The Thinkers - Chris J Birch (2)

Episode 2 of The Thinkers. Accompanying the Podcast series

The Thinkers - Chris J Birch (2)

Today, I’m going to delve a little deeper into how we employed our first member of staff. I’d love to say it was a dream, but it was far more complicated and involved that I originally thought and was a great learning curve for me and our growing company.


First of all, why did we employ someone at all? Simply because we had too much work to do to comfortably fit into a day for us to do alone. It sounds incredibly simple and honestly, that part of it was. We were growing and having someone on board meant that I could answer the phone a little more, take longer than thirty seconds for a break and didn’t finish at eleven in the evening after starting at seven in the morning. It also crucially meant that I could invoice and go to quote more work too.


When you employ someone you know, you’re immediately cutting out a vital part of the employment process where an employee presents themselves to you, summarises their credentials and allows you to scrutinise them before making a decision whether to employ them or not. Lots of family and friends work well together and there’s lots of family companies that have made incredible successes of themselves. For me though, working with family and friends rarely worked out well and usually is more of a headache than you’d like. This is simply because you need to accept that person for who you know they are already and if they don’t consistently maintain the expectation you’ve given them, you’re immediately a little harsher with them than a traditional employee.


That’s why interviewing, at the least is incredibly important, particularly for us when we began. First of all, its usually nerves coming from both sides during an interview process. The applicant is obviously a little apprehensive but they usually don’t expect you to be the same. They’ll always imagine you’ve done this a hundred times before and naturally will only be thinking of impressing you rather than seeing your nerves so don’t be worried there. That was thankfully something I wasn’t too concerned with as I’m a little more outgoing than your average person.


You’ll have your own criteria on interviewing and we certainly did but its tough to appreciate that even the best plans can go wrong. Some employees work fantastically well in an interview but let you down on the job and sometimes its the exact opposite. I’ve seen so many interviewees think they’ve done badly during an interview and when I call them to let them know that they’ve got the job, they’re ecstatic.


The thing to remember is to not be invested in an Employee, at least initially. Yes, give your time, your effort and throw your resources at them to the fullest extent but always stay aware that this job may not be for them and if they leave, don’t take it personally. I know lots of employees who took an employee leaving to heart and after working with someone for years, its understandable but its best to hold off, at least for the first year while they work out if this job is for them.


The actual recruitment process was pretty easy though. We put an advert on Gumtree and Indeed. I rarely use Indeed now as we only really got applications from job seekers who weren’t really looking for work but just wanted to satisfy the job centre. Not ideal when it comes to wading through applications.


When it came to the Health and Safety side of things, we immediately thought of the worse case scenario and immediately googled to get something written down to formalise a health and safety plan for employees. We were initially thinking of fire and more common scenarios associated with residential buildings. As the years went by, we added bomb and terrorism threats for the Nato summit in Cardiff, which was something I never thought I’d need to practically risk assess. In the later years, we brought a Health and Safety and HR Company onboard to help us in the day to day running of the company and they did the recruitment and all that sort of thing too. Even though we kept a close eye on processes, having someone that you can trust and rely on who’s a Contractor is really worthwhile. I’d always recommend another SME over a large entity that’s just over the phone or through a portal. Physical help is always preferred with Staffing stuff.


During the time we employed staff, we employed them remotely, working on sites that we’d never visited and employing people we’d never actually met. That was a truly strange time and completely went against my natural instincts of wanting to control everything within the company. But with the processes we’d put in place and the outsourcing we’d done already, it made life a lot easier for us.


Be under no illusion though, I’m glossing over a lot of negative and problematic staffing related issues here too.


Once, I had a call at 4am to say someone hadn’t arrived at work and I needed to call them to get them out of bed and into work, having never met them and being over 300 miles away. I’ve also been called and told that my cleaner had switched on a vehicle with a maintenance person inside the engine, which thankfully didn’t result in an injury and was an error by the maintenance person, not my team.


Then we have less tangible problems. I’ve had to interview a lady who we transferred in from another Company during a contract change who racially abused a new member of staff in front of a leisure centre full of customers a mere 24 hours after completing the transfer. It took an incredible four weeks to complete the process of disciplinary resulting in termination and I still, to this day, don’t really understand what happened.


Staff are great fun though. On a similar note, I once had a lady resign there in front of me and proceeded to remove her uniform on a Construction yard and walk home in just her underwear. I’ve also had a lady who reminded me of my Nan resign because I asked her to mop a floor, even though her job was a Cleaner. I never understood that one either.


That being said, those are thankfully minor and infrequent. The majority of staffing related issues were taking holidays, resignations, sickness, maternity, scheduling and upskilling.


I enjoyed, although it may not seem it, every moment of employing staff and Im incredibly proud of the work we did with our Teams. We brought in an English Tutor each week for over a year to help non-english speaking Staff learn the Language as the courses in our area were oversubscribed. We helped two women get a degree and discovered that one employee couldn’t read so we brought in a Tutor to help her and she was so proud the day she was promoted to a Team Leader, knowing the only thing that had held her back was a lack of confidence from not being able to read.


Those are the kinds of things that I was most proud of when employing staff.


We’ve utilised Jobs Growth Wales and the Apprenticeship scheme quite a few times and this has given us the opportunity to create a job for a person that we can see has potential but we may not immediately have the funds to assist with. By using these schemes, you’re employing someone who you can see potential in and that you can help drive forward and they can help you drive your company forward too.


In more recent times, it was heartbreaking and I mean that, to carry out mass redundancy meetings week after week because of the Coronavirus situation. We made more than 90% of the Team redundant over a three month period and without an HR Team to help and support the Employees and me, I’d genuinely have been lost. Someone like that for your business really is worth your investment.


I hope this has given you a little more insight into the World of Employment and how it can benefit your business. If there’s something specific you’d like to ask, feel free to use the question bar on the Podcast or the youtube page. Alternatively, head to our Facebook page where you’ll find a group that you can ask your questions in too.


If you enjoyed this and you’d like to hear more, hit subscribe, like or any other button you have to get a reminder about our next Podcast or Video.


Have a Great Day.