X bosses in the world of construction, are like the fictional team of the superheroes, The X Men. Their businesses are unique. People want to work for their company. People hardly ever leave their company to work somewhere else. People relish being part of the company team. People want to turn up and are keen to work, yet they could be paid the same or even more elsewhere. But each day is reality not the work of fiction.
Creating a company culture, teamwork and motivation
Speaking with Greg Tomlinson, Tak Flooring, Dunedin, business values are at the heart of a great company culture which means staff are retained. The company acknowledges good work ethics and excellence. A percentage of the profit goes back to the staff which maybe through rewards. For example, Tak may pay for flights for a family going on holiday to Australia or filling the family car up or paying dental bills.
“All our installers work as a team. We all take on the business equally. We swap the teams around for variety and in the team environment they motivate each other,” says Greg. “Staff are told they are a big part of our business. On occasions, once the job is done they can prepare for the next day and go home early. Giving a pay rise doesn’t work, as it could reduce any benefits from the working for families scheme.” He continues to say, “Communication is a strong point for me. If there is a problem I am aware of it straight away and can bang it on the head smartly. The problem maybe something in home-life or at work."
In addition to regular personal communication with Greg, Tak Flooring has a small Human Resource Department which has monthly meetings with all staff. It gives the workers the chance to say something confidentially, following which, if there is a problem, we solve it as quick as we can.
Greg believes that being out there with the staff is vitally important. “I am an installer. I am not out there telling them what to do but I am showing them. This is the part I enjoy. The secret is making the job fun in a safe way. We are not frightened to have a laugh. We are all part of Tak Flooring which has a company policy, banter with respect."
When a person is doing well it is acknowledged and the teams are good at letting Greg know when someone has achieved really well. Greg makes a point of thanking every worker each day and occasionally will reward them with a small acknowledgement gift. More often showing appreciation for a job well done is enough.
"We all wear the company tops and we have a company dress standard. Respect is modelled right throughout all employees. We are interested in their lives outside of work and we encourage the team to be interested in each other," says Greg.
Getting Value from Apprentices
Apprentice Sam talked about how the company takes time to teach and show them the proper way, learning skills and best practices, they are not used just as a labourer. “We are told when we do a good job and also when it is not so good and then they show us how to do it properly. I’m happy here which is good," says Sam.
Greg finds potential staff through friends of friends and by offering work to college students over two sets of holidays during which they begin to learn new skills. It gives Tak the chance to find out whether that student would be a good fit with the company team culture. When they are ready to leave school he then employs them for six months before offering an apprenticeship. Tak feels mature apprentices are good value and are paid a little more.
Tak utilises contractors and through them ensures there are sufficient installers going into the future. Selected contracted installers are happy to have an apprentice as arranged by Tak. "A small percentage is taken off from the work order and we supply the labour. The deal being, the contractor teaches the apprentice installation skills," says Greg.
Tak buys the apprentice their tools initially excluding the power stretcher. If the block course is successfully completed, Tak then gifts the apprentice the tools. Following the next block course a power stretcher would be given to the apprentice to use and if still employed with the company a year after graduation, the power stretcher will be gifted.
What do we know about great employers?
- Have employee first mentality – You can‘t control outputs like quality work, customer satisfaction without supporting inputs, such as everyday employee actions and behaviours.
- Know what motivates employees – In the past people wanted to join a company. Today they want to follow a vision and join a team. Wade Burgess, LinkedIn. You need to ensure that your offering is beyond pay and job security.
- Understand that employees work in days, not years – provide regular feedback. Don’t wait for the annual performance review.
- Respect - Treat employees like customers – think of how you invest in prospective and current customers trying to find them, understand them better, retain them and communicate specifically to them.
- Don’t just measure – Act – have your finger on the pulse and engage with employees on more of a weekly basis and deal with smoke before fire.
- Involvement - employees feel involved, if they have the opportunity to make suggestions and have input on work processes that affect their job.
Brad Gemmell qualified as a bricklayer at 21 years of age and hopped on a plane to London, ready to put his skills to the test. He returned to New Zealand a few years later and began his own business, Brad the Brickie Ltd in Wanaka.
Not many employers in the construction sector realise the Government's Fees Free initiative extends to apprenticeships for not one, but two years.