of management and strategy podcasts. And then we're going to shift back to the technical podcasts. Alright, folks, Thanks a ton for listening. And I look forward to talking to you next week. If you have any questions, please go the comments. Ask them there. I'd love to answer them for you. There's time to take care

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

Want to be a guest on the Podcast?