Do corporate bosses want lots of qualifications? Not necessarily. Many corporates are looking more for flexibility and a ‘go get ’em’ attitude in an applicant rather than a master’s degree in business management or suchlike.

Diversity and inclusion

BP New Zealand employs more than 2,000 people across New Zealand. Managing director Debi Boffa says they’re involved in everything from fuel distribution and airport operations to retail and corporate functions. 

“Diversity and inclusion are central to our staff culture,” she says. “Close to half of our executive leadership team is female and in our national office we have many mothers on our full-time staff who have stay-at-home partners. BP has an agile working policy that offers part-time hours and remote working, as well as flexible start and finish times.”

BP New Zealand’s operations offer career opportunities in corporate and retail roles.

“Employees are involved in developing strategies for our business, growing and designing our network, enhancing our latest app or enhancing the way we supply and distribute fuel. With us, staff could be working for BP, Castrol or Air BP,” says Boffa.

BP looks for a number of skills from new employees: a customer service focus; a can-do attitude; great time management skills; and the ability to multitask in a busy setting. They should also be team players, keen problem solvers, adaptable, and able to look at things creatively. 

Attitude and aptitude

Neale Overend has owned and run Computer Recyclers in Tauranga since 1996. He and his staff recycle old laptops and computers and resell them. He employs several staff at a time.

“They need to know the basics of computers, as in how a computer works, how the CPU talks to the RAM, and how the CPU talks to the hard drive. They need to know the basic stuff that they have learnt at a polytechnic. 

“They need to have a great deal of aptitude and be able to learn quickly and figure things out for themselves.”

He says he wants new employees to have “a good attitude” to working. 

“I take them on and take three weeks to figure out if they’re happy to be here and if they can do it. One lad I’d been told was a computer genius; after three weeks of training we gave him a basic box to diagnose and fix, and not for the life of him could he do it. 

“On the other hand, one of my best employees, who has worked for me for five years, has Asperger’s and has incredible attention to detail. He’s the kind of kid who since he was three was taking machinery apart and learning how to putting it back together. He can figure nearly any machine out – he’s amazing.”

New employees need only basic training via a diploma in computing, he says. 

“I don’t want them to have trained too much, because then I have to retrain them. I’d rather train them myself so then I know they’re doing it how I want it to be done. How you diagnose the problem is actually the time saver; anyone can fix the things.”

Overend says that the education system “provides the goods”, but the key to success for students doing the study and/or training is that they actually want to be doing that particular course.

“In 2007 I did the computer course that many of my employees have done. There was always a small number of kids who wagged a lot or yapped in class … the reality is that there are students there wasting other people’s time.”

Overend says training on the job should be a constant. “We all need to be keeping our knowledge up to date.”

Motivation and reliability

Glen Fitzjohn is the owner of a business that paints new builds in Papamoa. He has employed up to 10 painters at a time and currently employs two. 

“My three top requirements are motivation, reliability, and using their initiative. I’ve been really fortunate that I haven’t had many bad employees. 

“Skills-wise, they need to be able to prepare everything for painting, keep the job site clean, and do the painting. Some of my best workers haven’t had any qualifications. And sometimes employees with qualifications have been so far up their own arse they don’t think they have to toe the line.”

The first eight weeks on the job are an intensive training period, he says.

“You’re teaching them the basics of ‘what paint where, how, and when’. My best worker ever had his first job with me and came to me with no experience whatsoever. He was able to communicate with clients, was always reliable and eager to learn. I trained him and within eight weeks he was getting to the stage of doing it solo.”

The ability to communicate well with clients is key, he says.

“Most of our clients are great, but some can be picky and negative and have very high expectations. So staff have to be able to converse with a range of people and be professional at all times. Some clients have worked and saved for 20, maybe 50, years to buy these new homes. We need and want to do a good job for them.”

Fitzjohn says he notices that those employees who have responsibilities as part of a strong family unit often work harder. 

“My top employee had a hard upbringing; he just had this incredible self-motivation – he didn’t let anything faze him.”

Ongoing, on-the-job training is essential, he says. However, he adds, tighter margins are affecting his ability to expand the business and further develop his staff.

“Passing on knowledge from older painters to those starting out is so important. It’s just hard to do that when there are so many more rules and regulations to be followed, and more costs than there used to be in terms of health and safety and insurance, for example. 

“It’s changed how we do things. The money’s not flowing down from the top, which means the pay rate hasn’t increased but costs have. That means we’re tired.”

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