Former HR Director
Vinci Construction UK
Engagement through change:reducing staff turnover and absenteeism
The construction industry is challenging, often experiencing high staff turnover, high absentee rates and poor engagement, with those figures spiking in a recession.
But when leading building firm VINCI Construction UK brought in People Insight to look at how engaged their employees were, the resulting change has created significant improvement in all of its people metrics. Indeed, three years on, the focus and direction for everyone is clear.
Colin Jellicoe, HR Director for Vinci, explains: “Our connection with People Insight began in 2010 and we have now done three surveys, although this is very much an ongoing relationship.
“I know of businesses who have embarked upon a survey but are so frightened by the results that they stick it in a drawer and do nothing about it. We knew that after all we’d been through, our results initially would be difficult to stomach. However we have used them as a real critical driver for change within the business and our engagement scores are on the way up.
“In terms of history, there were two very different cultures in evidence when we brought Taylor Woodrow and VINCI Construction UK together, we had to go collectively towards a new culture together.
“At the same time the industry fell into recession, and we had some people working on long-term projects and others on short-term contracts. When the recession forced us to make some drastic changes that had an impact on the everyday lives of staff, the changes were not readily accepted and staff members were vocal in their resistance. We had to do an awful lot to work through that.
“The recession was and remains tough for everyone, particularly businesses in construction. Available work dropped significantly and the market remains highly competitive and challenging.
“We needed to review benefits quickly and ensure that we were getting value for money across the board. Nothing was left untouched including highly emotive benefits such as the car policy, but we had to get the pain out of the way all in one go. There were lots of issues we needed to tackle, from compliance through to the reduction of staff numbers. It needed to be short and sharp and then we could come out of the other side with the emphasis on building the business back again.”
“One of the key things that became apparent was that we weren’t good as a business at training people how to manage other people. We had lots of great staff but often we were too quick to promote them to senior managers without giving them the management skills to go with it.”
The entire culture had to change. Says Colin; “we have put in place all manner of initiatives as a direct result of the feedback from our People Insight Team Survey. Our communication needed improving so we set up new employee consultations committees as well as road shows taking place throughout the year. We had stand still days on safety, and increased levels of community and charity engagement.
“It was clear that staff very much needed to feel they were being reviewed and developed so we have instigated leadership programmes and professional membership groups, as well as gaining Investors in People and Investors in Diversity across all our businesses.
“Through all this we now have an ethos and a culture which says we are doing this through people, not in spite of them. Our tagline is excellent people, excellent teams, excellent projects.
“It is not about cost it is about value. People Insight has given us focus and direction. They made it very easy for us to take small steps which had a big impact because sometimes it’s very difficult to see the wood for the trees.
“As a result we are a much more people focussed business than we were three years ago. This isn’t fluffy bunny stuff, it is about realising value through people.”
There are other impacts too, he points out. “Staff turnover has fallen and absence has gone down – two things we are very proud of – but the impact of these surveys is much greater than that. Everyone talks about these two things but while they’re important to us we are much more focused on driving change.
“Our industry is very competitive so one of the things we have in our armoury is the ability to get teams to compete against each other. When you’re in the heat of the battle, it’s clear to see a huge sense of engagement and achievement both individually and collectively.