Setting clear objectives for your contractor engagement and workforce development efforts will help you plan for implementation and ensure that contractors will be able to meet the demand for energy upgrades from your program. Start with the goals established for your overall program and make sure that your program goals still make sense in light of what you learned about contractors and training providers in your market.
Because contractors are the partners that actually deliver the improvements to the market, your contractor engagement objectives directly support broader program goals and set important benchmarks against which you can measure progress. Your goals and objectives for contractor engagement could cover topics including:
- Energy services delivered
- Service quality
- Contractor participation rates
- Contractor effectiveness.
Your workforce development objectives will complement the related program goals and set important benchmarks against which you can measure progress. Your goals and objectives for workforce development could cover topics including:
- Workforce development
- Job creation and quality
- Economic development and employment.
For each of the goals related to contractor engagement or workforce development, you should develop a specific, realistic, and measurable objective that will serve as a performance target.
In this handbook, you’ll find guidance and resources to help you:
- Review program goals related to contractor engagement and workforce development
- Establish specific contractor engagement and workforce development objectives
- Discuss and refine the goals and objectives with contractor and workforce development partners.
Review program goals related to contractor engagement and workforce development
For your program as a whole, you have probably already identified big-picture goals for energy upgrades, total energy savings, market transformation, and the overall customer experience. Goals identify what you hope to accomplish over the long term, such as increasing the number of qualified home performance professionals in your community.
Your workforce development and contractor engagement activities support the program’s overall goals for service delivery and economic development. Contractors are responsible for providing quality service to customers and completing energy upgrades, while efforts to recruit, train, and employ qualified home performance professionals support program needs and job creation goals. Both sets of activities support market transformation goals. Consider the following categories for contractor engagement and workforce development goals.
Contractor Engagement Goal Categories
- Energy services delivered, such as the number of energy assessments and energy upgrades completed, or the percentage of assessments that go on to complete upgrades
- Service quality, such as the results of quality assurance reviews and customer satisfaction ratings
- Contractor participation rates, specifically elements such as the number of participating contractors and the intensity of participation
- Contractor effectiveness, such as the number of leads generated, conversion rates, project comprehensiveness, and customer referrals.
Workforce Development Goal Categories
- Workforce development, such as the numbers of home performance professionals trained and certified
- Job creation and quality, such as the number and type of jobs created, the wages for those jobs (e.g., whether “living wage”), hours worked by contractors participating in the program, and the duration of employment
- Economic development and employment, such as the proportion of projects completed by local, small, and minority- and/or women-owned businesses.
Your assessment of contractors and training providers in your market can help you to refine the goals and develop specific objectives to guide your workforce development and contractor engagement efforts. Your market assessment might show that you need to recruit additional contractors to align with the type or level of services that you want to offer, to help contractors make any necessary adjustments to their technical or business processes, and/or to gain access to build a qualified workforce. Use that information to set objectives for workforce development and contractor engagement.
Establish specific contractor engagement and workforce development objectives
To develop objectives for your contractor engagement and workforce development activities, you will need to identify measurable targets and timeframes for the goals that will allow your program to track progress and measure results. Objectives are specific, measureable statements that tie directly to one or more of your goals. For example, an objective might be to train a specific number of home improvement professionals each year or to help ensure that contractors enlisted in the program complete a certain number of projects per year.
When evaluating potential objectives, consider:
- What it will take to achieve your goals
- How dependent your program is on external factors and actors
- Whether it is feasible to measure the objective and attribute improvements to your program
- Whether your schedule will provide enough time to notice the level of improvements you seek.
Engage contractors and other workforce development stakeholders as you establish objectives to ensure that these objectives can be sufficiently supported and – to the extent possible – overlap with your stakeholders’ own objectives.
Approach contractor engagement with “two ears and one mouth” – spend twice as much time listening as you do sharing your own views. Contractor engagement at this early stage, such as through group or individual contractor meetings, might help you realize ways that you need to revise your objectives in order to align with the reality of the residential energy efficiency market.
Green Jobs Green New York Program Sets Objectives to Support Clean Energy Jobs
The New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), a first-of-its kind public benefit corporation created in 1975, has been upgrading homes in New York State for more than 10 years and working to create clean energy jobs. Through the Green Jobs Green New York Program, NYSERDA provides homeowners with access to energy assessments, installation services, low-cost financing through a revolving loan fund, and pathways to training for various green-collar careers. Key objectives include:
- Train over 6,200 additional home improvement professionals beyond the 6,500 home improvement professionals that have already received training.
- Create new business opportunities for more than 100 businesses in the state’s network of certified energy professionals.
To accomplish its workforce development and job-creation objectives, NYSERDA has engaged existing contractor partners to structure on-the-job apprenticeship and internship opportunities, built increased training infrastructure through expanded training centers, incentives and loans for equipment for contractors, and restructured field testing and certification examination protocols to help ramp up the number of trainees. Learn more in the Workforce Operating Plan.
An independent evaluation conducted of the program found that the Green Jobs Green New York Program contributed 1,585 jobs, $91.2 million in labor income, and $124.9 million to the gross state product in 2013 alone (see Economic Impacts of Green Jobs Green New York (GJGNY) Program Report). From 2011 through June 2013, the program had completed 15,613 residential single-family energy upgrades.
Contractor Engagement Objectives
For each of the goals your program sets for contractor engagement, identify objectives that complement the goals and develop important benchmarks against which you can measure progress. Examples of objectives related to contractor engagement are displayed in the table below.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, 2014.
Workforce Development Objectives
Your workforce development objectives should complement your objectives for contractor engagement and address the needs you identified in your market assessment. Example objectives for workforce development are displayed in the table below.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, 2014.
Contractor Engagement and Workforce Development Goals and Objectives in Seattle
Within the overall goal of creating broad community access to jobs and energy upgrades, Community Power Works in Seattle, Washington, established specific goals and objectives for the workforce development and contractor employment portion of its program. The City worked with key stakeholder groups to refine and negotiate these goals and objectives, and memorialized them in a High Road Agreement. The goals and objectives included:
- Maintain sustainability and consistency of job and sector growth and investment.
- Keep the program simple and predictable, especially for contractors.
- Keep a balance between creating jobs for entry-level targeted technicians and for the existing skilled workforce, so that targeted technicians perform at least 33% of technical work hours.
- Achieve business participation rates of 80–100% small business participation, at least 30% minority-owned business participation, at least 10% women-owned business participation, and close to 100% local business participation; increase opportunities for employee-owned and veteran-owned businesses.
- Ensure that contractors do high-quality work.
- Ensure that program jobs lead to career pathways.
- Ensure that program jobs pay a family-supporting wage.
Progress towards these goals helped Community Power Works achieve the following results, among others, from fall 2010 through January 2014:
- Completed or had underway over 3,000 home energy upgrade projects, including about 1,200 for low-income families
- Created over 250,000 hours of work performed by over 1,200 people, including over 1,000 contractors and energy assessors
- Provided work for small, local, and disadvantaged businesses. All participating contractors have less than 50 employees, and 92% are local. Thirty-nine percent of contractors are owned by women, minority, veterans, and/or employees.
While a high-road mission may not be the right approach for your program, it is important to establish specific goals and objectives and track your progress toward achieving them.
Discuss and refine the goals and objectives with potential contractor and workforce development partners
To make your program most effective and meaningful, you will need to work with key stakeholders to refine the goals and objectives for contractor engagement and workforce development. These stakeholders include both contractors that may deliver energy assessment and upgrade services for your program and training providers you may work with to build and enhance the skills of your workforce. The process of refining the goals and objectives with these partners will be iterative. Your program’s interests are not identical to theirs, but it is critical to ensure that you are working toward similar goals and objectives.
The contractor engagement and workforce development objectives established in this stage will serve as a foundation for your workforce agreements and standards.
Tips for Success
Maintain a sufficient workforce from program launch into program maturity
Your program will rely on its contractor base in order to succeed, so take steps to ensure that the capacity of the workforce is sufficient to launch your program and to maintain it as it grows. An evaluation of over 140 programs found that successful programs fostered and maintained relationships with a large pool of contractors. Many Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners took the time to learn about contractors’ businesses and align program promotions with those needs. Focus on expanding contractors’ businesses and avoid interrupting or complicating a sale. Also, remember that it is important not to take contractors’ leads to their competitors, as can occur when programs pool all leads and distribute them on a rotating basis. Contractors are protective of leads they generated themselves, so this can become a disincentive for contractors to participate in your program.
If you understand contractors’ business processes and align promotions during contractors’ periods of greater availability, you can help ensure that your program will retain a reliable workforce into the future. One way that you can attract the contractors you need is to design your program in a way that will benefit contractors. Take steps to ensure that contractors want to work with your program, and to reduce barriers to their ability to do so.
- Enhabit, formerly Clean Energy Works Oregon, created a system to help ensure that the program did not interfere with competition among contractors, or cause contractors’ leads to be given to their competitors. Initially, the program pooled all leads and referred them to contractors on a rotating basis, assigning them to the next contractor in line. This led to some contractors’ leads being given to other contractors. The program later improved that process by assigning a code to each contractor, and when a contractor generated a lead, the customer would use the appropriate code. In that way, Enhabit would be able to assign the work to the appropriate contractor.
- Seattle’s Community Power Works coordinated with contractors before launching marketing initiatives that were going to drive a spike in demand. Contractors could then prepare in advance for the increase in customer interest, and the program was able to establish required timelines for contractors to follow, to ensure that new customers received an evaluation in a timely manner.
Design a program that provides value for contractors and considers their seasonal business cycles
Many residential energy efficiency programs run into challenges maintaining an appropriately sized, well-trained workforce from program launch through maturity, as well as through the fluctuating demand of the seasons of the year. Some programs found that their contractors preferred a smooth annual workload in order to avoid layoffs during the slow off-season months, while others found that they benefited from seasonal fluctuations in demand. By understanding your contractors’ schedules and capacity, you can schedule campaigns to generate demand for their services when they want it and pursue innovative strategies to help them manage their workload accordingly. Coordinate with your contractors to identify their needs and preferences and explore ways that you can help drive demand or increase the number of available professionals.
- Austin Energy acquired an extensive understanding of the existing contractor workforce and gathered key insights into local contractors’ schedules and capacity. Austin’s hot weather keeps contractors busy dealing with home cooling issues during the warm months of the year. Austin Energy purposely launched its Best Offer Ever promotion in fall 2010 to take advantage of contractor availability and provide more work during otherwise slow contracting months. This approach increased the likelihood that upgrades would be completed in a timely manner, while also helping Austin-area contractors avoid seasonal layoffs.
- NeighborWorks of Western Vermont realized that fluctuating seasonal demand for home energy efficiency upgrades posed challenges for contractors. Contractors were reluctant to hire additional technicians during peak season because they knew that demand would ebb in the spring and summer. The result was a backlog of projects. The program created a pool of temporary employees to help contractors in need of home performance professionals, including small contractors. This approached helped participating contractors weather the changing demand for home performance upgrades by offering them the flexibility to grow and shrink their workforce as needed. Many contractors expressed enthusiasm for the temporary employee pool, and the extra staffing helped reduce the number of backlogged projects throughout the community.
Establish collaborative partnerships with contractors and communicate with them early and often
Contractors are more likely to serve as program champions when the program engages with them throughout program design, delivery, and improvement. Your contractors are the primary contact points with your customers, and the quality of their interactions and services strongly influences how customers view your program. Many Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners found that gathering contractor input during the program’s planning phase helped ensure that the program would create value for contractors as well as for customers. The programs built personal relationships with contractors by demonstrating interest in their business concerns and needs. Indeed, an evaluation of over 140 programs across the United States found that programs were more successful when they fostered relationships with their contractors and communicated frequently with them.
Source: In Their Own Words: Engage with Contractors From Day One, U.S. Department of Energy, 2012.
By communicating regularly (e.g., via a monthly breakfast meeting, other outreach events) with a core group of contractors, programs were able to better monitor program implementation and receive suggestions for improvement. These programs elicited feedback from contractors about how customers perceived program offerings, as well as input about what was working and what was not for both contractors and customers. Some programs surveyed contractors to collect a regular stream of information about how program implementation was going and to get feedback before rolling out new offers or program design changes.
- NeighborWorks of Western Vermont maintained steady lines of communication with its network of contractors to help ensure that barriers to getting work done in a timely manner were identified early and that solutions were collaborative. The program held monthly one-on-one meetings with each contractor to review client status and progress and to identify any problems and potential training opportunities. The program also organized bimonthly group contractors meetings focused specifically on sharing new techniques or products. NeighborWorks used regular contractor communications, performance feedback, and contractor incentives and competitions to help contractors improve their assessment-to-upgrade conversion rates. By engaging contractors and including them from the start on any proposed program revisions or promotions, NeighborWorks was able to improve program delivery.
- Enhabit, formerly Clean Energy Works Oregon, program is charged with saving energy and supporting clean economic growth. Much of its success has come from engaging contractors in a continual learning and improvement process. Enhabit solicits feedback from contractors at meetings every two weeks and uses this feedback to guide improvements. With support from the Energy Trust of Oregon, a few contractors collaborated to create the Home Performance Contractors Guild of Oregon, which enables contractors to organize their opinions into a unified voice and have a more formal role in program and regional policy discussions. When Enhabit engaged a new financing partner, the program asked the Guild to examine the loan product and approval process. Input from the Guild helped ensure that the product was something that contractors would be able to explain and promote to customers.
- In Washington State, the Repower Kitsap program started in a region where the home improvement market was fragmented and under-developed. Contractors were initially wary of one another, tended to work only in their specialty, and often did not have working relationships with one another. The program established monthly brown bag meetings to discuss program goals and requirements and to gather contractor input on the program. The monthly meetings helped contractors get to know and trust one another and develop productive working relationships. Many contractors even shared leads with other contractors who specialized in the types of projects they could not or did not want to handle.
- The Long Island Green Homes program began consulting with contractors during program design and continued to do so as the program launched and began full service operations. The program established contact with a core group of contractors it trusted, meeting with them regularly to review program status and direction. In particular, the program made it a priority to engage with contractors when rolling out program changes, asking them about their needs, concerns, and current state of business. In this way, the program ensured that program offerings were adding value for the home performance industry and that program requirements were manageable for contractors. For more information on the Long Island Green Homes’ launch and other pilot programs, visit the October 2011 Better Buildings Residential Network Peer Exchange Call Summary.
Last Updated: 01/25/2016