Putting people first

on 26 January, 2016

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Though I can’t claim credit for these words (that goes to Richard Branson), he might as well have taken his words from the Alsford Timber rulebook.

In the 130 years plus that we’ve been trading for, looking after our people has been our top priority. As a result, we’ve benefited from a loyal, happy and productive workforce, and established a reputation for excellence in our field.

There are many things that help to make an employee happy – pay, benefits, environment, etc. all play their part. But the importance of training must not be overlooked. There are huge rewards to be gained from training in terms of morale, job satisfaction, loyalty and, ultimately, commercial success.

Of course, the practical value of training shouldn’t be underplayed. We’re extremely proud to be known as the ‘Timber Experts’, with each and every one of our employees able to provide expert advice on how, where and when to use our products. This is only possible because of the regular and rigorous training that all of our staff undertake – right through from the managing director to our apprentices. In this way, training is integral to our brand.

The method of training is as important to a happy workforce as the deliverables. I believe that whenever possible, training should be delivered to different levels of staff at the same time – something we strive to do at our own training academy. This creates a shared sense of responsibility and mutual respect; there’s no “us and them”, just different people with different roles.

Training shouldn’t be just about ensuring a sufficiently skilled workforce at a frozen moment in time. A well-planned, well-delivered training programme is hugely beneficial to succession planning for any business (promoting internally is cheaper, more seamless and lower risk), with the added bonus that it goes a long way to engendering staff happiness and loyalty. Investing in training beyond what is needed for a person to fulfill their current role demonstrates your commitment to that employee, and shows that you’re interested in their career over the long term - it makes them feel appreciated. And if a person is appreciated, they’re going to do things with a smile: a happy employee makes a happy customer and ultimately makes a happy shareholder.

Emma Lovett is marketing executive at Alsford Timber.

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