How do you become a legendary boss and retain staff?

The number of young people in New Zealand coming out of school and looking for work is shrinking. The level of construction work in New Zealand is at a 40-year high. These two factors mean that employers have to seriously consider how attractive they are to prospective employees when career seekers have so many options to choose in the current environment.

However, Steve Holmes of H & H Concrete has people regularly approach him for work. “I believe it’s because of our reputation and the way we try to train and retain our staff,” says Steve. The culture at H & H Concrete is backed by strong values that are explained to newcomers and become the norm.

Steve Holmes

    As a company H & H Concrete make a commitment to:

    • Take pride in their work
    • Encourage the use of new technology and up-skilling
    • Learn from mistakes
    • Strive to be the best in their field
    • Aim for improvement in all aspects
    • Play above the line with exceptional attitude and ethics

    Steve says, “We have guys come to us when they’ve had a hard time somewhere else because they’ve heard of us and how we work. We’ve got values, these are my values and I encourage our team to display those values.

    “Once you employ someone it’s important that you do your best to retain them – staff recruitment and turnover is expensive for a business. Without us, our people don’t have a job, but without them, we can’t do our job. To retain staff you have to treat them fairly. I don’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do or haven’t done.”

    Steve gives every staff member an annual review where they rate themselves. “At review time we sit down and talk about what they have done well and what goals they have. Goal setting and performance reviews are a great way to show employees that you are not just thinking of your business but also about their future.

    “We try and involve staff in the decisions day-to-day. Some individuals might think of a better way of doing things. When we have meetings we run through what’s happened over the last month, what issues have arisen and how we’re going to handle them if they come up again. Everyone’s opinion matters so that everyone is involved in the success of the business - communication is key,” says Steve.

    “Construction has a reputation for being a tough work environment. I like to think my staff feel valued. If they do something good I make sure I praise them. If something goes wrong you talk it through with them calmly - not do your nut at them. People can learn from their mistakes.

    “Some employers worry about losing staff when they’ve invested time and money in training them. Training is important for the individual learner and the industry. It gives people self-esteem and makes sure we’re doing quality work. Concrete Placing is a trade where people need skills and knowledge as well as experience – it’s a lot harder than it looks. It gives me a sense of achievement when I train people, even if they move on and become successful in their own businesses.”

    We asked Steve why his staff stay with his business and he told us, “It’s the small things like buying some food for the guys after a big pour and long days. And if they want to borrow a truck to move house during the weekend, or need to borrow a special tool or item of machinery, for example, I let them’. It’s a mutual trust and helping thing.”

    What do we know about great employers?

    • Have employee first mentality – You can‘t control outputs like quality work or customer satisfaction without supporting inputs, such as everyday employee actions and behaviours.
    • Know what motivates employeesIn 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 affects their job.
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