Staffing problems — getting the help you need is essential

Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand

By Terry Sage, Trades Coaching New Zealand


It’s getting worse, and there’s no shining light at the end of this tunnel — at least not one that has been turned on yet anyway.

For some business owners the tunnel is very long and very dark. So what’s in this tunnel, or not, as the case may be?

The answer to that question is staff, or to be more precise, tradespeople.

Currently I have three clients desperate for qualified tradies, and many others who would like more staff — and when I say desperate I mean hair-pulling-nearly-bald desperate. To the point it is having a negative effect on them and their business.

They are having to deal with increased stress, juggling jobs, making up excuses, being on the tools themselves, and working long hours. The effect on the business is hindering growth, damaging the brand and its reputation, and reducing profits.

Now let’s face it, this isn’t a news flash moment here. The problem has been with us for years and will be for many more years, and is one that almost every trade-based company that employs people is facing.

So why am I writing about it yet again? It’s because I am seeing an uglier side of the issue coming to light in small-to-medium sized businesses.

The three clients I mentioned earlier are all experiencing the same problem. Increased workloads, understaffing, and the inability to find new staff,

They have to do the best they can with what they have got — and that’s where the problem starts.

They grab the first person that shows up, they take on an unqualified person, or they do whatever they have to do to keep their current staff. And when their current staff are already sub-standard then they are on a road to nowhere.

The biggest issue I am seeing with all three of them is that these sub-standard, so-called tradies are causing no end of trouble with other staff, with clients, with authority and with quality of work — and in all three cases they are the highest-paid tradesperson in the company.

In all three cases, the owners are reluctant to get rid of these problems as they have nobody to replace them with, hence the increased stress levels and the backward trend of the company.

And the answer is? If only it was that simple. Nope, sorry, there isn’t a simple answer. Normally there are a whole lot of changes that have to be made, and these changes may well be different for each individual business.

One of the answers is definitely not to just throw money at the problem.

By that I mean that handing out pay rises will not mean the problem child will suddenly become a model employee. They will just be a happier pain in your back side, and your stress levels will go up because your bottom line has gone down.

There are ways to ease this type of problem — the process is not immediate, but changes can be seen fairly quickly, and it is usually better if it is done by a third party (in other words, not you).

We are trying the same process — although customised to each business — on all three of the aforementioned clients, and there are certainly improvements.

The two biggest improvements that show up first are that the owners’ stress levels ease because they now know help is at hand — and the problem employee changes because they know they are being watched.

As a business owner it’s hard enough being at the top of your game consistently, so don’t be brought down by the stress of having a bad team beneath you.

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