My staff are the most important part of my business

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

Mark Robberds

Mark Robberds (right) with long-standing employee Grant McLardy (left)

Mark Robberds of Terraforma Stonemasonry doesn’t have any issues finding staff. “A lot of the people I employ are mates of people who already work for me. I don’t think I have advertised for years, what attracts people is the quality of the work we do and they know that if they come and work for us they know they will be fully trained,” says Mark.

The appeal of training and a high standard of work makes running the business easier. “Within our company it is important from a business perspective for our clients to know that the people doing the work are serious and qualified,” says Grant McLardy who has worked with Mark for ten years.

Mark says, “I get clients that want the same people back. I think that is a real bonus that I can train people and send them back to the same clients two years later.”

Mark has a team of seven all at various levels with different skills sets, “Everyone is learning because every job is different, every stone type is different. There's also more than one way of doing things so we converse about our approach at the start of a job. If anyone has a good idea they are free to express it.”

There are a number of factors that mean staff retention has never been an issue at Terraforma.

  • Lots of variety in the work
  • Everyone gets trained to become a qualified Stonemason
  • It is a small tight knit firm that is family orientated
  • Pride in the quality of the work
  • Flexibility when dealing with staff

It is important to Mark that he creates a family-friendly work environment. “I don’t sub-contract my staff, I pay them wages. That is a big bonus for someone who wants stability when they have a mortgage or kids. We have a really good team of guys, and there is a team atmosphere, and they are not competing with each other which can occur if they are subcontracting,” says Mark.

Stonemasons are craftsmen and the skills they have take years to develop so it is important for Mark to have consistency with his staff.  He says, “We do really good work and we are proud of our work, everyone in the company is proud of our work. There is a sense of mutual ownership of what we produce."

We asked Mark what was the most important thing in his business and he replied, “My staff are the most important thing in my business, we couldn’t function without them.”

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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