According to the history of HAI that I have read, back in 1939, when the organisation’s first AGM was held in Athy, much of the discussion was about how to define a Hardware Merchant. The meeting settled on a very loose definition of ‘availability of suitable premises, and stock to a value of £300’.
80 plus years later there are probably still issues around finding suitable premises and you can add quite a few zeroes to the value of stock. The big difference though is that there is a chronic shortage of good staff. I deliberately emphasise the word good because at Brenson Lawlor, as employers ourselves, we have no end of applications for our vacancies but trying to sort the wheat from the chaff is always the challenge. It’s both costly (we don’t use employment agencies anymore) and very, very time consuming, itself another cost.
Barring what economists call a ‘black swan event’, that is a very, very unusual event (the Coronavirus outbreak could be one of those) the economy in Ireland is set to continue to grow at a fair old pace. We have effectively reached full employment (it’s never going to be zero as there are those who are literally unemployable and there are those who are in between jobs or who are training and not working). That means that companies have got to think of new ways of attracting staff who will hopefully make working in the hardware sector their long-term career choice. Nothing is more disruptive to a business that constant staff turnover.
The Americans have taken a very enlightened approach to recruitment. The massive Home Depot, I believe, was first in hiring more mature employees, who clearly knew what they are talking about and showed their enthusiasm for areas like DIY etc. I did read, not so long ago, as the US economy is also reaching full employment, that Home Depot is experimenting with robots on the shop fl oor. Before you say ‘that’ll never catch on here’, have a look at the phone your carrying at tell me, did you ever think you’d be using it to fi nd a customer location (Maps), music (Spotify) sports (podcasts)…yet, we take this all for granted now.
However, before you put in your robot order here are some other ways to keep humans on your team (that’s the first time I’ve written that sentence!). There will be continued uncertainty about the age people can get their State pensions and during the period of uncertainty there may be a gap of up to three years where good, solid, dependable and able employees may have to wait to collect their pension. What better way than to have them working for you? As this age gap issue particularly applied within the Public Sector then we would advise to post your job notices wherever there are public sector employees (as well as on hardwarejobs.ie, of course).
Another, sometimes obvious but overlooked, action is to ask those who already work with you (and therefore who you know) to recommend potential employees to your business. If those people turn out to be good, and if they stay with the company for say six-months minimum, then you can reward the ‘recommender’ for their suggestion. It’s money much better spent than on a recruitment agency as you’re getting a double benefit, an excellent recommendation and an existing employee who has some extra benefi ts in their pocket.
Most employees, no matter what the sector, want to feel the ‘love’, and there’s no better way to show that, as well as incentivising individuals, than by having a clearly defined bonus system. I have worked with many businesses, across many sectors, and I have found you always get that extra out of people when they know they can work for an extra reward.
Those benefits don’t have to financial either. If your business is broken into teams then team benefits, such as either a spa day, or a day at the races, are immeasurable in building team spirit.
The message that any employer wants to give to potential employees is that their possible future workplace is a fun and enjoyable place to spend eight or ten hours a day. We, ourselves, have instituted occasional shorter days, mainly on Fridays which, particularly for our many non-Dublin employees, means they get out of the city and home faster, just by getting out an hour or two earlier. We do ask that they make up that time during the week, but it’s a two-way street and we have found that it repays in a much greater work ethic and spirit
across our offices. First things first though, do take professional advice.