Group photo of attendees at Synergy's 2024 People Forum held at the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook. The group, consisting of HR professionals and industry leaders from the HVAC peer group, are standing and smiling together in an outdoor courtyard. The Synergy Solution Group logo is visible in the bottom right corner.
Synergy’s 2024 People Forum, held May 20-22nd at the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook, gathered 25 HR professionals and industry leaders from our HVAC peer group to discuss effective talent management and workforce planning. The forum emphasized collaboration, innovation, and actionable insights to address the current challenges in the HVAC industry.

Keynote by Wyetta Ford: From Recruitment to Retention

Wyetta Ford’s (HR Coach Online) keynote presentation, “From Recruitment to Retention,” highlighted critical points for our HVAC peer group:

  • 80% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged
  • Onboarding is crucial for new hires, with 46% failing in their roles within the first 18 months
  • Talent shortages are at a 17-year high, affecting 77% of companies across industries

Ford emphasized the importance of addressing systemic issues and creating robust employee life cycles that include growth, development, training, and culture building, which are vital for any HVAC company.

Fishbowl Exercise: Talent Acquisition Challenges and Innovative Solutions

Attendees participated in a Fishbowl Exercise to discuss and address challenges in talent acquisition. This interactive session allowed members to share their difficulties in finding skilled workers, understanding reasons for employee departures, and filling specific challenging positions such as senior project managers and estimators. Innovative recruitment strategies included personalized outreach, referral bonuses, and leveraging social media to promote company culture.

Developing Future Leaders: Insights from Nanette Miner

Nanette Miner, a Leadership Development Strategist, highlighted the impending workforce shift with baby boomers retiring by 2030, stressing the need for comprehensive leadership development in small to medium-sized companies. She outlined key challenges in recruiting and retention, emphasizing the importance of differentiating beyond salary. Miner advocated for providing everyone with first-level leadership skills, creating clear career paths, and integrating learning with daily responsibilities to build a resilient workforce. Through group exercises, attendees discussed developing personal, external, interpersonal, and business competencies.

Dynamic Workforce Planning with Debbie Fitzgerald (Storer Services)

Debbie Fitzgerald’s (Storer Services) session on Dynamic Workforce Planning (DWP) provided practical strategies for proactive staffing and resource management. She shared how Storer Services uses their 10-year vision, broken down into actionable goals, to anticipate and meet workforce needs. Participants discussed the benefits of involving employees in planning processes and the importance of transparency in sharing financial and operational metrics with HR.

Interactive Exercises and Peer-Powered Problem Solving

Day one ended with an interactive exercise that had attendees tackle common HR challenges through peer-powered problem solving. Each table worked on a common HR challenge like how to increase employee engagement and how to attract the best tech talent in a competitive job market. The groups moved from table to table to brainstorm and refine solutions to each problem.

Navigating HRIS Systems

Day two started with a panel discussed on challenges and insights of implementing HRIS systems. Corlis Harris (CCAC Building Solutions) highlighted integration issues and the need for end-user involvement. Angela Whitley (Interstate Mechanical) emphasized asking the right questions and involving the right people, while Kelley Bennett (Baker Group) noted the effectiveness of integrating their HRIS with payroll and benefits, and then added recruiting, PTO, attendance, and onboarding. The panel advised thoroughly assessing needs, involving stakeholders, ensuring customization, and overcommunicating changes. They stressed the importance of user-friendly systems, comprehensive training, and aligning the HRIS with company objectives to ensure successful implementation.

Technology Playground

Synergy members participated in a Technology Playground session, pairing experienced users of ChatGPT and Canva with less experienced individuals to enhance their skills. Key tools discussed included ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot, and Google Bard for conversational assistance, email drafting, and brainstorming. Participants learned to create effective prompts, ensuring data privacy, and iterating responses for better results. Canva, a versatile design tool, was highlighted for its applications in onboarding, meeting packages, QR codes, presentations, graphics, and social media posts. Tips included video editing, creating how-to videos, branding, and using various apps within Canvas for enhanced functionality.

Key Takeaways and Action Plans

The forum concluded with a session where attendees shared their key takeaways and action plans. Highlights included:

  • Discovering and exploring new technologies
  • Gaining confidence in recruiting processes
  • Emphasizing the importance of people and workforce development
  • Enhancing HR processes
  • Achieving a newfound understanding and inspiration regarding HRIS systems

“What a great experience! The collaboration and engagement of each participant, in addition to the resources provided during the meeting and in OneHub, was the best part of the meeting.” – Toria Riege (LMS Building Systems)

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