This piece was written by FTMA’s Kat Welsh.

Why Businesses Need to Invest in Their Staff

There’s a distinctive mindset around many work cultures. The employee is lucky to be there, to receive their pay cheque, and should be grateful for having a job. But actually, the employer is lucky to have dedicated staff. And, if you look after your staff, they’ll look after you. If you need any other incentive to take care of your workforce – holding on to staff saves the business money.

Employers often think they are absolved from the responsibility of setting a positive culture, or spending extra money of staff wellbeing – because they send out the pay packet each fortnight. But it’s the employees that are making the money, that keeps the business in pocket. Setting the right conditions in the workplace increases productivity, reduces sick days, and saves a business thousands of dollars in staff turnover costs.

If there’s a high turnover of staff, the problem might not be the employees, it might be the conditions of the workplace. Employers can no longer run with ‘Downton Abbey’ ethics, and people can and do leave if basic respect, care, and consideration don’t exist. It doesn’t make someone weak, to show care – it shows strength. Loyalty shown to staff, will create a cycle. Being a great leader is to bring others up, not put them down.

Businesses are reporting that finding qualified staff is much harder than it used to be. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as of June 2022, 31% of Australian businesses were struggling to find suitable staff. “Large and medium sized businesses (66 per cent and 62 per cent) were more likely than small businesses (29 per cent) to have difficulties finding suitable staff. However, nearly half (46 per cent) of small businesses affected were impacted to a great extent,” said Tom Joseph, head of Industry Statistics at the ABS.

Andrew Clements, CEO of AAA Advanced Trusses & Windows, knows very well the importance of looking after staff. AAA received the Jackson Kidd Wellbeing Award at the FTMA 2024 Conference. There were a number of fabricators nominated for this award, all exemplifying the importance of looking after their staff, and AAA embodied exceptional awareness of this. After hearing about what AAA do, it felt important to find out why, and what the impact is.

Work, is more than a job. It’s a significant part of daily life and contributes to everyone’s state of wellness – or it takes away from it. “Our drive is simple, we do the things we do because we care about our staff and want to make their experience here, a great one. At the end of the day, we don’t have a business without them,” Andrew said.

The future of working and employment is a changing coal face – people are less inclined to pick one job out of high school and stay there for the next 45 years. They’re even less likely to stay there if they don’t feel valued, or respected. With the increase of available job options, why would you work for a place that has a poor culture, doesn’t value you, and fails to acknowledge the work that you put in?

Legally, workplaces have responsibilities to not just provide physical safety for staff, but psychological safety as well. Having the right policies in place, does not free the business from following through with actions of care. FTMA have talked a lot about the value of investing in staff wellbeing. Why it’s important. How to implement C.A.R.E. There is plenty of stats and research to prove that putting staff wellbeing at the core of the workplace breeds dedicated staff, better-quality work, and reduces sick leave. AAA, are the perfect example of this.

The culture AAA have in their workplace, goes far beyond the right policies. And aside from attracting and retaining staff, they’re investing in workplace care because it makes a difference to people’s lives. “While the gifts, awards and prizes are really good, we’re mindful that that’s not the driving point behind what we do. The driving point for us is employee welfare, inclusion, internal social networking and of course, creating a great culture that we believe is unique, not only to our industry, but across most workplaces. People genuinely want to get out of bed and come to work at AAA, and that makes us really happy,” Andrew said. When talking about their staff, it was obvious that Andrew, General Manager Ryan Goodes, and the leaders of AAA are all about honouring staff. There are monthly BBQs, employee of the month and year awards, regular social activities, external speakers, and opportunities for staff to connect.

“This can’t be fabricated, you need to (and should) genuinely care about the happiness and wellbeing of your employees. We conduct Annual Wellness Reviews and through that, are able to extract a lot of great information about our employees. They allow us to understand what makes them happy/unhappy, and we make work adjustments according to their feedback. If your employees are happy, you’ll naturally see great results in their work and in your business,” Andrew said. This is an excellent point – to be able to make work adjustments based on employee feedback, and regularly assess and alter. The people doing the job, are in the best position to provide ideas about how it could be done differently. AAA are adapting, based on what their grassroots are saying. Growth and progression happens if you open the door to the knock of change – giving employees a sense of involvement is a substantial part of inclusivity.  

Brenda Garrard-Forster, General Manager from HR Anywhere, ranked the most common reasons employees leave as;

  1. Poor relationship with their manager
  2. Lack of development opportunities
  3. Lack of appreciation
  4. Lack of support
  5. Lack of meaningful and challenging work
  6. Inadequate wages and benefits
  7. Toxic workplace culture.

Brenda says that there are many considerations when it comes to staff turnover. Financially it can cost a business approx. 1.5 to 2 times the annual salary of an employee to replace one person. If many people are leaving jobs for the reasons stated above, it could cost the business, for example, in excess of a $65k per year salary plus superannuation per role.

Surely, it’s a no brainer to do everything to instil a constructive culture and hang on to staff – don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Imagine what could be done with that money, instead of spending it on loss of productivity, the recruiting process, interviewing, training, supervising new staff… it goes on. It can take a new employee between 3 months and up to a year, to be fully competent in a new role. Maybe it’s worth investing some of that money and being preventative, rather than being reactive. “We find our staff to be a lot happier and more engaged with our business and company values since we’ve been investing so much time into our monthly cook ups and activity days. Our turnover of staff is extremely low,” Andrew said.

An important additional part to the process for AAA, was also deciding to implement the Employee Assistance Program, a scheme that engages a mental health professional for workplaces to refer employees, or for confidential self-referral, to assist in making supports more accessible and available. “For as long as I can remember, we have always looked after our staff, but we needed to take it to another level so in 2018 we decided to put in place our EAP to give our employees a pathway to professional help if they were struggling with some personal issues. As mangers, we always tried to help on a personal level, but the reality is that we didn’t have the professional skills to deal with some of the issues that our staff were coming to us with so hence the idea of the EAP was born.  From there, it grew in monthly get togethers, monthly awards, lots of different group activities and now it’s become so big, it’s often the talking point within the walls of AAA about what we’ve just done or what sort of thing we plan to do next. It’s created such a great vibe and in turn, an even better culture within the business,” Andrew said. They’ve taken a business, and turned it into a community.

Knowing where to refer workers, how to respond to people in crisis, or what to do if somebody approaches you saying life is hard, is confronting. It’s easier, a relief, and morally responsible to know you can offer them a phone number straight to a qualified counsellor. They will be linked into supports that are appropriate, meaningful, and will help that person find what they need. “As well as our Annual Wellness Reviews… I think it’s something [the EAP] all businesses should have in place and we believe that will make more of a real difference to businesses over gifts and games,” Andrew said. AAA continuously promote that service, so every worker knows it is there, and is regularly reminded to make the most of it.

The final word from Andrew on workplace wellbeing? “You get out what you put in”.

If you treat your staff like they’re expendable and unvalued, that’s how they’ll see you and the business. If you shine a light, go out of your way to show regard, and invest genuine consideration and rewards for your staff, you’ll get 110% back.  At the end of the day, how great would it feel knowing you did everything you could to contribute to your employees’ happiness and fulfilment.

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