Your staff- asset or liability?


Cast your mind back to when you first started in the construction industry. For most of us we were the apprentice, or maybe just a labourer. Whatever it was, we had a boss, the big kahuna who called the shots, gave the orders and, if we were good, paid the wages.

Was this person liked, hated, feared or any other adjective that comes to mind that I can’t put in print? Why do I ask? Because for a lot of you, you are now that boss yourselves, or have dreams of becoming that boss. So ask yourself that question — are you liked, respected, hated, feared?
If you are the boss then there will, more than likely, be staff involved — so does it matter what they think of you?

Absolutely it does! It can affect every aspect of your business, quality of workmanship, the speed it gets done, sick days taken, material wastage, efficiencies, appreciation of plant, client perspective of the business, your stress levels, and your self-esteem — and the list goes on.

So let’s take a look at the staff, the team, and the dream you had of employing people to do the work for you. They have either become your biggest asset or your biggest liability. So what steps are needed to make sure they remain an asset?

When I started my first company at the very naive age of 20, my then boss, who was grumpy because I was leaving, called me in to the office and said “here, a word of advice boy. Don’t ever employ anybody and, if you have to, don’t become their friend because they will walk all over you. But if you treat them like slaves there will be hate in the air and not much profit.”

He paid me out and never said goodbye, but his words have come back to haunt me time and time again, both in my own companies and in many of my clients’ companies.

There is no ideal model when it comes to staffing practices with trade or construction-related companies as there are so many variables. However, the following five points are a good starting point:
• Make sure everybody within the company has an employment contract. Obvious? It should be as it has been law for many years, but I come across many businesses that do not comply. As part of the contract, include a full job description, responsibilities list, set of house rules, reporting structure and a signed list of company property they have been assigned.
• A defined hierarchy and reporting channel. Efficiencies go out the window and confusion reigns if there are too many chiefs and not enough indians. Profits will slide.
• Schedule regular staff meetings that have structure and relevance. Meetings for the sake of meetings become worthless and resented. A good meeting should encourage team bonding and get buy-in from all involved on all points.
• Establish a balanced work culture that has drawn boundary lines. What’s work, what’s play and how far is too far? The house rules in the contract should go a long way to setting these expectations.
• Back to the advice for a 20 year old. It is far easier for us to be the friendly boss with the team than not. It’s more fun and gives us somebody to socialise with. In many cases the people you employ were your mates before they worked for you. But being one of the lads or lasses will cloud the points made in the previous bullet point. For most of us we do not have it in us to be a homicidal dictator every day of the week (some days maybe, but not every day). So where do we draw the line?

Have the distinction of them and us, with no socialising apart from the organised work functions (for example, Christmas). Treat them with respect and you will get it back, and remember the golden rule — all your staff will only ever be as good as you.

What does this mean? If you smile they will. If you come to work depressed and grumpy so will they. If you are lazy, messy and sloppy they will be too.

Lead from the top and you will have a team that will be an asset, and a team to be proud of. If you need help with your team in any form give us a call at Trades Coaching New Zealand. If you do not have an employment contract definitely give us a call on 09 945 4880.

• Next month: Marketing tips.

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