CORPORATE philanthropy may not be immediately good for the bottom line but it keeps the staff happy, says J Corp director Julian Walter.Mr Walter said his company’s involvement in this year’s Telethon Home had been a good boost for his staff.“We threw it to the staff as their own project,” he said. “A lot of them are contributing their own time off their own bat.”The majority of the company’s philanthropic works, however, are in the country.“I think philanthropy, at the end of the day, does come back and give you something – especially in the country,” Mr Walter said.“When we went into the country areas it made more sense to us to build a shade area for the local kindergarten than to plough those funds into advertising.”However, any monies donated must go to an organisation in which a J Corp staff member is involved.Challenge Bank has instituted a similar program, matching each dollar a staff member puts into a charity.“I think philanthropy rounds out the employer-staff relationship,” Mr Walter said. “It helps with staff development.“We work on a policy of employing people who are very good or have a vision and goals. We’re finding now that what we do to assist people achieve their goals helps our success.“We’ve started to bring in speakers every three months to help staff set goals.”J Corp runs six monthly staff reviews and at each review, the staff member is asked his or her vision for the next six months and the next five years.“We’ve spent time developing our staff and encouraging the staff to develop themselves,” Mr Walter said. “The saddest time is when we lose a staff member to someone else – but many come back.”Technology is helping J Corp to retain some of its staff, especially those going on extended holidays or women leaving to have families.“We set up drafting offices for a lot of women at home so they can work from there,” Mr Walter said.“It’s the same with guys who are travelling. We can set them a task and they can work on it wherever they are and email us back the results.“We’re extending that to work with the estimating and scheduling area. It’s a combination of technology and an old fashioned industry working well together.”Mr Walter said the building industry was suffering a staff shortage – partly due to the jump in activity in the sector.“The industry had been climbing slowly but now realisation of the GST has put a rocket under the whole thing,” he said.“Our weekly turnover is exceeding the boom of five to six years ago.”However, the skills shortage in the building industry had been there for some time.“The industry is not good at attracting young kids anymore,” Mr Walter said. “Building is always seen as a blue collar occupation.“Yet we have 300 staff in our office – estimators, schedulers and draftspeople – all white collar jobs. This is something, vocationally, the industry will have to address.”
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