Chapter Corner

Training for the Big Leagues

Posted in: President's Message, March 2016

Hovanec web.jpgA recent IEC meeting opened with the moderator asking attendees to tell something about themselves that no one in the room knew. When it was my turn, I revealed that I managed my son’s little league baseball team for 8 years, and 7 of those 8 years the team finished in 1st place.

I always believed it was my job to do everything in my power to help those kids win. I apply that same philosophy to my business today.

Managing a sports team is not unlike managing a business. It is important to recognize the talent you have at your disposal and to cultivate that talent to build a winning team.

 As a little league manager, my focus was to assess each player’s strengths and weaknesses. By focusing on each player’s strengths, I was successful in building winning teams.

Keeping your eyes open and continually assessing the talent you have in your company is the first step to building a strong team.

I have always been a strong believer in education and training. In my company, this includes cross-training all apprentices and journeymen to perform tasks beyond their everyday norm. By tracking the results, I can more readily judge who are the best candidates to move ahead within the company. Cross-training outside an employee’s current position takes them out of their comfort zone and often reveals talent you never knew they had. It is our job as owners and managers to place the very best we have in each position within our company.

It begins with apprentice training and continues throughout the career of each and every employee. The best place to start is to enroll your apprentices into the IEC Apprentice program. Taking advantage of the many education tools offered by IEC will help produce the best field electricians, foremen, project managers, and estimators.

It’s also important to recognize people’s weaknesses and plan around them. One of the little league teams I managed had a player that was never going to hit the ball; his hand-eye coordination just was not there yet. Rather than dwell on that weakness, I decided the best way he could help the team was to teach him the strike zone. Although he went through the entire season without ever once hitting the ball, he finished that year with an .800 on base percentage.

During the years that I managed those little league teams, players rotated in and out. That resulted in managing a different team each year.

Just as those little league teams experienced a turnover of players, our businesses will always experience turnover in our workforce. Some will stay with us until they are ready to retire, some will go to our competitors, and others will go into their own successful businesses. Each scenario will result in the need to hire new talent that will have to be assessed for their strengths and placed in a position that will help strengthen your team.

It is the turnover of workers that is the most important reason to cross-train employees in all areas of your company’s field operations and beyond. By doing so, you’re creating a bench that you can call upon when one of your other employees moves on or is absent for a day, resulting in a virtually seamless transition.

By training all employees outside their comfort zone, there is a good chance you may recognize a future foreman, estimator, or project manager, even though they may currently be working their way through the IEC Apprentice program.

Given the labor shortage our industry is suffering, it is important that we recognize and continue to train and develop the talent we already have, focusing on how each individual can help our organization beyond just filling the current opening. How can they help the company in the future? Do they show promise in other areas? It is our responsibility as leaders to assess each and every employee for the answers to these questions.

A well-organized training program spanning all areas of work the company performs will develop the next leaders in our companies.  

By continually training and educating your employees, you not only build your own winning team, you build the future of our industry.

Joseph Hovanec Jr. is IEC’s 2016 National President. As the principal elected officer of the association, Hovanec serves as the National Chair to the Board of Directors, House of Delegates, and Executive Committee. Hovanec is the president of Advanced Electric Design & Service in Rahway, New Jersey. With a career that spans over 35 years in the electrical industry, Hovanec is extremely knowledgeable on where we have been and the direction we need to go.