How to recruit a more diverse workforce.
“International research shows that diverse and inclusive workplaces are more likely to attract high quality applicants, retain staff, and boost productivity.” - Rainbow Tick
The traditional recruitment strategy for a job or apprenticeship in the trades has been done by word of mouth, or by knowing someone at the company, whether that be a father, uncle, brother or cousin.
But the trades are changing, the workforce is changing. And to be successful as an industry we all need to change the way we approach recruitment.
Employers must look outside of their traditional hiring pools to reach more diverse talent. The great news is that recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce not only creates career opportunities for traditionally underserved learners and careers seekers. It’s good for business.
“The companies who are going to make it at the other end, particularly when times are tough, have the ability to be agile and utilise the talent that’s available to them. …Diversity offers you innovation and transformation.” - Samuelu Sefuiva, Mana Whakapai | AMPTI Manager, Māori & Pasifika Trades Training: Auckland, He/Him
Ready to get stuck in?
1. Audit your recruitment strategy.
Auditing your recruitment strategy is a crucial first step to ensure that you are attracting and hiring the right talent for your organisation.
Start by reviewing your current job descriptions and identifying any language or requirements that may discourage diverse candidates from applying. Without realising it, we all use language that is subtly ‘gender-coded’. Society has certain expectations of what men and women are like, and how they differ, and this seeps into the language we use. You can check your job ad by using this Gender Decoder Tool.
Review your recruitment channels and assess which ones are most effective in attracting diverse candidates. Do you go to trade expos, have you teamed up with a local Skills Hub or regional arm of NAWIC? Do you have a connection with iwi or churches? Do you use social media to share when you are looking for staff?
Consider conducting surveys or focus groups to gather feedback from current and past candidates on their experience with your recruitment process. This can be a low-key thing, checking in with your current staff about what was good and what could be better is a great way to see where you can make some improvements.
Site Visits and Work Experience. Consider a number of site visits or ‘come and try’ days throughout the year and invite local high schools or community groups along. The majority of people interested in getting into a career in the trades, are hands-on learners and really benefit from getting on the tools as early as possible.
Review your hiring practices to ensure that they are free from bias and that candidates are evaluated based on their skills and qualifications rather than their demographic information. While it is easy to hire someone you know, are you really evaluating them on what they can do more than who they know?
2. Create company policies that appeal to diverse candidates.
It’s not just the paycheck, people want to know they are valued, respected and safe. These will mean different things for different people but here are a few great ideas to help recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.
Pastoral care is really important in the trades. Supporting staff wellbeing makes good business sense.It’s not just how good someone is on the tools, it's also about how they are feeling. For example: an employer we spoke to for this series has a van that he picks up his staff in each morning, another has a special person that he employs 4 days a month to check-in with the health of his team. Check out the employment and training support that Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Association provides, or the mental health workshops Mates in Construction offer, become a Rainbow Tick accredited business and commit to reporting and closing your gender pay gap.
Be open to flexible work options. Many people have caring responsibilities - doing school drop offs, sports days or helping their elderly relatives attend a doctor’s appointments, knowing that an employer is open to flexible work options is a key consideration in their decision to join you as an employee. Check out this great resource on how to set up Flexible work options no matter the size of your business. And update your Paid Parental Leave policy to make sure that you are being inclusive to all staff..
Career pathways - people want to know that there is a future for them in the trades, make sure that your company policies include professional development and detail this in your job advertisements. Provide educational and training opportunities. This can include offering apprenticeships, trade school programs, micro-credentials and on-the-job training. These programs can help people gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the trades, regardless of their background or experience.
“You can open a door or a gate, but you have to guide and support them through that… If you do care for your staff and as long as you're a good person and you care for them, they'll work hard for you.” - Nathan Te Miha, Construction Director of Iconiq Group, He/Him
3. Target places where diverse candidates hang out.
Increasing the visibility of your organisation helps attract a more diverse pool of candidates and showing people that you are committed to hiring diverse groups of people is a great way to build trust and belonging.
This can include working with community organisations, sports groups, industry associations, job fairs, cultural events, and social media groups. You can also partner with these organisations to promote your job opportunities or attend their events to network with potential candidates.
Think beyond school leavers - the largest % of women career seekers looking for opportunities in the trades are women in the 25 plus. They come with transferables skills, life experience and passion. And that’s just a start!
Working with a recruiter can also be helpful to reach a wider range of candidates..
If you have never advertised your job vacancies or apprenticeship opportunities, now is a good time to do it. Try posting on job boards and job sites like TradeMe Jobs or Seek.
It is also good to think about the fact that you are not just hiring for your team but for your customer. With a diverse workforce, people from all different backgrounds and identities will feel more comfortable if they see themselves represented in your team.
4. Encourage your existing staff to refer to their connections.
Encouraging existing staff to refer to their connections is a great way to increase diversity in the trades. By leveraging the networks of your current employees, you can tap into a wider pool of potential candidates, many of whom may not have considered a career in the trades. We all like a personal recommendation, and if your current diverse employees are happy and willing to refer you to their connections you are on to a winner!
5. Address Cultural Barriers
One of the biggest barriers to recruitment of diverse people in the trades is cultural. Many cultures may not be familiar with trades as a career path or may not consider them as viable options. You can take steps to address these cultural barriers by partnering with local schools and community organisations, iwi/hapu and skills hubs to promote trades careers, and by providing language and cultural training to help employees better understand and work with people from diverse backgrounds.
6. Offer Competitive Wages and Benefits
This can include offering bonuses, retirement plans, insurance deals, access to health benefits, professional development or mentoring.
7. Plan your interviews.
This is the first encounter the candidate is having with you and your workspace, how do you make your space welcoming to people? Some people meet for a coffee to ensure everyone feels more relaxed. Be open to sharing your values, and answering any questions the candidate may have.
Offer a tour of your site and meet some of the team so they can get a feel for the environment they’ll be working in.
What do you have in your work space that is unique to you? Is there a Friday drink that you could invite the prospective employee to, in order for them to meet the team?
“If you're going into an interview and you've got a panel of people interviewing, it's intimidating….Bring them into a coffee shop or a mutual sort of setting so you can have an honest, open relationship and conversation with them… You got to see them as a person rather than your potential employee.” - Donna Wilson, Social and Broader Outcomes Advisor, McDonnell Dowell, She/Her
8. Promote the Benefits of a Career in the Trades
And finally a great way to attract more diverse people to the trades is to highlight the benefits of a career in the trades. Trades careers offer financial stability, job security, and opportunities for advancement, and no two days are the same! These things can be especially appealing to people who are looking for a career that can provide stability and growth and who love working in different environments.
Tools and Resources
TradeCareers Insights Research
TradeCareers’ pioneering Insights Research, reveals the barriers New Zealand women face when entering the building, construction and infrastructure industries.
Links to organisations, initiatives and training providers
There is so much great work going on in the Trades to support Women to start and continue successful.