Marion Forbes

Marion Forbes

Given the current skills shortages in the construction sector, Marion Forbes outlines the key steps Mactaggart & Mickel Homes has taken to improve the recruitment and retention of staff.

The latest official employment figures for Scotland reveal a 4.7% drop in unemployment compared to the same period last year, with 88,000 more people in work compared to the pre-recession peak.

As the HR director of a successful housebuilder and developer, keeping an eye on employment trends is a key part of my role in ensuring that we recruit the best people, particularly in construction.

But just as important is how we engage the best talent in the business.

Most of us have come across organisations that talk about ‘valuing employees’ and the importance of ‘engagement’. But too often the discussion remains in the boardroom, however well intentioned.

This is surprising given that productivity levels in Britain are lower than in other developed western nations.

Tackling this issue is a complex one and there is no quick fix, but I believe that investing in a consistent programme of engagement and communication – something that values employees as human beings first and foremost – is at least part of the solution.

Why value and engage? Well, higher productivity for one, but it’s also about attracting the best talent in the first place. The best recruitment strategies focus on your ‘employer brand’ and the values that underpin this. For existing employees, engagement is about putting measures in place so that people want to do the best job they can. And if they flourish, so does your business.

Many of us remember the economic crash not so long ago. This slowdown prompted a realisation that Mactaggart & Mickel had to diversify, become more than a housebuilder. We took a long hard look at all aspects of our business.

A key finding was that communication could be better, so we began to consider the wider aspects of communication and its role in driving engagement. A first step was inviting colleagues working at all levels across the business to come up with ideas on how we could, collectively, improve.

That was several years ago and we have made good progress. The average length of service at Mactaggart & Mickel is 11 years. I’m proud of that figure – both as a director of a family-run organisation that genuinely cares about its colleagues, but also as a director of a successful company that wishes to continue to prosper.

But we are not resting on our laurels. We have just launched a new initiative to bring together everything we do to support and develop our people. It’s called Mactaggart & Mickel & YOU.

We chose the name carefully to highlight the importance we place on supporting, developing and caring for our colleagues to achieve their professional and personal goals. This is not just a great result for the individual, but also good for the company as we know from experience that supporting our people produces better company outcomes.

Our aim is to demonstrate the value we place on each member within the Mactaggart & Mickel ‘family’. We do our utmost to recruit the best people and we know they have a choice of where to work. We want them to choose us.

Mactaggart & Mickel & YOU covers four key areas; supporting staff not only in their career development but also to be happy and healthy; keeping them safe; ensuring mutual respect for customers and colleagues, and rewarding exceptional performance and commitment.

I’m not saying it’s easy, nor it is it cost-free, but here’s the thing: an effective engagement programme will start to show results within 12-18 months, especially when you compare the financial investment of the programme with the considerable cost of recruiting and training new staff. Far better to keep talented, dedicated people working for you, not the competition.

Today, our engagement programme is seen as part and parcel of the future success of the business, just as health screenings are good for the wellbeing of our employees. It’s no coincidence that we talk about the ‘MacMic family’. Because, when it comes down to it, it’s really all about showing that you care.