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Strategies for Retaining Staff

Linda Nall looks at some useful ways to keep staff happy and committed to sticking around and growing with your company.

Every time I interview a young person who has successfully made the transition from school to the workplace as an apprentice or trainee, they talk about their apprehension that they would not fit in to this new ‘adult’ team. Having left behind the security of their school friends, they were worried they would not find new ones.

They also talk about the pleasure of feeling valued and respected in an adult world as they are acquiring practical skills. It rapidly becomes apparent that businesses that are aware of these issues are the ones who have greatest success in moulding and keeping their new employees.

Stratco, a producer of building and home renovation products in Queensland, had a monumental task of recruiting staff—let alone keeping them. Stephen Ollerenshaw, Stratco’s training co-ordinator, said they decided to take control of their own destiny.

“We had to put in place a strategy that would ensure we are able to get staff and keep them. We started that strategy by realising we are an integral part of the community and need to be responsive to the community.

An Important Step

“In March 2006 the MEGT Australian Apprenticeships Centre helped us hold a forum with 28 school representatives,” Ollerenshaw said. He said the MEGT helped Stratco outline a needs analysis and strategy for the company to take for school-based trainees within the following two months. Stratco expected it would involve 10 young people.

“We ended up with 14 Australian School-based Apprentices in manufacturing, retail and estimating,” Ollerenshaw reported.

Stratco’s strategy not only streams new employees through the business but also gives long-term staff a mentoring role they enjoy. They feel they are contributing to the business and are valued for it.

“In the workplace itself, we have set up a formal mentoring system with a person in their work area,” Ollerenshaw said. “The mentor is separate to their supervisor or manager. It’s like a buddy system.

“Staff become more closely involved with the young people when they volunteer to help in transporting them to work. I’ve heard they talk about assignments in the car together. It is great!

Longer Term Goals

Ollerenshaw said that the goal was to provide pathways for apprentices and those who want to do diplomas/degrees in engineering. “We are negotiating for 25 kids who are high achievers to spend four days in the workplace and one day at school on project based work. We anticipate they will go to uni and we will hire the best of the best of those while they are at uni. We want to do that for our retail and logistics area as well.

He said that Stratco feels it is important to capture and channel people’s ability, their enthusiasm and knowledge. “Basically my advice to other employers is to take the step with apprenticeships and school-based traineeships. It is a lot easier than they perceive.

“The up-side is that you have a very positive work force. The cultural benefits are enormous.

Ollerenshaw said that a big benefit for the Stratco staff working alongside the kids is that they learn as well and are then inspired to go out and learn more.

“Most importantly, you are assuring the future of your company. You are controlling your own company’s destiny. You are not relying on the market.”

Starting with the right staff, providing the appropriate skills training, and ensuring all staff feel valued and respected are the foundations for a long term partnership between managers and staff.

Australian Apprenticeships are an Australian Government initiative.

Linda Nall is a marketing manager for MEGT (Australia) Ltd.

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