Contractor’s Corner – The Human Element

Employees are your most valuable asset,” this statement has always sounded disingenuous and impersonal to me, because I don’t believe that people are “assets.” To me, assets are inanimate objects that can be bought and sold, but loyal, dedicated, committed employees are so much more than an asset. In a small business, after the owner, the employees are the heart, soul and face of the company. They represent the enterprise and they are critical to the image, growth, stability and profitability of the company.

As a professional engineer, I did not receive any formal training in “Human Resource” management or how to organize and run a company, minimal training in finance and no sales training. These skills are considered business related training; however they are essential to all successful businesses and getting this training is critical. Some people get this training from individual courses, mentors or simple experience from the school of hard knocks. It doesn’t matter how you learn, as long as you learn the “nuts & bolts” of business. The largest single struggle for most companies today is not finding business, it is finding employees or subcontractors to complete the work.

I recently attended the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Spring Dinner, at which, Patrick Sullivan, CEO, provided these shocking statistics:

  • Halifax currently has 4.9% unemployment (lowest since they started recording in 1976) which, based on my experience is basically zero, because those who are unemployed are often between jobs and not looking or possibly unemployable. When you are looking for skilled people, this low unemployment rate makes the potential employment pool very shallow.
  • Every Friday in Canada approximately 5000 people are leaving the work force due to retirement. Even if 5000 young people are entering, which they are not, we are losing 35-45 years experience per person, which is equal to 175,000-225,000 years experience leaving the work force every week. This is mind blowing as the baby boomers leave the work force in ever increasing numbers.

If you don’t know this by now, let me break it to you, the right employees, are more critical then what you produce in your company. Without the right people, training, personality and motivation your company will suffer, regardless of the quality of the product or service you produce.

So, what do we do with this challenging situation?

These are a few things to consider as a solution to this situation:

  • Consider immigrants, either people recently arriving in our country or people who would love to move to this land of opportunity. Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) or Immigration Canada is a great place to start as they can direct you in how to begin the process.
  • Seek out the underrepresented in our country, woman, youth, minorities or disabled persons, whenever possible. It may appear to be more work initially, but you will find the work is worth it when you find a gem you did not expect. We have to get past the stereotypes and start opening our minds to the change that is hitting business like a tidal wave. 
  • Provide a good wage, a living wage, with great benefits, so a person can live a good, healthy life and raise a family, not just scrape by. As an owner, pay your people well, make sure they can go to the dentist when they need and have pensions when they eventually retire. Let’s start taking responsibility for the people who are the face of our company and they will take care of business.

I certainly, don’t pretend to have all the answers however, if this article helps you to think outside the box, a little bit, and find one new person or view your existing people a slightly more positive and progressive light, then I am happy and you are welcome.

by Dan Monk

Dan Monk is a Professional Engineer (P.Eng.), Red Seal Carpenter and the Owner of Monk Renovations.  Dan and the team at Monk Renovations can provide you with an outstanding home renovation experiences regardless of the size of your project. Twitter @monkrenovations Facebook & Instrgram @monkreno