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With the presentdrasticskillsshortageand constantlyevolvingtechnology,expertsare urgingconstructioncompaniesto focus on developingand trainingtheir employees.

he OfficialAustralian ConstructionMagaztnespoke to and Leanne ClairCouttie,fibreHR'sHR BusinessPartner, and authorof Principal of BrashConsulting Faraday-Brash, VultureCultures:How to stop them ravagingyour performance, people,profit and publicrmage,aboul how companiescan staffto improvetheirskills encourage The OACMagazine:Whyis it importantfor employees to upskill? Clair:Thisis vitallvimportantfor a numberof reasons,including A businesscan retain the retentionof skillsand knowledge. for advancement more employeesby offeringopportunities Thisnot onlysavesthe business andtraining. throughupskilling recruitment costs,but alsoensuresthat the organisational knowledgethat employeesalreadyhaveis retainedwithinthe ratherthan beinglostto possibleexternal organisation, competitorswho may offerthem opportunities. about By beingproactive f lexibility. alsoincreases Upskilling a business needsandstrategy, future business on based upskilling andachievegoals, canmovequicklyto f illskillgapsinternally processes) ratherthan havingto go throughlengthyrecruitment ?.43 Il me d a . n e t . a uI l

Oncenew hireshavethe required skills;theythen needtime to learnabouttheirnew environment. Thiscantakea number of monthsandcreatelag-timein meetinga business's needs. By offeringtheseopportunities to employees, turnover will additionally decrease as employees feeltheirneedsarebeing met internally.




L e a n n e :l t i s c r i t i c a l l yi m p o r t a n t o e m p l o y e r st h at e m p l o y e e su p s k i l l N . e w c o n s t r u c t i otne c h n o l o g i easn d b u i l d i n gm a t e r i a l sa r e b e i n gd e v e l o p e da l l t h e t i m e . E m p l o y e e sm u s t b e w i l l i n gt o i m p r o v et h e i rs k i l l sa n d knowledgeto be ableto meet projectdemands,otherwise they becomeless relevantand their companVbecomes lesscompetitive. Manyemployeeswill naturally want to grow and develop; the humanway is to strive.Onlya smallminorityof employeesare likelyto adoptand maintaina bare-minrmum mentality. Thosewho refuseto makean eifortare simplv stuntingtheirown growth.Thisis a learntresponseand often reflectsa cultureof complacency, a fearof makingmistakes, resentmentor's a regressive attitude,but it's not fairto blameemployeesfor this if unsupportive, overly demandingor authoritarian managementhasallowedsucha cultureto take rootandflourish. H o w c a n e m p l o y e e st a k e t h e i n i t i a t i v ea n d i m p r o veth e i r own skills? Clair;Sometimesthe best way is to startwith creating opportunities for feedbackfrom their manageron where theirskillgapslie.Additionally, employeesshouldbe asking questionsaboutthe directionof the businessto identify whichskillsmightlendthemselvesto new opportunities. Thisrequiresan employeeto havea strongideaof their careerpath,so talkingto as manystakeholders as possible to gatherinformation and put themselveson others'radars for new opportunities is very important.By recognising these opportunities and buildingnetworks,employeeswill be werr placedfor promotional opportunities.

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Leanne:Supportive organisations will investin theirstaff in the form of trainingand classroomlearning. Workerscould do theirown out-of-hours studyor ask for f inancial supportto do shortcourses.Employees couldalsoswailowtheir pride guidancef rom riatureworkers andask for assistance'and who are well regardedfor theirwork ethicand skills. Well-chosen mentorswill be flattered,graciousandwilling. Anyonewho won't sharefor fearof becomingless rndispensable won't be well regardedin modern organisations. Companiesaregratefulto thosewho e n t h u s i a s t i c asl lhya r et h e i rk n o w l e d g ea n ds k i l lw i th a n 'abundance' mentalityand generosityof spirit. H o w c a n m a n a g e r se n c o u r a g ea n d s u p p o r te m pl o ye e s to upskill? Clair:Organisations needto encourageemployeesto be responsible for theirown development; however, development must be supportedby the organisation andthe employee's manager,Managerscanassistemployeesby providingclarityand feedbackon any skillgapsthat need development, or new skillsthat needto be acquired.From there,they can createa planwith the employee to startupskiiling. Managerscan provideideas or opportunities for employeesin linewith these plansand be theiradvocatewithinthe organisation when opportunities arise. L e a n n e :M a n a g e r sn e e dt o w o r k t o d e ve l o p and maintaina cultureof continuousimprovementso that t h i s b e c o m e si n g r a i n e d w i t h i n t h e c o m p a n yM . anagement needsto treat workerswith respect,shareinformationwith t h e m , a n d m a k et h e m f e e l l i k ep a r to f a t e a m , l f t he

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companyis profitable,there shouldbe some way for workersto benefit and share I n t hat s u c c e s s . Managementmust toleraiemistakesthat havebeenwell-thought-out to encourage providingsafetyisn'tcompromised. initiative, A healthycultureof elperimentation, debate andthe brainstorming of ideaskeeps everyonefreshand doesn'tallowthem to s lipint o 'c r u i s em ' ode.


W hat a r e s o m e c o n c e r n st h a t m a n a g e r s and employeesencounterwhen trying t o ups ki l l ?

Clair:Sometimesa costlyformaltraining courseis not the answerfor some developmental needs.Employers can lookat alternative low-costdevelopment opportunities suchas mentoring,research assignments, workingon cross-function teams,takingon internalstretch assignments, shadowingan employeewho hasthe desiredskillset, and rotations t hr oug ho t h e rb u s i n e s su n i t s . Leanne:Fearcan be a big hurdle.Workers may camouflage the fearof failurewith excuses,blameineffectual trainingor boring t r ar ner so, r c r y 'e x p l o i t a t i o nwl 'h e n w h a t they reallymay be feelingis discomfortat beingaskedto do stuffthey'venot previously knownhow to do. Someworkers may be knowledgeable on particular processesor the use of particular machrnes, construction rraterials. when companies replacetheseprocesses, materialsor machineswith new ones,the comfortbase is immediately erodedandworkerscan be leftfeelingthey haveto startfrom scratch. In my experience, the vocalopposition to change,the no-showsto trainingcourses,or

delayin incorporating new processesis white noisethat signalsa fearof failurein thosewho got too comfortable and don't want to lookstupidor feel likenovices. Anotherhurdleis Australia's skillsshortage. Thereis a genuineriskof spreading workers too thinlyacrossa rangeof tasksand processesbecausetherearen'tenough peopleto do the job. Difficulteconomic times,the propensityof Aussieworkersto retirequiteyoung,and leanmanufacturingthey are allfactorsthat havealreadyforced companiesto do more qith less. How can ibnstruction companiesdeal with Australia'sskillsshortage,both now and in the future? Clair:Organisations needto dealwith their skillsshortages by lookingat the rnatterin linewith theirbusinessstrategy. What arethe goalsoverthe comingplanning organisational period? What Tesollrces are required Tomeet theseneeds?What skillsdo theseresources requireto meetthe businessstrategy? Once thesemattersareascertatned, then planning canbeginto sourcethe rightcandidates from the rightchannels. L e a n n e :C o n s t r u c t i ocno m p a ni e sw i l l h a ve to becomewell-versedin optimisingeach worker'sperformance without anyone f e e l i n ge x p l o i t e dT. h e s k i l l ss h o r ta g esh o u l d meanthat workersfeel more secure; however,the currenteconorric e n v i r o n m e ndt o e s n 'ta l l o wt h at. Construction f irms may alsohaveto take less experienced workersand put e x c e p t i o n at rl a i n i n gp r o g r a m si n p l a ceth a t b r i n gt h e m u p t o s p e e dq u i c k l y;a cce l e r a ti n g t h e i rd e v e l o p m e nat s o o p o s e dto l e a r n i n g on the job. *

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fibreHR - The Official Australian Construction Magazine