How to retain great staff.

Brought to you by TradeCareers, Waihanga Ara Rau Workforce Development Council and BCITO Te Pūkenga

“These are people who are mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. They have outside lives, they've got outside interests. When we look after the person as a whole, our employees as a whole, we're actually able to retain them because they want to come to work for us since we’re helping to look after them.” - Nadia Bindel, Field Officer for Mates in Construction, She/Her

Keeping great staff in a competitive talent market needs to be a priority for trades employers because, without staff, you don't have a business.

Retention is a crucial component of maintaining a skilled and reliable workforce and it helps with business stability and growth.

“One of the key things is to make sure that they know you are still there if they need help. And it’s not always around money - it’s around respect and allowing them to grow.” - Nathan Te Miha, Construction Director of Iconiq Group, He/Him

So, what can you do to keep your team happy and productive?

Here are some ways that you can increase retention in the trades:

Create a positive work environment: A positive work environment that values employees and supports their growth and development is a place where everyone wants to work. There are lots of ways you can start implementing this, just make sure you are consistent. For example, having a whānau day, getting to know your coworkers over a BBQ or having a weekly shout with a different check-in question - it can be things like “What was the last bargain you found?” right the way through to a poll on the merits of a pie vs sausage roll! Or each day, over morning tea, do the quiz together. Building a sense of belonging and community beyond talking about the work you're doing helps everyone learn more about each other and find points of commonality and connection. Kōrero helps people connect, learn and stay focused.

Recognise employees' contributions: We’ve all been there, slogging our guts out to meet a deadline and no one even says ‘thanks mate’. Make sure you take the time to acknowledge good work. It might be that someone is always the last one on-site tidying up, or someone who brings the milk for smoko or makes people laugh. Celebrate the behaviours you want to see in your team. Even a shout-out at the weekly team meeting is a good place to start.

Provide training and development opportunities: Offer training and development opportunities to help employees improve their skills and advance in their careers. Make time to sit down with each employee once every three months and check in with them, and work out what professional development they need to help grow their skills and your business. It might be providing access to continuing education, certification programs, and apprenticeships. After all, no one wants to be on the end of a broom all their lives.

Address safety concerns: Ensure that your workplace is safe and that employees are provided with proper safety training and equipment. This means physical safety and emotional safety. The “Big Man” culture that the trades have a reputation for is so last century and, frankly, contributing to the toxic mental health stats in the trades, the worst of any industry in the country. Do better by your team and make sure you work with groups like Mates in Construction or For All the Brothers and show leadership in this space yourself. Check out the Keep It Decent guidelines to learn more about how to address sexual harassment and bullying in your business. Or work with groups like Respect Ed Aotearoa. You can also get support for yourself or your staff through ACC Mental Health Service. If any safety concerns come up, get on to them quickly and thoroughly.

Support work-life balance: Support employees' work-life balance by offering flexible schedules, paid time off, and other benefits that allow them to meet their personal and family obligations. The way people are conducting business is changing, employees expect employers to provide the opportunity for flexible work schedules. Your business will survive and in all likelihood thrive when your employees know that you support them. Different cultural groups have different obligations, get to know each other and work together to find ways that benefit both of you. Check out this great resource on how to set up flexible work options no matter the size of your business.

Address diversity and inclusion: Ensure that your workplace has policies and practices in place that promote diversity and inclusion. Encourage and celebrate diversity in the workplace. Go beyond a tick box exercise and commit to prioritising this. Check out organisations like Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Association, NAWIC, Diversity Works and All is for All, who all work to help apprentices, employees and business owners level up.