Industry Leaders Forum: Sarah McBride, BSCNZ

Sarah McBride, CEO, Building Service Contractors Association of New Zealand (BSCNZ)

How was 2021 for the BSCNZ?

There are silver linings to everything in life, and once again, over the past 12 months we can be grateful that we are in an industry that can continue to function. Not just function, but also assist our communities to control COVID-19.

BSCNZ members reported in 2021 that Thank Your Cleaner Day was acknowledged by more customers than in previous years. Even the Prime Minister took the time to create a message for cleaners on this special day!

During 2021, BSCNZ continued to advocate and work with MBIE policy advisors, relevant ministers, the Labour Inspectorate, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, industry training organisations, and union on behalf of its members.

We are in an ever-changing environment and BSCNZ plays an important role to ensure the voice of the commercial cleaning industry is heard.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the industry in 2022?

According to the Institute of Directors sentiment survey 2021, boards have noted finding talent and retaining talent will be the biggest challenge of 2022. Eighty-eight per cent of directors have discussed strategic talent related issues and risks, such as employee engagement, performance, and retention.

Fifty-seven per cent of directors said labour quality and capability is one of the biggest impediments to national economic performance, up from 32 per cent in 2020.

MSD have reported there are currently 100,000 jobs advertised online. Three quarters of these are described as ‘entry level’. As borders remain closed every employer is feeling the pressure.

The issue of labour shortages leaves us looking within Aotearoa for the solution. I believe a key solution is to engage youth effectively and sustainably.

Each year 60,000 youth graduate from high school. Lockdowns have meant that many have missed out on career expos and gateway training. It is of great concern to the government these youth often leave the education system with no idea what they will do next.

Due to the pandemic these youth of the past two years are described as the ‘lost youth’.  As an industry we can offer entry level employment, qualifications specialising in commercial cleaning, and a career pathway to a vast number of varied roles.

How can the industry engage, recruit, and retain staff in 2022?

Employment statistics tell us 80 per cent of the jobs filled by youth are through networking. The most used online platforms used by youth today are Instagram and Tik-Tok, followed by Facebook.

Employers need to recognise their recruitment strategy has to be widespread. Video is also king – short 20 second videos will gain attention.

Majority of youth are incredibly connected to the world; they care about the environment. Youth are very attracted to workplaces where they feel they are contributing to the community and the environment.

Youth need reassurance that they will be trained. Fear of failure will often be the reason why youth don’t turn up to their first day, knowing they will be trained alleviates this stress.

They want to know there is a career pathway, they want to understand any short-term gains, this will encourage them to stick around. Talk to them about the official quals and what this can mean for their long-term career. Choose a trainer that understands that they are to engage with youth and treat them in a way that will retain them.

Youth need to know that they will be part of a team with the possibility of making friends. Another important employment offering is to be flexible; youth are often trying to balance study and family commitments.

What will be the BSCNZ’s priorities in 2022?

MSD is launching a campaign to reach these ‘lost youth’. On behalf of our employers BSCNZ will continue to work with MSD.

This year Thank Your Cleaner Day will be held on Wednesday 19 October. We encourage our industry and our customers to get involved.

The BSCNZ will continue to work together to support our members in the coming year. We can all see that this pandemic is far from over, our industry will continue to play a crucial role. We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members to ensure the important voice of our industry is heard.

What advice do you have for other leaders in the cleaning industry?

Just as the word implies “lead”, our people need a positive outlook more than ever before.

Being an effective leader means treating people with respect and giving them a reason why they should work and stay with your business. As we face another round of COVID, we must continue to be creative and agile.

In the words of BSCNZ national president Paul Emery, recent events and our new environment has presented many challenges, one of the most significant is the increased difficulties most companies are having finding staff to fill vacant positions within the cleaning industry.

We need to find new ways to engage with our cleaning employees. Focus on training and creating new career paths for younger people is one way to build a workforce from within your business.

Where possible, rotation of routines and even moving staff around different sites can increase job satisfaction and provide a more interesting work environment for employees to continuing to work in our industry. We need more flexibility in our employment relations.

We must continue to convince government that their proposal to change labour market relations through Fair Pay agreements is a step backwards and there is no empirical evidence that it will provide a more stable work environment that is more productive.

This first appeared in the February issue of INCLEAN NZ magazine. 

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