In 2014, Network Rail were reclassified as a public sector organisation and with it, a determination to re-evaluate their internal culture.
The difference in cultures between most public and private sector companies is vast, with public bodies typically adopting a more traditional and hierarchical approach while private companies have greater freedom to be flexible. Ask anyone who has made the switch from one to the other and they will tell you there is a considerable transition period.
This is borne out at Network Rail; since it joined the public sector in 2014 only 4 of 11 of their executive committee have been in post, with all the other exec posts having changed over. The same level of change at the top often occurs in companies when they become part of a plc through acquisition or a major project moves from development into construction delivery, when the focus and culture changes, there will be a corresponding change in staff as a result.
At the time of Network Rail’s impending switch to the public sector, David Higgins (then CEO) stated “My experience working in four different continents and 10 different countries has shown that the best performing, most resilient organisations are the ones that are open, inclusive and willing to challenge. This must be at the very heart of everything we do.”*
One of the first questions we are asked by candidates when we approach them is “what’s the culture of the company like?” The answer can speak volumes and significantly affect their level of interest in the opportunity. Coaching your company’s main interviewers to be ready for this question with a genuine, well-thought out answer can be a good differentiator when recruiting.
A positive internal culture, will result in a more engaged and productive workforce. With the right workplace culture, your staff will want to come to work each day. This in turn helps recruit top talent; if all your staff are positive ambassadors about how great the company is it rubs off on the potential talent pool.
So what does your culture say about you?
A recent study** shows that in this increasingly digital age, the need for a step away from the traditional structured workplace culture has never been more important. Over half of UK workers feel that a rigid culture is holding them back from reaching their full potential, with 53% warning they would consider looking elsewhere unless their organisation changes.
When asked how they’d like to change their company culture, the top answer was more freedom and flexibility (35%) followed by more innovation and creativity (32%). Three quarters of employees say they would like more freedom at work.***
As the world moves further online, creativity and innovation is moving to the forefront of every companies agendas. Likewise, the internal culture should be adapting with it if you want to attract and retain innovative candidates to your senior roles.
While it is easy to say, that the companies of the future will all have bean bag chairs and slides à la Google, in reality this isn’t realistic. Particularly within the transport and infrastructure sectors which don’t have Google’s 26% profit margin. It isn’t a reasonable suggestion that a Construction Director on a multi-million pound major project can work flexible hours to fit in around their ping pong tournament back at head office.
This is even truer for public sector organisations where bureaucracy is unavoidable and necessary to a certain extent. Decisions can’t be made without higher approval as organisations are accountable to the public and must adhere to stricter levels of process. This will inevitably hinder innovation and spontaneity.
Clearly though, if transport and infrastructure companies are to remain competitive, some changes do need to be adopted and these changes need to come from the top.
Some potential quick wins that we see top employers in the sector focusing on include;
- Flexible working practices around home working. Having the right IT set-up to enable this to work well is often overlooked.
- Proactive talent management – moving good people around the organisation to provide a breadth of career opportunities, rather than looking at talent in silos.
- Meritocracy – promoting on ability not length of service. This is particularly important within some engineering based companies that have traditionally promoted on years of experience in the past.
- Recognition – recognising good performance publicly within the company and rewarding it through a bonus scheme.
- Transparency – regular, open and honest dialogue with all employees on the company’s future objectives and progress, particularly during periods of uncertainty. The transport and infrastructure sectors are always at risk from political change, by ensuring employees hear about major changes first from management, rather than via the industry press, can help retention significantly.
- Diversity – actively encouraging diversity within company.
- Focus on Culture Fit – by placing significant importance on the team fit and career motivations when recruiting, rather than solely on the skills fit, helps to continually improve the longevity of new recruits.
You’ve worked hard to attract and retain the best talent in the industry, so make use of them! Rome wasn’t built in a day and likewise a culture can’t be built or changed overnight. But in order to stay ahead of the game, it’s important to listen to what your employees want from a workplace and embrace an open working environment.
To discuss how we can help you find the most innovative and creative executive minds in the transport and infrastructure sectors click HERE