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Our time in the sun: Dynamic infrastructure development

Last week Slade Group hosted Mark Bartoli – Founding Director, ATEC Solutions along with other Civil Infrastructure Construction & Engineering Leaders for a boardroom lunch.  Up for discussion were the next wave of mega projects, renewables and energy security, skill shortages and innovation.  There was great conversation and perspectives around the table with leaders from rail, road, water and energy, all contributing.

We started with the Treasury’s budget allocation; 84% of it on an “Infrastructure Blitz”, with only six percent and seven percent allocated to Healthcare and Education respectively. 

  • Has the government weighted that correctly?  
  • Is enough of this investment being spent on regional development to encourage a decentralised CBD approach?  
  • The $100 billion to be invested in Australia’s infrastructure over the next 10 years is excellent news for Construction and Engineering sector, HOWEVER,
  • Wage growth and consumer spending have confoundingly continued to stagnate. 

The conversation moved on to Renewable Energy.  Consensus is that this should be championed by Australia, as our vast land mass relative to population size provides the opportunity to make excess energy to sell to foreign countries.  With 21% of electricity being generated by renewables last year in Australia, there were questions including:

  • Has there been a big enough shift in general sentiment towards renewable energy?
  • Should Australia be looking to create huge off-shore wind farms? 

One problem with wind and solar is that the power system in Victoria was not designed for non-synchronous generation.  In layman’s terms, as the power produced by wind and solar is irregular, this can weaken the strength of the local area and have knock-on effects for the whole power system.  One way of stabilising this is through Pumped Hydro and with work commenced on Snowy 2.0, and the Australian government identifying other areas for Hydro Generators, it looks as though this sector will show strong growth over the coming years.

A huge topic of conversation for anyone in the infrastructure sector at the moment is skill shortages.  With massive infrastructure projects in play across Australia means we simply don’t have enough engineers for all the projects.  Questions raised:

  • Can Australia attract engineers from overseas?
  • Are there enough visas for overseas engineers to move here?
  • How can we assist them in adapting to new cultures and working environments? 
  • Should the governments, both federal and state, take more responsibility for forward planning of these infrastructure investments to avoid the current skills shortages being experienced?

Many are seeing an increase in a contingent workforce, but the drive is actually from Generation X’ers, who can now contract themselves out to various companies not only bringing financial reward but allowing them to work on a multitude of projects without being tied down to a single employer.

The overarching theme throughout all the different topics was policy.  Too much policy seems either outdated, absent or having limited meaning, resulting in hindered investment in innovation and talented engineers becoming frustrated with unreasonable constraints.  Policy needs to be changed to encourage the current and next generation of engineers to improve quality of life, enhance the efficiency of infrastructure and create new industries.

If you’d like to hear more, please give me a call or, continue the conversation by posting a comment on this blog or feel free to send through a question for me to refer on to Mark Bartoli.

If you would like to be a facilitator at one of our Slade Group quarterly boardroom lunches please contact me directly, details below.

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6 savvy Employee Retention strategies

The world of construction and engineering in Melbourne is booming, which means skilled professionals are in high demand. And in turn, they’re always being tapped on the shoulder by people like me telling them there’s a better opportunity elsewhere. The truth is, there usually is. 

With companies desperate to employ good people, they often over pay and price out the person’s current employer. Other factors play into why people move, but if you were offered a 25%+ pay increase, I’m sure you would find it hard (as I would) not to take it.

I think people entering the workforce now look at employment as a lifestyle rather than a job. It’s not enough to be financially rewarded for their work, they want to learn new skills, make new friends, have fun and experience fulfillment whilst being environmentally sustainable! So that’s what employers have to give them, if they want the person to stay at the company for many years.

So how can employers retain talent?

  1. Obviously remunerating the employee in line with the current market, which usually means a pay increase. Ask yourself what you’d be prepared to pay to replace your best employees and then give that amount to them before they look elsewhere. 
  2. Develop a years of service/rewards program that motivates your workforce to stay on with the company. 
  3. Provide your employees with challenges and make sure they experience different opportunities at work to prevent them seeing their work as ‘just a job’. 
  4. Offer flexible working arrangements. Numerous studies have shown employees are more productive and engaged when able to balance work with other aspects of their lives.
  5. The best thing you could do for the person and your company is to train them. Give them access to different learning courses. Reward them for achieving a new certificate or qualification. Not only will it benefit them personally, but your business will gain from the added knowledge. 
  6. Talk to your employees. Ask them what they want to do, what they want to achieve. Ask them if they’re happy in their current role. And if they’re not, discuss the possibility of a change in role and see if your business can provide a new career pathway.

Your people are your biggest asset (not your clients or your projects), they’ll spend more time working for you than doing anything else.

What’s working for you in your world @work?

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Money can’t buy you happiness, but flexible working can.

Flexibility now ranks top amongst what’s important to employees (even more than pay), but what does it mean in practice?

Flexible working arrangements can come in many forms. For some people being flexible will mean compressing a five day week into four days; for others it will just be having a long lunch break to fit in a gym session. For many it is just being trusted to get the job done in the timeframe required, no matter where or when you do so. Trust people to do their job and more often than not, they will repay by putting in greater effort whilst working.

For employers, the tangible benefits of workplace flexibility include: reduction in absenteeism, increase in employee morale, higher engagement, greater commitment and improved retention. In fact over 55% of millennials are expected to stay more than five years when given more flexibility at work [Deloitte Millennials Survey]. However there are downsides to promoting some aspects of flexibility, such as working from home. When people are not present in the office it can impact the social aspect of working face-to-face in a team. Despite our connected business world, working remotely online can lead to disconnection or even loneliness. Roles that require regular open and collaborative communication can also be frustrated by flexible working.  A lot of managers report finding it hard to adapt to managing people who they can’t see, which means we still need to work on addressing those concerns.

On the upside, allowing employees to work flexibly can have a massive impact on people’s health. Stress is well-known to be one of the biggest causes of illness, leading to a number of other physical health related problems. For those of us who never seem to have personal time, flexible working hours reduce the stress caused by other pressures in life, allowing us to adapt our schedules to accommodate commitments such as family, sports activities, other hobbies and interests or just get a few chores done. It further relieves pressure on transport infrastructure, saving commuting time, which has environmental and health benefits for those travelling as well.

A major downside to flexible working is that it doesn’t suit everyone, nor every job. Flexible working doesn’t work for people who can’t motivate themselves; some people need supervision to get on with the job. With flexibility comes responsibility, so while there’s no harm in putting on a load of washing while you work, other distractions (your phone, social media, online shopping, what’s going on outside…) are still present. Some managers are still beholden to presenteeism, so if you’re not seen, you may be overlooked to contribute on interesting projects or miss out on career development opportunities.

I understand that flexible working isn’t for everyone and some jobs just aren’t that flexible. But I do think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and more people should be given flexible working opportunities. Would anyone begrudge that spending a few more hours each week with their families and friends, enjoying hobbies, reading, exercising and travelling wouldn’t have a positive impact on their professional life? To varying degrees it’s already happening in some industries. It’s up to us to make it work.

 

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work