2 Juken workers measuring wood with tape measurers.

Masterton-based JNL (Juken New Zealand) is one of the region’s largest workplaces. The team of 220 processes about 600 tonnes of logs a day for the domestic and international markets.

Highly aware of the difficulties of attracting talent and retaining staff, JNL mill general manager Karl Burling and his team have come up with initiatives that are proving beneficial for the company and employees alike. These include part-time shift work with school holidays off, an internal referral scheme, and a youth employment scheme.

1 Juken wokrer smiles for the camera while the other drives a forklift with large amounts of wood sheets on the forks.

Part-time initiative pays off

To entice part-timers, JNL ran seminars with its local Ministry of Social Development, targeting solo parents and other individuals on benefits.

Almost a year on, JNL has retained the 10 part-time staff it originally hired, and it’s a win-win for both parties.

“We’re rapt with how it’s turned out — they are all very motivated people who wanted to work and do something with their lives and get out of that benefit structure.

“We are also producing some of our high-value products again. These new people have come in, they’ve learnt to operate the machinery and are now putting out export orders we were behind in. It’s outstanding.”

“We’ve managed to hold on to some really, really good people, and one of the great things about working here is it’s like a big family, there are many family connections and we’re all one big community.”

Karl Burling, General Manager of JNL

Referral scheme successful

Another initiative is the internal referral scheme which engages staff to lure friends and into the business, with the staff members awarded for both referring and retention.

Almost 50 referrals have come in since the scheme was introduced 18 months ago. Most of the referrals have stayed.

So much so, there are grandparents working alongside their grandchildren, mothers and daughters, siblings, cousins, and fathers and sons — Karl’s own son even works at JNL.

There is also youth on apprenticeships, thanks to a partnership with Youth-to-Work Wairarapa.

“We want our youth to stay here, engage with their community, have their families and start businesses here, so placing school leavers and youth seeking work in fit-for-purpose businesses like ours is important.”

Juken worker holding clipboard and checking the quality of a stack of wood.

Flexibility promotes longevity

Understanding and respecting employees’ religious beliefs is also important to JNL, which has partnered with Red Cross to allow flexibility for refugee staff.

“We’ve made adjustments to their hours due to religious beliefs — Muslims can go to their mosque on a Friday and have their prayer sessions with the rest of their community.”

In today’s connected world and in a tough economic climate, Karl says it’s vital for businesses to let go of traditional work practices and think outside the square.

“You’ve got to respect and understand people and get them into something they can stick at — here we have a mantra that you can come and work here for life if you want to.”

Karl is a perfect example of that — he started on the factory floor 31 years ago and has worked his way up from operator to the site’s general manager.

“It’s the people that keep me here — I’ve got a great leadership group, some of them have come through the ranks like me. We’ve got a really, really, really good workforce, and we’ll do what we need to do to support them.”