Investing In Your Workforce For Long-Term Results
The price of knowledge
Some investments made within an organisation won’t show their value as a direct monetary return. In a modern setting, investing in your workforce must be done to create a currency of knowledge. Done effectively, this will show an increasing momentum and growth-oriented attitude in the people who ultimately create success for your organisation.
And this is a huge opportunity too. Your workforce’s effectiveness in ten or even twenty years greatly depends on how you invest in their knowledge and provide them with growing responsibility. Fulfilment plays a significant part in this. It is what differentiates going to work and wanting to work. Ideally, you are fostering great talent as much as you attract and retain it.
Built Form Advisory firms, above anything else, depend on the idea that the knowledge of their practitioners is maintained up to the minute. Therefore, their approach to work involves continued learning and agile practice – evolving with the changing nature of our buildings, cities and communities.
In ensuring our cities are future-proofed for safety and sustainability, there are several ways you can make a difference by fostering greater competency in your junior building practitioners. Equally, using their knowledge of emerging ideas and an agile working approach to give back to senior practitioners, as no profession is immune to innovation and modernisation.
Mentorship and reverse mentorship
Incorporating new and emerging employees into an organisation requires the support of colleagues and a supportive structure to be successful. A 2015 study in the Harvard Business Review surveyed that 84 per cent of employees who undergo formal mentoring become proficient in their roles faster, with almost 70 per cent making ‘more effective’ decisions.
Experience is considered the main currency in many workplaces, but sometimes this comes at the expense of new ideas from emerging professionals. Traditional hierarchies often fail to provide room for ‘field level’ talent to provide input and impact the team and the organisation more broadly.
The fact is that you must directly encourage opportunities to pass on experience and accelerate the development of new staff, but equally let them educate you on subjects in their domain, something which is frequently overlooked or forgotten.
Experience doesn’t trump all; new cadets and graduates bring a deep knowledge of technologies and digital systems that have been integrated into their learning and daily lives. This has provided significant ‘reverse mentoring’ and opportunities to influence overall business operations.
It’s a new step in maintaining modern literacy in our organisation as we continue to update the way we work and deliver new services. Hendry’s transition to an end-to-end digital service required that we first completed a digital overhaul of internal processes, an area in which the knowledge of younger practitioners was immediately valuable. The results have been clear. The currency of skills and knowledge has been the deciding factor in successfully delivering this change and creating new solutions for our clients through one channel.
Looking at this transition, Hendry’s Head of Operations Craig Humphries commented, ‘As we were incorporating digital technologies to replace old practices, many of the younger employees became involved as both a sort of tech support for their more senior peers and input advisors, providing their views on integration and which technologies are most suitable for our applications. They’ve very much grown up with this in their hands, so it was invaluable to have them involved.’
Every workplace has inescapable and repeated tasks, but we owe it to the development of our cadets to provide equal attention to developing their practical skills in both on-site and internal project work, to employ their knowledge and provide further development.
A 2016 study into workplace trends observed that 56 per cent of workplaces are investing more in training as 90 per cent anticipate a growing competition for talent, stressing the need to attract and retain talent through continued and supportive development.
Cadet surveyors, for example, may accompany senior surveyors to site visits and inspections, as they will be expected to do in future. This exposes them directly to the complexities of work in the field and greatly enhances their attention to crucial details.
‘With opportunities to attend site inspections, I have been equipped with the ability to identify issues in a practical sense on-site in a way that I otherwise would not have been equipped to do. This process is also providing the responsibility of liaising frequently with clients face to face, an area in which I will become more involved in future.’ – Joel Markovic: Cadet Building Surveyor
Making an impact
How would you show an employee their value to the organisation? First, we need to give them the agency to voice their ideas. This might mean including them in a meeting or discussing a task or project. Then, if you arrive at a promising idea, allow them to pursue it and detail what it will take to complete.
Involve other experts within your team to take the core idea and apply their expertise, evaluating feasibility and likelihood of success. Finally, if you press forward with their idea, it is encouraging to have a moment and show them how their involvement is valuable to the team.
‘Hendry has provided me with valuable and quality learning experiences that has hugely contributed to my career development. With their resources and mentorship program, I have had the opportunity to work on interesting projects both in the office and out on-site. I feel challenged every day and look forward to coming to work.’ – Linh Hoang: Cadet Building Surveyor
Enabling this diversity of thought, a by-product of an inherently diverse workforce ensures your organisation can directly outperform less diverse organisations by 35 per cent, enjoying up to 19 per cent higher revenue, according to McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group.
Every employee needs a certain time to get up to speed and fully flesh out their competencies in their role. But it is healthy to introduce new challenges to give them autonomy and create, through their discovery, the way a practitioner must think and give attention to their work.
Our structure provides every individual with a mentor above them, no matter where you sit in the organisation. For Hendry specifically, it has been the key to enabling a whole of business transformation and a successful shift towards providing an end-to-end digital service platform. This means everyone is also tasked with the responsibility of mentoring, which provides terrific working and operational benefits and helps build relationships and strong rapport.
We create smarter, safer and more sustainable buildings, cities and communities for all. Therefore, we must ensure this responsibility doesn’t lie in the hands of the few, or worse, lose this knowledge of practice and structure once they move on – it’s why we make developing the next generation of practitioners a key priority, as anyone must.