If I could have earned a dollar for every time I heard the plea, “I can’t find decent guys”, I would be a wealthy man. There is no doubt that the building booms in Auckland and Christchurch have lead to a major shortage of skilled staff and the years of low or no activity in bringing on new talent to the industry is coming back to haunt us. The flight of many talented people across the ditch to Aussie when things were quieter here is also difficult to reverse. Acknowledging that it is not simple to suddenly find extra staff with the right skills and the right attitudes, just what can you do to maximise the chances of your hunting success?

Here are 6 tips that may help.

  1. Ask your current team for help. Referrals from existing team are the top way to find workers.  To dial up the pace, announce to your team that you have openings and that you’d like them to tell their family and friends about the openings.  Don’t assume that they would make a referral without being asked.  Some do, some don’t.  You’ll certainly get more referrals after you ask your guys for those referrals.
  2. Incentivise your guys to make referrals. Do this only after you’ve asked for referrals for a few weeks.  The next step is to pay a referral fee, conditional on the new team member staying some length of time.  In addition to cash, alternative forms of compensation could be time off or specific gifts.
  3. Promote from within. Ask yourself whether the position you are looking to fill can be done so from within. This is particularly true if you are looking for a foreman, for example and you have a tradesman in the team that has the right attitude and could be trained into the new role. It takes times and will probably then make you short a lower level builder of course, but the potential pool of tradesmen at this level is typically bigger. The added advantage of promoting from within is that it creates a good environment and culture in the business, as newer team members can see a career path for themselves.
  4. Use a different advertising source. Whatever you’re using now probably isn’t bad, but it doesn’t hit the entire market.  If you’re advertising in the local newspaper, try Seek.co.nz.  If you’re on Seek.co.nz, try the local newspaper.  Think about community weekly newspapers for suburban newspapers, as well as the free weekly urban “alternative” newspaper, as well as the major daily newspaper.  Also list your openings with the state employment service.  Put up fliers at the supermarket, sports clubs and other community bulletin boards.  Try the placement offices at the local colleges, as well as the bulletin boards on the campuses.  Ask your suppliers and other trades business owners you work with. Cast your net widely, being especially eager to use the free or low-cost services you have not used in the past.
  5. Look to the regions. The building boom in New Zealand at this time is definitely not spread evenly. Building activity in some of the smaller centres is flat at best and so provide a potential pool of skilled workers that may be prepared to shift to a major centre to find more reliable work. Maybe they will commute on a weekly basis rather than move. This brings a whole new set of issues around maybe needing to provide accommodation help, but think outside the square here. Desperate times require desperate measures. Maybe even look overseas.  The Christchurch rebuild wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for skilled workers being brought in from around the world.
  6. Change you advertisement. Does your ad start along these lines: “Builder required. Must have own tools and reliable transport…” or similar? Probably most of the ads you are up against look alike and so are unremarkable. Make your ad stand out with a funky or remarkable headline and sub-headline. You are in a very competitive market and so need to market your company and the position you are looking to fill with more aggression and uniqueness.

Need some help with a team development strategy? Contact me at andy@tradescoach.co.nz and we can have a conversation. I know it is not easy, but just doing what you have usually do and complaining won’t solve anything.

Time to try something new?    Go to my website:  The Trades Coach