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Resourceful Businesses Outwit Skills Shortage

Resourceful Businesses Outwit Skills Shortage

Skill shortages often force business owners to turn down work. Owners and staff sometimes become mentally and physical affected by long hours, opportunities are lost and business owners become exhausted. Many are unable to spend time with their families, and holidays become a distant memory.

A recent national survey of 27,000 small and medium businesses commissioned by business coaching organisation Action International found that more than 13 per cent of businesses surveyed said they believed that either finding or retaining staff would have the 'biggest effect on their business this year'.

Action International general manager and business coach Martin Jimmink says it is crucial business owners retain and upskill existing staff and know how to recruit quality staff members as a business grows.

"Improved leadership and communication from management, enhanced training of existing staff and the provision of a broader skills base to selected people all add up to people growing within a company," he says.

Bringing people through the ranks usually leads to a greater retention of staff which minimises the need to recruit externally and significantly boosts a company's culture.

Regan Frost, director of Regency Plumbing Ltd in Papakura, Auckland, says that a year ago his business had reached a stalemate because he could not recruit suitable registered plumbers. He had stopped marketing because of insufficient staff to handle new work and felt he could not take a holiday and leave his staff to run the business.

To put the business on track to go forward so he could achieve his dreams, he sought help from Cherry Vanderbeke, an Action International business coach. Through coaching, he learned how to build a strong team and retain staff, write appealing recruitment advertisements, conduct effective interviews, and create better systems.

"Cherry's coaching taught me that how you write a recruitment ad contributes hugely to who you attract, and that it's better to invest in large ads that convey exactly who you are seeking and what you are offering," Regan says.

"I also learned that two quality applicants are more valuable than 20 unsatisfactory ones. I used to run about six ads to get someone who I would still have to mould the job to suit, rather than them suiting the position."

But the tide turned for Regency which recently employed a registered plumber who, on the advice of his coach, Regan interviewed for several hours using techniques he admits had him 'pretty nervous' before he began.

But within 15 minutes, he says he was confidently conducting the most professional interview he'd ever run and a short time later had employed exactly the person he had dreamed of for the position – and began to plan a holiday.

Ross McKoy, director of Electrical Systems Ltd in Albany, Auckland, says Action International business coach Ross Kennedy helped him improve the firm's business systems during 2004-05 and position it for growth.

Turnover had doubled and margins went up, but further progress was initially stymied because of a lack of skilled staff in the marketplace. Advertising for qualified electricians had rarely produced a response over the previous three to four years.

Ross McKoy has, however, recruited two to three apprentices a year for the past eight years. But, he says, the company struggled to employ enough electricians to expand the training programme.

As well, a number of his apprentices in their third year – who by that stage had good skills on board – were poached by other electrical firms.

Ross's coach encouraged the company to focus more on the retention of existing staff – including the apprentices, one of whom recently completed his time and is now working in a supervisory role and able to tackle specialised projects.

Martin Jimmink says when businesses are affected by external forces, such as a shortage of skilled labour, business owners need to up skill themselves in smarter ways of finding solutions.

As general manager of Action International New Zealand, Martin Jimmink has been a business coach for six years and leads a team of 64 business coaches. The Action team can be contacted on 0800 Action.


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