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Skilled Labour: Recruit and Keep the Best in Trades

The Art of Hiring and Retaining Top Talent in the Trades Industry

Skilled Labour: Recruit and Keep the Best in Trades

The trades and construction sector in Australia and New Zealand has faced a significant shortage of skilled labour in the last few years, and the problem isn’t going to go away overnight. Coupled with poor hiring decisions, the consequences can be detrimental, including high turnover rates, project delays, and a compromised bottom line.

You can’t do anything about the former, it’s out of your control. But poor hiring decisions and a lack of process are challenges you have complete control over. Skilled workers are out there, but they’re not just going to land in your lap. You have to put in the work to find them, attract them, and retain them.

This blog will explore strategies for finding the right candidates, conducting interviews that reveal true potential, and implementing retention practices that transform businesses into magnets for skilled workers. By the end, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and tools to build a team of A-grade tradies that excel and most importantly, stick around!

The Impact of Poor Hiring Decisions

In the quest to fill vacant positions quickly or simply due to a lack of effective hiring strategies, some businesses in the trades and construction industry make hasty or ill-informed hiring decisions. These decisions, often driven by immediate needs, can have far-reaching and costly consequences for businesses, including:

  • High Turnover Rates: One of the most immediate and noticeable consequences of poor hiring decisions is a high turnover rate. If a worker is not a good match for the job or company culture, they are more likely to quit. High turnover disrupts workflow and incurs high recruitment and training costs.
  • Project Delays: Hiring a worker who lacks the skills or experience can lead to project delays. A single delay can cause problems with subsequent projects, damaging a business’s reputation and bottom line.
  • Increased Costs: Poor hires often require additional training and supervision, which can increase labour costs. Moreover, if a new employee’s work quality is subpar, you’ll pay even more to get it up to standard.
  • Impact on Team Morale:  A bad hire can disrupt team harmony. Existing employees may become frustrated or disheartened when they have to pick up the slack for a colleague who is not performing. 
  • Reputation Damage: Poor hiring decisions can tarnish a business’s image. Negative reviews or client complaints resulting from substandard work can drive potential clients away.

Strategies for Finding Skilled Workers

Finding the right people for your team requires a proactive and creative approach to talent acquisition. Here, we’ll explore a range of strategies that can help business owners identify and secure skilled workers who can contribute to their growth and success.

By employing a combination of these strategies, businesses in the trades and construction industry can cast a wider net when searching for skilled workers. 

1. Job Boards and Online Platforms

Explore niche job boards and websites specifically dedicated to the trades and construction industry. Popular options include Seek and LinkedIn. Be sure to craft detailed and engaging job descriptions that clearly outline the role’s responsibilities, requirements, and benefits, and use relevant keywords to attract the right candidates. You can also promote job listings on social media platforms, industry-specific forums, and groups. 

2. Industry Associations

Industry associations are excellent sources for networking and recruiting skilled tradespeople. 

If not already, you could become a member of relevant trade and construction associations in your region. These organisations often host events, workshops, and conferences where you can network with potential hires. Attend association events, engage in discussions, and build relationships with other members. Your active involvement can help you identify and attract skilled workers passionate about their craft.

3. Networking:

Networking is a powerful tool for talent acquisition. Establishing connections within the industry can lead to valuable referrals and recommendations. The more conversations you have, the higher your chances of finding A-grade employees to add to your team. Also encourage your current employees to refer qualified candidates. Referral programs can be effective in incentivising these recommendations.

4. Apprenticeships and Vocational Schools

Investing in the development of future talent is a proactive approach to addressing the skilled labour shortage. Develop in-house apprenticeship programs to train and mentor young individuals interested in the trades. By investing in their education, you can cultivate a pipeline of skilled workers for your business.

You can also consider collaborating with vocational schools and colleges that offer relevant training programs. Establish partnerships that allow you to tap into their pool of graduates and offer internships or job placement opportunities.

Crafting Compelling Job Descriptions

A well-written job description is your first hurdle. The blunt truth – if you’re only getting C-grade applicants, you’re writing C-grade job descriptions. No top tradie will be compelled to apply to that. 

Effective job descriptions act as a filter, ensuring only candidates with the necessary skills and experience apply. This saves both time and resources in the hiring process.

Tips for Creating Job Postings that Resonate

  • Start with a Strong Title: This should accurately reflect the role and appeal to potential candidates. Avoid jargon and acronyms that may be unclear to outsiders.
  • Clearly Define Responsibilities: Provide a detailed list of job responsibilities, emphasising the tasks that require specific skills or experience. Use action verbs to convey the nature of the work.
  • Highlight Qualifications: Specify the qualifications, certifications, and experience required for the role. Be transparent about the skills and competencies candidates must possess.
  • Paint a Picture of Your Culture: Job descriptions can convey your company’s values, mission, and culture. Skilled workers are not just looking for a job; they want to find an organisation that aligns with their career goals and principles.
  • Emphasize Opportunities for Growth: Skilled workers often seek opportunities for career advancement. Mention potential growth paths and professional development opportunities within your organisation.
  • Provide Compensation Information: While it’s not necessary to include specific salary figures, you can mention competitive compensation packages, benefits, and perks to attract top talent. Think hard about whether your compensation package meets the value and expectations of your desired candidate. A-grade work will cost you A-grade money, there’s no way out of that.
  • Use Inclusive Language: Ensure your job description uses inclusive language that welcomes candidates from diverse backgrounds. Avoid any wording that might discourage underrepresented groups from applying.
  • Keep It Concise and Scannable: Workers often browse multiple job listings, so make your description scannable. Use bullet points and concise paragraphs to efficiently convey information.
  • Include a Call to Action: Encourage potential candidates to take action by applying or reaching out. Use a clear call to action at the end of the job posting.
  • Proofread and Edit: Typos and grammatical errors can deter skilled workers. Proofread your job description meticulously to convey professionalism.
  • Be Objective: Ask yourself, would an A-grade tradie be attracted to this job description? Share it with colleagues for feedback. 

The Interview Process: Identifying the Best Fit

Once you’ve crafted compelling job descriptions that caught the attention and applications of skilled workers, the next step in the hiring process is effective interviews. To ensure you identify the best fit, it’s essential to structure interviews that assess not only technical skills, but also cultural compatibility. 

Here’s guidance on conducting interviews that lead to informed hiring decisions:

Assessing Technical Skills:

Ask candidates to describe specific situations in their previous roles where they successfully utilized the technical skills required for the position. For example, if you’re hiring a carpenter, you might ask, “Can you share an example of a complex carpentry project you completed, including the challenges you faced and how you overcame them?”

Depending on the role, consider conducting practical skills tests or assessments. For instance, you could ask an electrician candidate to troubleshoot a wiring problem or a project manager to analyse a hypothetical construction plan.

Reference Checks Contact the candidate’s references to verify their technical skills and performance in previous positions. Ask about their ability to complete tasks, meet deadlines, and collaborate with others.

Evaluating Cultural Fit:

Enquire about the candidate’s values and principles to gauge whether they align with your company culture. You could ask, “What values are most important to you in a workplace?”

Explore the candidate’s approach to teamwork and collaboration. Ask about their experience working in teams, how they handle conflicts, and their communication style. 

Given the dynamic nature of the trades and construction industry, it’s also important to assess the candidate’s adaptability and willingness to learn. Pose questions like, “Can you share an example of a time when you had to quickly adapt to a changing project environment?”

Discuss the candidate’s long-term career goals and how they envision themselves fitting into your company’s growth plans. This can reveal their commitment to your organisation.

Essential Interview Questions:

Here’s a list of essential questions that you can adapt for different roles within the trades and construction industry:

1. Tell me about your relevant experience and achievements.

2. Can you describe a challenging project you worked on and how you overcame obstacles?

3. How do you stay updated on industry trends and new techniques?

4. What safety measures and protocols do you follow on the job?

5. How do you prioritise tasks and manage your workload when faced with multiple deadlines?

6. Can you provide examples of successful collaborations with colleagues or subcontractors?

7. Describe your experience working with clients or homeowners. How do you handle client concerns or requests?

8. What tools or technology do you regularly use in your work?

9. How do you ensure quality control in your projects?

10. What attracted you to our company, and how do you see yourself contributing to our success?

Remember that interviews should be a two-way process. Encourage candidates to ask questions about your company and the role they’re applying for, to ensure they also see a good fit with your organisation. By conducting thorough interviews that assess both technical skills and cultural fit, you increase the likelihood of hiring skilled workers who not only excel in their roles, but also contribute positively to your company’s environment and growth.

Onboarding and Training Programs

Hiring skilled workers is a significant achievement, but the journey toward a successful and productive workforce doesn’t end with the job offer. To ensure that your new hires integrate seamlessly into your company culture and continue to grow in their roles, it’s crucial to establish a robust onboarding process and provide ongoing training and development opportunities.

A well-structured onboarding process sets clear expectations about job roles and responsibilities, which helps reduce confusion and allows new employees to hit the ground running. It’s also the first step in integrating new hires into your company’s culture. It helps them understand your values, mission, and expectations.

Effective onboarding can lead to faster productivity and increased retention rates. Employees who feel welcomed and informed from day one are more likely to stay with your company.

Examples of effective onboarding and training strategies include customised training programs, access to resources, mentorship programs and regular feedback.

Employee Retention Strategies

You know that finding skilled workers is only half the battle; retaining them is equally critical. Beyond offering competitive salaries, businesses must use a range of effective retention strategies to ensure that their skilled workforce remains loyal, motivated, and engaged.

Let’s explore key retention strategies that go beyond monetary compensation, and delve into successful initiatives that have yielded positive results:

Creating a Positive Work Environment

Foster a positive company culture that values teamwork, safety, and respect. Encourage open communication and collaboration among employees to ensure everyone feels valued. Part of feeling valued also includes regular acknowledgement and reward of outstanding performance and contributions. It’s easy to take someone’s work for granted (yes, even when you pay them a salary). Recognition programs don’t need to cost the earth, but they’re a great tool for boosting morale and motivation.

Offering Comprehensive Benefits

Here are a few examples of benefits you can roll out to retain A-grade employees:

  • Provide comprehensive health insurance plans, including coverage for preventive care, to support employees’ physical well-being.
  • Offer retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s or superannuation, demonstrating your commitment to employees’ long-term financial security.
  • Employee Assistance Programs: Implement employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide access to counselling, mental health support, and resources for personal and professional challenges.

Offering Career Growth and Development

A-grade tradies want to learn and grow, so you could consider continuing to invest in employees’ professional development through ongoing training, workshops, and certifications. This not only benefits your employees, because their improved skills will enhance your business offer.

From the beginning, be sure to outline clear career progression paths within your organisation, to allow candidates to see a future with your company.

Employee Engagement Initiatives

Feeling like they’re helpless to make change is not a position you want your employees in. Not engaging your employees in conversations about how you can improve is what leads them to become disengaged and eventually jump ship.

Instead, conduct regular performance evaluations and solicit feedback from employees to address concerns and make improvements. Use employee surveys to gauge job satisfaction and identify areas that may require attention or improvement.

Investing in Employee Well-Being

You never know what’s going on with someone, and most people don’t want to share their challenges at work for fear of it affecting their job performance or being judged. Consider offering resources and support for mental health.

The Power is in Your Hands

Your ability to find, hire, and retain top talent is not just a choice, but a strategic imperative.  Spending money on their recruitment, development, and retention isn’t an expense; it’s an investment in your company’s growth and sustainability. 

Finding A-grade employees starts by taking a long hard look at your internal practices, so you can become a more attractive offering than your competitors. 

By implementing the strategies outlined in this blog, you will build a team of skilled workers who meet your current project demands, and also drive your business toward long-term success.

If you’re looking for more expert advice on how to grow your team and scale your trades and construction business in Australia and New Zealand, join our free Facebook Group.

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