You’re business is booming and there’s plenty of work for you and your team. But you’re finding yourself run off your feet; juggling calls, filling out invoices, finishing one job only to hurry on to the next. All you are doing is going from work to sleep. No time for your family or for a life.
You need additional help - someone to take the pressure off and also help expand your business. But there are so many “what if’s” when finding your new employee.
What if I can’t find a skilled enough worker? What if I can’t afford to keep them long-term? What if their work is not up to my standard? What if they don’t get along with me or my team? What if they leave after putting in all my hard work in training them?
Australia is experiencing a tradie shortage. In the construction trades the average number of applicants dropped from 10.8 in 2012 to 7.4 in 2017. Even more worrying is that suitable applicants per vacancy fell by more than half to 1.1 in 2017. With so few applicants you need to take the time to get hiring right. The wrong employee can be a massive burden and cost on your tradie business.
This guide will give you practical tips on hiring the best tradespeople in your field.
Help Wanted - Write your job description
First, define the job you want your employee to do. Because of the tradie shortage you may want every possible tradie out there to see your ad, but you also don’t want those that won’t fit in with your business culture or don’t have the specific skills your tradie business needs.
Spend time writing a clear job description, be creative to make your ad stand out from all the other run-of-the-mill ads out there. Key points to include in your job description are:
- Use a clever headline or specific job title to make your ad sound attractive
- Make it about them, its you selling what a great opportunity working for you is
- List the things that make it attractive and leave out or down play the things that don’t
- State if you are looking for someone full-time, part-time, casual or a sub-contractor
- Mention the salary if it's attractive and pays above award.
- Include all the incentives you’re offering to make your job appealing e.g. work vehicle provided, new mobile phone, no after-hours, study leave, bonuses
- Briefly talk about your business and the values you see in an employee
- Clearly outline what level of experience they need (1st year apprentice, final year apprentice, fully qualified with how many years experience)
- Outline what essential and desirable skills and certification they need. Keep in mind you want someone with different skills to fill in the gaps that you and your staff cannot meet.
- Describe a typical working day. Make it exciting and fulfilling to keep candidates interested in wanting to work with you
- Include where this position could lead to in your business e.g. qualified skilled workers could become managers, guarantee apprentices a job when they finish their apprenticeships, maybe partnership down the road
Advertising a job position is very similar to marketing your services. The goal is to make the position attractive and "sell" the position.
Where can I find good tradespeople?
Now that you know what you want in a new tradesperson, it’s time to start finding that perfect candidate. Before jumping into major job websites such as Seek and Jora, other channels you should consider are:
You may not even need to advertise when looking for someone to hire. Start by asking your tradie colleagues and your existing team if there is someone they know who would be good to work here. They may have a friend, old work colleague, etc.
Ask your suppliers too, they often know local tradies who are unhappy where they are.
Hiring an employee recommended by your trusted network can put some of your worry at ease in finding a good fit for your business.
Utilise or upskill your current team
Maybe an existing staff member could fill the position through upskilling. Or give them more responsibility just to take the pressure off you. Not only will this save time in screening new candidates and having to pay another employee, it can create a positive business environment where employees can progress in your business.
Popping your ad in local newspapers, or sporting newsletters would mean finding candidates close by to your place of business. Ask to place an ad with your trade supply store.
Contact local schools and TAFE teachers to see if the know any outstanding apprentices, people in pre-apprentice courses as well as people fired during their apprenticeship.
You can find great employees without using major online employment websites, which could save you time and cost. Think about advertising your position on Facebook Community Boards, Linkedin groups and free postings on Indeed.
Making your shortlist
Now that job applications are coming through, it’s time to separate the good from the bad. Don’t let applications pile up. As soon as they come in move quickly on those who stand out. Finding a tradesperson that has the perfect combination of knowing their craft and communicating well with customers and yourself is going to take time.
Some questions to consider when making a choice on who to hire are:
- Find out why they like their trade: pick the tradies who are passionate and take pride in their work. Cut out the ones who just think of their trade as a means to get money
- Work out their experience levels: even fully qualified tradies may not know everything in their trade so you need to gauge what level they are at and if they can fill in the gaps in your business
- See where they want to be in five years time: do they want to move up in your business, are they interested in continuing training, can you count on them to stay awhile
- Ask why they left their current job and why they want to work for you: candidates who have moved from workplace to workplace may not be willing to stay long. However, it may be their previous workplaces weren’t fulfilling or motivating enough for them.
- Ask why you should hire them: look for initiative and confidence, seeing themselves bringing value to your business, being a good role model for future employees.
- See how they respond to a hypothetical situation, for example how would they deal with a difficult customer, or go about fixing a mistake they did on a job
Because of Australia’s tradie shortage, if you can’t find the right fully qualified tradie then you need to consider training apprentices. Particularly if you already have a few qualified employees to help mentor them.
Although there’s a lot for apprentices to learn, many are enthusiastic and eager to do any work to get their skills up, even the mundane and routine jobs. This can free up your senior staff to focus on excelling in their own role. Even though there’s a chance they will leave after investing your time in training them, apprentices trained in-house are more likely to stay with your business much longer than other recruits and are more committed to the business and its long term goals.
If you are considering this option you may like to read our other post to help you answer the question, should you hire an apprentice?
Remember to do a background check once you decide on who to hire.
Contact previous employers, clients and if apprentices, their teachers. Check out their previous workplace and the quality of work they have done through review websites to see if it meets your business standards.
How to retain staff and keep them motivated
It’s not all about your new tradesperson fitting in with your business. You also need to make sure your business fits in with them. Retention is becoming even more important with so few good tradies available in the market (more on that later).
Firstly, create a positive work environment. Not just a physically safe workplace but also emotionally. Don’t berate them especially in front of other colleagues. If something goes wrong you want them to come forward without being blamed or punished for it. Have an open door policy so they feel like they can get help anytime. Also be open to suggestions from your new worker. New apprentices bring a wealth of current ideas and up to date skills, whilst new qualified employees can bring different perspectives on how other business owners run their tradie business.
Provide them good tools and make sure jobs are scheduled properly with all information and resources given so they are better prepared for doing the job right. Give encouragement and validation, thanking them if it’s been a rough or busy week. Recognise achievements and provide small incentives for a job well done such as an afternoon off or a small bonus.
What about your new employees’ goals?
Find out where they want to be in 1, 3 or 5 years time and see if your business can help them achieve this. Employees who feel they are getting nowhere in your business will become unmotivated and underperform.
Come up with clear milestones and a plan of action on how to get there. Constantly evaluate how they are going and help them get past any weaknesses. Provide opportunities for advancement and promotions such as managerial roles for senior employees, or more responsibility and challenging jobs for younger ones.
Employees are increasingly loyal when they know that you have invested in them. If you have their best interests at heart, why would they want to leave?
Still not sure your business is ready to hire a new tradesperson?
When thinking of hiring a new tradesperson, you need to understand the impact on your bottom line. Can you make a year after year commitment to a new employee? Along with providing them a steady income and benefits, you also need to commit resources and money for training and professional development, providing the right safety gear and tools, and keeping them motivated. All of this whilst making sure your new employee is helping your business make a profit.
If you are not sure hiring a new tradesperson is financially right for your business then seek professional advice. Talk to a business coach or mentor to plan out your hiring strategy to help take the next step in growing your business.
At Tradie Accelerator our training programs combine both coaching and mentoring to get the best results, so feel free to contact us from our contact page or if your prefer to talk to one of our consultants call 1300 658 403.