Our people — our most important asset

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I have been talking to a lot of business owners in the past couple of years and it’s the same topic that is being discussed — the lack of good tradesman and quality staff.

 

This is a real concern to the industry so, as business owners, we need to think not only about who we are employing, but how we retain the staff we already have.

I have lost some valuable staff members in the past six months — people who had been a key part of my team.

As this was something I found disappointing, I had a look at my systems and processes, and realised that I needed to make some changes very quickly and ask the difficult questions through an appraisal process.

Although this was time-consuming, and some of the answers were not very nice to hear, it was a worthwhile process and, overall, I am happy with the outcome.

Helping staff grow

I now know what is important to my staff and how, by working together, I will be able to help them grow in their careers — with some wanting to step up to the next level in terms of responsibility, and others wanting further education and training.

There is a vast amount of information on how to retain staff, not just from books and the internet, but by asking other employers what works for them.

Actually, most of it is just common sense. First, identify the key attributes you need from your staff and then talk to them, not just about their goals and aspirations, but whether their values fit with your business “culture”.

This means considering whether they will get along with your team, and what matters most to them about the job — whether it is promotion prospects, job security, being “family friendly” or just working with a great bunch of guys.

In a few areas of New Zealand, particularly in Christchurch and Auckland, the buoyant housing market has allowed many employers to keep their key personnel, and these employees are now in huge demand.

I believe that employers need to spend time with these key staff members to ensure both parties are happy with each other’s expectations. But your other staff are just as important, as they are the key staff of the future.

Smart business sense

It makes smart business sense to help them on their career journey by investing in their education and training, as it is much easier to promote from within your business with people you already know and trust, than it is to hire new people.

I know it is difficult for business owners who aren’t large enough to employ HR people to make the time to go through this process with all their staff.

But this is the one time where we, as business owners, need to make the time to “work on our business” and not just “in our business”, as our staff are our business’ most important investment.