Where to start when you need new hires
If there’s one gripe I’ve heard over and over again in my 25 years in the trades industry it’s this - you just can’t find good tradies.
No matter where they look or how much they advertise, trades business owners are always telling me they can’t find talented, hard-working staff.
I know it’s not easy. I always found it hard to find great tradies when my plumbing business was growing. Plumbers who had the right combination of knowing their craft and communicating well with customers were a precious find.
But, here’s the thing. Finding great tradies has always been a problem in the trades industry and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Current forecasts reveal the construction and trades industry in New Zealand needs another 30,000* workers by 2019, while Australia is also facing another national tradie shortage.
So, how do you get on top of hiring before it starts to stunt the growth of your business?
To help get you started, here’s a few practical steps I took when I needed to get myself out of a recruitment rut.
Train apprentices - lots of them, all the time. Around 70% of the workforce at my plumbing business was tradies who had come through as apprentices.
Of course, not all of them will stay with you. Some will quit or leave before their time - which can make you feel like you’ve invested you’ve time and knowledge for no return.
In saying that, you’d be surprised how many stick around. By and large, most of my apprentices stayed with me for 6-8 years
Create a positive culture
Culture. It’s a term you hear a lot about, only it’s hard to say in plain English what it means when it comes to the workplace.
In a nutshell, I think of positive culture as a place where tradies feel they are cared for, and are emotionally and physically safe as they go about their work. In other words, you pay them on time, avoid berating them, and give them the right tools and support to get the job done.
Where do you start if you want to work towards creating a better culture?
Here are some ways you could do it:
- Implement a “no-fault” bottom line: Let your tradies know if they tell the truth concerning what happened when something goes wrong, they won’t be blamed for it.
- Make sure they have the right safety gear and first aid supplies on site.
- Make sure they have good ladders, spades and whatever else they need to do their job well.
- Let them know the office is here to serve them; to make sure their jobs are scheduled properly and they have all the information and resources they need when they get on site.
Once you’ve got your culture sorted, your tradies will be more likely to recommend you as a top employer to their friends. Start by asking everyone in your team if they know of anyone looking for a new job.
Same goes for your suppliers. Your suppliers will get to know your staff, whether they’re happy working for you and if you’re a great boss.
If you mention you’re looking for someone, they can drop subtle hints to suitable tradies that come their way.
If you’re desperate for tradies, then you’re just going to have to pay more to get someone in the door. Easy-peasy right?
Well, not exactly. As soon as you start paying more for new hires, then word is of course going to spread to the rest of the team. And, if you’re not willing to offer pay rises across the board then you can expect some resentment and resignations.
Of course, if you’re finding it impossible to find new tradies then that probably means the economy is buoyant. Why not consider increasing your charge out rate? Then it will be easier on you and the business to put your current employees and any new starters on a higher wage.
Over to you
Understanding the impact of hiring on your profit margins is pivotal. We’ve made a free Profit & Loss calculator to help you forecast your profits on any job.
Just click below to download, then fill in the fields and see how you’re performing on any job before, during or after the job, and then check out the analysis.
*According to Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ).