Bryce Clifford of Atlas Fibrous Plaster Co Ltd, Hawkes Bay is well known within the sector, not only as an employer of award-winning apprentices but also as a businessman who attracts and retains outstanding staff. Bryce has been in the industry his entire working life so has plenty of experience under his belt.
He recently shared with BCITO Interior Systems Industry Advocate Helen Hines-Randall what he sees as being key aspects to being an effective employer.
Bryce confesses to not having any formal training in ‘people management’ so has used his instincts and personal values to manage his team and run his business. With 32 staff currently, here’s what Bryce believes makes an effective employer:
- Create the culture that you want for your business
- Enjoy what you are doing
- Be honest and up-front regardless of the issue
- Acknowledge good work and let your team know you appreciate them
- Talk to your team and let them have input
- Keep them safe
Bryce says, “You are always on your toes as you want to retain the skills in your business, you don’t want to have to reteach all the time. I’ve always treated my people with respect and have been straight with them. I have an open door policy and they can call me any name under the sun - they’re not going to get fired. I always want their input because I can be wrong. My job is to work out all the ideas and what are good and what are bad.
“At times you might need to be big brother, the father figure, the uncle. You have to have a family feel for the organisation and they have to want to belong to that family. You have to have pride and a feeling of belonging. The guys have pride with who they work with and for and what they do. They have each other’s back as they are part of the business. This company has always had that type of culture - I’ve just carried on with it.
“When I’m recruiting I want people that are ‘steady’. They don’t have to necessarily be world record beaters but someone who is on time and has some respect for the next guy. We don’t always get it right, but the guys out there will tell me if I get it wrong. It’s important that people ‘fit’. We can work on skills but it’s hard to work on an attitude that doesn’t fit.
“We have definite standards but it’s also important that we have some fun - poking a bit of stick, you know? As long as no-one gets hurt and it’s done with a sense of humour and it doesn’t interfere with work, that’s okay. If a job is going well I might just turn up with a box of pies. It’s good to let the guys know that you appreciate their hard work. I want to keep in touch with them so when they come into the office we’ll discuss the job and see how things are going. It’s important that they are able to have their say. I try to think outside the square so I’m always throwing ideas at the guys to try different things. I have to challenge myself but also challenge the traditional way things have been done. The guys are great about getting involved and being part of the solution.
“I’m always looking at ways to do things safer so the guys can do more work on the ground. The guys look at me funny with some of the ideas I come up with but, within a couple of hours, 80% of the guys will know about the idea! I’m trying to keep them off their stilts and off a ladder. It’s safer and more productive. I want their input as well as they are the ones who are carrying out the work,” says Bryce.
One of the BCITO Workforce Development Plan initiatives is management capability and promoting good employment practices. BCITO appreciates Bryce’s time spent sharing his story with us and we applaud him for being an effective employer.
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.