10 Jun Gearing up for busy times
The cyclical nature of Western Australia’s resource sector-led economy provides both opportunities and threats for small business.
For many product and service providers, it can be a struggle to keep up with stock, resourcing and skills requirements as demands wax and wane.
Typically, boom and bust cycles are relatively short-lived and major operators seek fast response times and turnaround from suppliers.
EPE Managing Director Peter Gardner says in such circumstances many supply-side businesses struggle to find skilled labour.
“When demand picks up, it picks up right across the industry meaning skilled workers often have the pick of a range of jobs all at once,” Peter said.
“Not only do smaller businesses often have trouble finding additional resources, but existing staff could be lured away by high-paying jobs with big companies.
“It’s an issue faced by a lot of small to medium-sized businesses – and with the mining sector picking up now it’s an issue that many are facing again.”
Over the decades, EPE has operated through multiple boom and bust cycles, navigating some with more success than others.
Peter says the benefit of experience has allowed the company to develop a range of strategies and work practices to ride out the tough times and to have the agility to act quickly when required.
“While it’s often difficult in small business to offer a comprehensive career path to everyone, we’ve found a lot of benefit for many reasons in upskilling and cross-skilling our staff,” he said.
“Firstly, it keeps them interested and motivated, but secondly, and more practically, it means we have people who can step into other areas of the business with minimal disruption if someone is sick, leaves or if we get temporarily busy in one area.
“It also means when permanent positions become available, there’s good opportunity to recruit internally, which minimizes disruption of onboarding.”
In addition, Peter says while small businesses may not be able to offer industry-leading rates of pay, focusing on staff development, extra perks or flexible working arrangements can go a long way.
“Although you may not be able to provide industry-leading wages, if everybody’s pitching in to deliver quality work then you can do things like offer bonuses on completion of a job, provide extra time off or allow staff to work shifts that fit in with family and other personal commitments,” he said.
“We’ve also sent staff at all levels in the business on training courses, supported them through various levels of education and offered apprenticeships to mature-age candidates looking for career changes.
“The outcome is they feel motivated and develop a strong sense of commitment to the business which results in quality work, job satisfaction and a lower rate of attrition.”
To address the upswing in the resources sector, and expected further growth in the future, EPE recently appointed two new staff members to bolster the team.
Metal fabrication apprentice Chris Brady and parts interpreter David Sargeson have joined in full-time roles, each bringing a range of valuable background experience.
“We’re already seeing a big increase in demand for both parts and custom fabrication, and adding these two guys to the team will ensure we are ready for further growth.”