Creating role models

Formstress Precast Concrete has been producing precast concrete in Auckland, New Zealand for more than 50 years. During Greg Johnston’s time at the helm of the company, he has focused on pushing his employees to excel – both in and out of the workplace. He says, “Being a leader is all about supporting your people to give their very best to everything they put their hand to.” 

                          Creating role models

For Greg, work is not a place you come just to do a job and earn money, it is a chance to shape yourself into the person you want to become through training, mentorship, hard work, and, most importantly, within a supportive environment. “As an employer I feed off the initiative of my people, encouraging them to challenge themselves and think outside of the box because I believe a successful precast project will always be the result of a team approach,” says Greg. 

Formstress’s workforce is mainly Māori and Pasifika. Greg believes that more Māori and Pasifika should be achieving in the sector.  He says, “The industry needs to pick key people to be out there spreading the word about training. These people need to be people that young Māori and Pasifika can relate to who can say ‘I was just like you, I came away from school with no qualifications and this is how I made a career for myself’ or ‘I knuckled down because I didn’t want to be labouring all my life’. It is about putting the options in front of them in a way they can understand.”

The training culture that Greg has created definitely helps with staff retention.  He says, “The team feel quite lucky that we put them through. What I believe is that while you are working with us and earning a wage, why not train and become a better person? It just makes sense.

“Better people make better workers. You can’t just look at people for the time they are with you.  You have to look at them as a whole. They have families and lives outside of work.  If they are happy at home, they are happy at work.

“Creating a training culture is not as hard as it sounds, we celebrate when someone gets qualified, we do a barbecue for them and they get a pay rise for finishing.  We also have a wall of fame which has all the certificates of people who have completed the qualification. They are role models to the rest of the staff and they are the ones that get promoted into leadership roles. Many of my staff have been with the business for more than 10 years. If you build a great environment there’s no reason for your team to leave.”

Greg is a great leader who develops great leaders because he understands that you shouldn’t expect people to follow you just because you tell them to. He says, “You can’t go in hard and harsh, you have to be human about it, treat them like individuals and explain things to them. If you are positive they will follow your lead.”

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