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The Trusts take another in people and culture


The Trusts are setting a high standard in the recruitment and retention of staff in retail and hospitality in New Zealand by discarding conventional recruitment methods and starting again with an (almost) unique approach that is designed specifically for this organisation.

Instead of a general system that virtually any organisation can use The Trusts’ Manager of People and Culture Martha Gibbons and Leesa Irving (founder of employment innovators Above and Beyond) are implementing a system designed to find an exact match between applicants and the specific values of the organisation. The long term aim is to find the people whose personality will enable them to adopt The Trusts’ social and commercial values, and then contribute at any level, while growing through the organisation, to the very top of their field if that is their goal.

Such people are very likely to pursue their careers, or a very large part of them, at The Trusts becoming the “engineers in the engine room of success.” They are people who will not need an external reason to live the values, because they will align with their own.

While some in the hospitality industry have adopted a similar approach, Leesa says The Trusts are the first retailer of any type that she knows of in New Zealand who are going down this route.

But, isn’t that what The Trusts have been doing for some time already?

“That was our intention,” says Martha. “We have come a long way in recent years but when we looked critically at our systems, we realised there was much more we could do and more we could do better,” says Martha.

“So we ‘peeled the onion’ right back and looked at what we were doing, layer by layer; from the accuracy of the position descriptions, our interviewing techniques, our ‘on-boarding’ processes, induction, training, matching people to the tasks, and so on.

What we saw was that we simply weren’t set up to attract the right people nor able to provide them with the best tools to reach their full potential, and when people can’t reach their potential, nor can The Trusts,” she says.

Traditionally organisations either ‘make’ the staff they need or ‘buy’ them ready-made from school, tertiary or another employer. The objective of the new cutting edge systems at The Trusts, says Leesa, is to ‘make’ all the people the organisation needs by growing their people from within.

“If we get that right we may never, for example, have to hire another duty manager from outside because we will have a ready supply of people with the personality, potential and skills ready to step up. Of course, when people realise the company is going to look after them and foster their career long term, they in turn, commit themselves to the organisation,” Martha says.

What is emerging is one seamless package that will recruit the right people and nurture their own ambition and desire to succeed within the one organisation, leveraging their own skills and aptitude and engagement with The Trusts’ values.

Position descriptions are now being very closely defined and a skills matrix has been specially designed to guide the process of interviewing candidates. It will enable interviewers to ask exactly the right questions to bring them to an accurate understanding of how well an applicant aligns with The Trusts “three pillars for success”. These are: profitability, acceptability to the public of West Auckland, and staff engagement with what the organisation is trying to achieve and being committed to play their part.

The new system Leesa and Martha are creating looks first and very precisely at the nature of the positions that are to be filled and then at identifying the personality profile of the applicant most likely to succeed in the position. They will be looking initially at the person behind the skill-set. This is because a person with a skill-set but not the personality, will always be a square peg in a round hole. Conversely, the person with the attitude and aptitude who aligns with The Trusts’ values, will always be ‘right for the job’. To complement that they can add any skills they don’t already have. Bringing personality and skill together creates fully-rounded, fully-engaged employees, committed to being customer focussed and able to move anywhere in the company, taking and spreading their positive attitudes with them as they move through the company.

“In the retail shops for example, we don’t want order takers,” says Martha. “We want people who can connect with the customer and use their personality and product knowledge to assist the customer to leave the store feeling that they’ve had a rewarding experience. We want people who will take pride in creating that. If creating that experience makes them feel good about themselves they will feel good about the organisation that trains, encourages and empowers them.

“Order takers can’t deliver that and will have limited opportunities to rise in the company. The person with a customer focussed personality will.”

Martha and Leesa also see The Trusts as being sufficiently large and diverse that it can offer almost endless opportunities for staff to grow as individuals and experts in their field. For example, a Retail Assistant could realistically expect to be able to run their own site one day, learning all the necessary skills whilst working with The Trusts.

Along the way, these staff will acquire nationally recognised qualifications that will win them jobs anywhere. That is assuming they ever want to leave The Trusts.

As a further refinement, says Leesa, they are seeking the people who will become the ‘champions of change’, or as Leesa calls them, ‘Aces in places’. These are people who by their own example will encourage the staff around them to see that ‘they are the company’. They have a valuable place in the organisation and what they do makes a difference and contributes to their own success and that of everyone around them and ultimately the organisation as a whole.

Identifying “Aces in places” can also be defined another way; finding people with a particular skill and attitude that is ideal for training others. Leesa cites one staff member who would not ordinarily be seen as a likely leader, but who had developed exactly the right attitude and skills to serve a particular area of business and as a result was ideal for training other people in that area. The potential negative could be turned into a highly successful positive.

Engagement is probably the fundamental for success and the slogan that dominates the white board in Martha’s office as this cutting edge process unrolls is ‘Educate, engage, empower’.

The Trusts are already recognised internationally by the Dale Carnegie organisation as an organisation committed to the development of their staff. This is another huge step up and once again, the West Auckland community, which owns The Trusts, will reap the benefits.