The RESNET 2020 conference held in Phoenix this week, included a live demonstration session on getting Grade I installation with batt insulation. For anyone tasked with reviewing batt insulation jobs, this hands-on, open forum training offered a chance to review what a Grade I job looks like — and what it doesn’t.
J & K Insulation owner Jeff Richardson and his employee Eddie Gasca Perez, trainer to some of “America’s Best Insulation Installers,” gave a four-point lesson on how to inspire insulation crews to deliver Grade I consistently. They also offered tips to raters and insulation contractors on avoiding the challenges that make getting Grade I more difficult. Though simple, Richardson’s company has a RARE approach to motivating employees to get the job done correctly.
The First “R” Is for Respect
Richardson’s insulation company, based in Ogden, UT, employs 15 contractors who, by all accounts, bring a strong work ethic and commitment to their job, but that didn’t happen by luck.
According to Perez, who trains all J & K’s insulation installers, Richardson respects his employees and inspires crews to want to do their best work.
“Jeff respects the installers, and he talks to us. In return, we respect him because of the way he treats his workers,” said Perez, a 12-year employee of the company.
Richardson says Perez is a natural leader and an excellent trainer. Perez has trained more winners of the Insulate America and Johns Manville (JM) “America’s Best Installer” than any other trainer in the competition’s 17 years, according to JM’s Tom Calzavara.
“A” is for Appreciate
Even in an amicable environment where workers are respected, demonstrating appreciation is a necessity. “Not every day is going to be a good day for anyone. We all have those days where things aren’t going right, or there’s something that is bothering us,” Richardson noted. “When my guys are having a bad day, I always remind them that tomorrow is another chance to get it right.”
The Second “R” is For Reward
Richardson believes in rewarding his employees frequently for quality work, but he also doesn’t accept substandard work. “I have each of our job’s inspected and will often show up to a job site where the building inspector has passed the insulation job, but I see that there are problems,” Richardson told Insulation Institute. “I make the crews go back to fix any issues even if the job has passed inspection,” he said.
That re-enforcement encourages installers to focus on the details of proper installation---avoiding gaps, voids, and compressions---and the value of being deliberate in their work. “They don’t want to go back so they normally do the job well the first time.”
Richardson believes his builder customers deserve Grade I and insists on delivering it. “My business is built on my ability to deliver a quality install, and I will insist on that every time to ensure my reputation and to keep my customers happy.”
“E” is For Encourage
Another perk of being an employee of J & K is that every year, Richardson closes his shop to take his employees ice fishing. The catch is that if any one employee doesn’t attend, he doesn’t get paid for that day.
Sometimes, even with the best working conditions, minor disagreements or personality challenges can create friction among employees. “This once-a-year fishing trip is great for resolving any personality issues we’re having on the job. The day can start with a little tension, but slowly over the course of the trip, the guys start to talk to one another, and it all gets resolved.”
Reviewing Grading Basics
During the RESNET session, Richardson and JM’s Calzavara reviewed the RESNET batt insulation grading criteria and talked about the importance of proper air sealing, avoiding compression, and splitting the insulation around electrical boxes and wiring to reduce problems like condensation and air leakage. But it all comes down to training and motivating employees to deliver.
“We’ve all spent time and money for quality education and training, but if you don't put the practices in play, not only did you waste your time, but you also threw away your money. At the end of the day, the work will be better if you treat people well. Your turnover will be lower, and your builders will be happy with the result of the job you complete,” Richardson offered.
It’s a good lesson in how to inspire the best in people.
Photo Captions: Pictured at top right is Jeff Richardson, owner, J & K Insulation. Pictured lower left is Eddie Gasca (center), insulation installer and trainer.