Every project has its challenges. So what do you do when you need to recruit a whole new team for the job?
Ideally, new recruits are integrated into existing teams that can guide and support them to quickly learn about the business, its systems and its culture. What happens when the timing of projects and staff availability doesn't allow this process? It's a situation most would avoid. But it's precisely what happened when Hansen Yuncken was awarded the University of Sunshine Coast (USC) Foundation Building contract where around 80% of the project team were new to the business.
Over the last 10 years, there has been a massive shift towards recognising the value that soft skills, attitudes, and behaviours can bring to a team. Hansen Yuncken's strategy to become the employer of choice acknowledges this shift, and the results are paying off. They built a new team for the USC project that became the cornerstone to successfully delivering an ambitious project that many believed could not be built.
Building teams with a culture of trust and teamwork takes time. To do it right, you need to balance skills and expertise with personality so that the dynamic between each person supports and reflects what your business stands for. Aligning attitudes and behaviours is even more critical when you have to build a team from the ground up.
"Everyone needs to be on the same page and respectful. It's not about ego, 'chest-beating' or saying you're the best. We built a team without hidden agendas where people own their work, whether things go sour or well," says Justin McGrath, Senior Project Manager. "You know you've got it right when clients and subcontractors all recognise and comment on the culture you set out to develop."
While selecting new personnel with the right values, experience, skills, capabilities and behaviours are important, a big part of Hansen Yuncken's success comes down to recruiting good leaders. Hiring the wrong person when you have time or budget constraints can be detrimental to a project and a business.
"At Hansen Yuncken, we would much rather wait and make sure we get the right person for the business.," says Naomi Walton, Hansen Yuncken's QLD HR Advisor. "We are wholeheartedly a services business selling the ability and expertise of our people – they are our core and why quality is our priority."
Building high performance teams start with great leaders
A lot of work goes into selecting leaders that embody the brand and culture of Hansen Yuncken. Senior leaders work closely with recruitment to proactively source quality candidates, focusing heavily on feedback and recommendations from trusted sources. To get the job, candidates had to demonstrate in interviews that their attitude and behaviours aligned with the business.
Great project managers lead rather than direct people. There needs to be a strong sense of accountability driven from the top. On the Foundation Building project, each individual's goals were linked directly to milestones across the programme critical to handing over the building on time. Every month, leaders reviewed their performance, including outcomes in our monthly report to the client.
Regular communication and engagement are also vital to project success. Leaders walked the job site daily, and the team met at least once a week to make sure everyone was on top of their tasks. Everyone was encouraged to ask questions and challenge each other.
As a business, we strive to ensure that all new employees to Hansen Yuncken have all the tools, the support, information and training required to be successful in their role. The state Operations, HR, and HSE managers regularly visited the site to check-in and assist the team and employees with their individual needs, challenges and goals.
"Success for me is watching my team grow, evolve, learn and get exposed to different things so that each person walks away thinking they are better at their job than they were when they started, regardless of their role or experience level," says Justin McGrath.
Hansen Yuncken's peer support system pairs recruits with existing staff from other projects who regularly contact each other via phone and email. The system offers recruits an additional avenue for information and support outside of their manager, project team members and HR. "We find this to be an effective approach in ensuring teams feel supported and valued across all our projects," says Naomi Walton.
Many recruits came from projects that had not gone well, so there were plenty of lessons to share. Being encouraged to be open and honest allowed everyone to learn different ways to approach challenges and helped to identify inefficiencies or opportunities they may have otherwise missed.
By the end, this brand new team had developed a strong dynamic and bond that was supportive when times were tough, and eager to celebrate the wins as they came. In addition to reward and recognition programs during construction, HY excellence awards rewarded teamwork and good team culture.
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