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02/07/18

There is the belief that when an employee leaves a company it’s because they’re unhappy. While this may be true some of the time, more often people leave for other reasons such as a more senior position, a better salary or an opportunity to work with an emerging technology.

This is especially true in senior positions where there may be limited opportunities to move up within an organization. So the question is, when there’s a vacancy and you know exactly who could be right for the job, do you hire them back?

There are several benefits to hiring back someone who’s worked in the company before, provided they have a strong work history and left on good terms.

There is the obvious factor that they already know the company, its structure and policies and will be able to hit the ground running, so as to speak. However, the real benefit is in the knowledge and experience gained outside of the company, because this can bring in a fresh perspective and new knowledge.

They may have worked in another sector in the industry or even a related industry and been exposed to emerging technologies or different methodologies. There is the possibility that they could have working knowledge of new systems or technologies and be able to implement these to improve operational efficiency.

Why would they come back?
If you want to lure a past employee back, it can’t just be about the benefits for the company. There needs to be something that makes it worthwhile for the employee too that goes beyond the salary package.

Will there be learning opportunities for them? Will they be stimulated enough by their responsibilities and scope of work? Just because someone can do a job, doesn’t necessarily mean they want to do the job, especially if it’s something they’ve done for years. There needs to be something more, and it’s important to find out what that “more” might be for the individual.

Additionally, while may be familiar with the culture and policies, they may not have liked them. Has the culture changed? Have things improved? Or will they have the authority to implement the changes they deem are necessary?

Bottom line is that re-hiring can be very effective, especially for senior positions. However, it needs to be worth it for both the company and candidate.
02/07/18

Leaders in the construction industry carry a great deal of responsibility. They work with £bn budgets, oversee projects that impact thousands of lives, and ultimately decide the success or failure of a project based on their decision making abilities and management skills. And given what’s at stake, failure shouldn’t be an option.

Yet the number of main contractor projects that are completed on time or on budget are few and far between. The reason cited is often unforeseen delays, issues in the supply chain or price increases in material costs. However, a good project manager uses his knowledge and experience to foresee problems and put policies and remedies in place to mitigate the risks. How do they get it right where so many others fail?

Traits of successful construction leaders
Research cites that traits common to successful leaders in construction include: Good communication skills; ability to get results; strategic vision; and a solid understanding of the business. Additionally the ability to listen and working with integrity is what inspires their teams to follows them.

While there are opportunities for leaders to move up the ranks in the construction industry, one of the largely untapped resources for top management exists in other sectors. With the tech industry becoming more involved in construction there is an opportunity for a transfer of skills, and this could prove to be just what the industry needs.

Using tech to support management
BIM has become an invaluable tool for construction leaders, helping them to manage costs and processes from the planning stages through to implementation. Leaders from other sectors who have a sound knowledge of BIM can use their expertise to make construction projects more efficient and ultimately more successful.
Surveying, modelling, and analytics technology can not only help to improve safety on construction sites, it is also introducing a new skill set into the industry. Robotics and drone technology are tipped to become the game changers in the next decade and construction leaders who understand the technology and how it can add value to projects will be the ones making the most impact in the industry.

Despite all the tools available to managers, it’s the ability to get results that will matter most, not just in terms of successful project implementation, but also ensuring that there’s a consistent future pipeline of work and most importantly, that shareholders are kept happy.

If you would like to discuss this article or have any future recruitment requirements to discuss then please give me a call on 020 7183 0255 or email: c.odonnell@ellisfox.co.uk
26/06/18


Driverless cars and intelligent transport systems are no longer the thing of dreams. While this technology has been talked about regarding the transport of the future for some time - that future is soon to become reality.

With global trends towards lowering emissions and incorporating artificial intelligence in infrastructure, there have been massive investments in electric and automated vehicles, and associated technologies. This is now driving developments to create the intelligent infrastructure needed to support them.

Will the UK lead the way?
Reports are that the UK Government aims to be at the forefront of technology with regards to developing industry and infrastructure. But to do that they need to find solutions to managing an aging society, consider the future of mobility, find ways to incorporate Artificial Intelligence and data, all the while ensuring that whatever growth happens, is achieved through clean technologies that reduce effects on the climate and environment.

It is clear that to forge ahead, government will need to develop partnerships with key private sector companies and organisations that can contribute their skills, knowledge and technology to the process. Herein lies the opportunity for thought leaders to make their mark on the industry.

What is needed for future transport and infrastructure?
The number of commuters is increasing exponentially and developing efficient future transport facilities to meet this demand will need some innovative thinking. With more people on the roads and using rail, how does one increase capacity while maintaining and improving safety? And this safety not only relates to delivering commuters from A to B, but also health and environmental factors such as emissions, noise and air pollution.

Already there is a lot of development happening in the field of electric cars and automated transport systems with the aim of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and using instead cleaner renewable energy sources. Tech and engineering companies are finding ways to use data to make transport systems and facilities more efficient. Integration of smart systems and Artificial Intelligence is the way of the future.

Driverless cars and car chains are proposed as one of the solutions, however, there are concerns over safety and how these systems will be managed. Innovation will be required to come up with solutions that not only meet commuter’s needs but also ensure transportation remains safe and efficient no matter what route it takes.
26/06/18


It’s a well-known saying that you pay what you get for intimating that cheapest is not always the best. Yet despite several leading industry opinions to the contrary and several reports to back them up, lowest cost tendering still seems to dominate the landscape for main contractors.

While there are calls for better processes, in the foreseeable future nothing appears to be changing, how many more wake up calls does the industry need before things actually start to change?

Lowest cost carries a heavy price
Grenfell brought to light the very tragic consequences lowest cost tendering can have. When contracts are awarded on skin and bones budgets and costs increase during construction – as they invariably do – then costs are managed in other ways, compromising either the safety of the construction process or the actual site, costing lives.

Lowest cost tendering is cited as one of main factors that lead to Carilion’s collapse, and that their strategy of undercutting to win the tenders, in the end was their undoing. As one of the UK’s largest main contractors it’s left a gaping hole in the industry. Despite other companies tendering to take over contracts, projects stand half completed for now with an almost guaranteed budget increase if they are to be completed. On top of that, for some projects funding has been lost, leaving them in an uncertain limbo.

Smarter spending, better management
It seems that there is an overriding fear that if tenders are not awarded on lowest cost basis then it opens the door for bribery and corruption in the public sector. To back this up the John Poulson bribery incident of 1974 is cited. However, lowest cost is not the only mechanism that can drive smarter spending efficiency and it’s time for authorities to realise that party policy shouldn’t dictate how contracts are awarded.

BIM for example, provides tools to improve cost efficiencies from the planning right through to the implementation phases. Surveying technology too contributes to more efficient site works and can help ensure work is carried out efficiently. Drone technology can be used to inspect sites and pick up deviations from plans before the project gets too far along, helping to reduce the costs of correcting back to plan.

Rather than narrowing down the focus to the bottom line, perhaps those awarding tenders should look to the ways cost efficiencies can be achieved without compromises.
26/06/18


The number of road users is increasing exponentially every year, adding to road congestion and maintenance costs. On top of that many local authorities have had their budgets cut, limiting infrastructure development. While there are calls for innovation and a different way of thinking, new technology is a hard sell to the authorities holding the purse strings. While innovation promises benefits it does still come with a degree of risk – something that conservative authorities are not quite willing to invest in it just yet.

While there are major plans to roll out more smart motorways in an effort to reduce congestion and improve safety, some are of the opinion that it’s not innovation enough to solve the challenges facing the highways sectors. Could some of the other emerging technologies provide solutions?

Flame patching
With asphalt highways, pothole repairs are an expensive and ongoing job. Manual repair work is not only time consuming but also dangerous for road workers. In the lead up to the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow a flame patching machine was used to speed up road repairs and surfacing. The machine scorches the surface melting the contents and then blends this with new raw materials to create a new road surface. The primary benefit is that it can work through the night and at a pace unmatched by manual labour.

Solar Digital Roads
Made from tempered recycled glass panels this innovation has a lot to offer. Not only does it hold up under stringent tests for surface grip, impact resistance and durability, it could also generate electricity in major urban areas and provide easy integration with digital technology for smart motorways. More importantly potholes will be a thing of the past as repairs involve simply removing a damaged panel and replacing it.

Digital Driverless Convoys
Volvo is already testing technology that sees cars able to latch on and drive in driverless convoys on highways. The technology uses sensors and cameras to ensure that speeds and distances are maintained. While there is much debate about safety responsibility the more important issue is having digital motorways that could support the convoys.
These examples show both ends of the innovation spectrum, from improving how current repairs are done to completely re-inventing infrastructure is designed and developed. While the technologies may only be implemented in the future, they highlight that change and innovation are not only possible but necessary.
07/06/18


Recent budget announcements have supported the need for a greater investment in infrastructure in the UK. A 2015 report by PWCi cited that spending in UK infrastructure was likely to increase to £110bn by 2025. While this is positive news for the industry, ensuring that funding is being made available for the infrastructure needed, the question remains - who will be building it?

Currently there is a reported shortfall of 59000 engineers compared to what is needed in the industry. This is compounded by the fact that many top engineers are coming up for retirement age. While young engineers may be entering the industry, there aren’t enough of them and it will take time before they get to the right level of skill and experience.

Similarly in other construction roles, companies are reporting difficulty in finding the right people for the roles available. So what can be done to ensure that there will be enough skills to support the future of building in the UK’s infrastructure sector?

Apprenticeships:

In Germany a great deal of value is placed on apprenticeships and this has borne fruit in securing skills and passing on experience to younger people entering the construction industry. By comparison the UK infrastructure sector has a lot of catching up to do. However, the apprenticeship levy may prove to be the incentive needed for companies to offer more apprenticeships that can help upskill the workforce.

Career awareness:

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) admits that more could be done to create awareness of the job opportunities that exist in infrastructure in order to attract young talent. There are many roles that require engineering skills in different forms. Programs in schools can do much to promote the opportunities that exist in the workplace and incentivize school leavers to choose to study in related fields.

Importing talent from other sectors:

As technology becomes a greater influence on construction it will require people who have the ability to integrate the two effectively. This means that professionals from other sectors such as robotics or information technology could have a greater role to play in construction companies. Once again, if greater awareness is created of the opportunities that exist in construction, then companies will be able to attract professionals with the right type of knowledge and expertise to add value to the business.
04/06/18


Some companies believe that good financial incentives are the key to attracting and retaining top talent. While this may be true, how these bonus are structured is just as important. It’s not very motivating for staff to hear they’re getting lower or no bonuses due to poor financial results, only to hear later that the top execs were paid out massive bonuses regardless.

Recently amid the mess that is the Carillion collapse it has emerged that the top executive received a bonus of almost a quarter of a Million back in 2016. This despite financial targets not being met and the company reporting losses.
However, Carillion is not the only major construction firm that has been guilty of these practices. Interserve has also been in the news a lot lately, from their failed EfW projects to concerning financial reports. Yet in the midst of this a newly appointed chief executive is paid 125% pro-rata bonus for just 4 months work.

Better bonus approaches

While the argument is that top execs carry a great deal of responsibility, is there a better way to structure bonuses so that it benefits not only the individual, but the company as well?

Companies often use percentages to calculate bonuses. While this may seem fair, it benefits the top earners more than those lower down the ranks. 10% of £500,000 is significantly more than 10% of £50,000. Careful consideration needs to be given when structuring bonuses, keeping the actual pay out in mind if they are to be used as incentives.

The debate on individual or collective bonuses will largely depend on the company culture. Where there is an emphasis on collaborative effort and this is an important part of achieving outcomes then collective bonuses may be an option. However, this can also be a double edged sword where some individuals or business units end up carrying others, putting in extra effort to ensure they reach targets to get bonuses while others sit back.

The SMART approach links bonuses to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals, in other words tangible results rather than promises of performance that are subjective. It hold employees on all levels accountable because the figures don’t lie. This approach also protects the business by only paying out bonuses when it can afford to.
What approach does your company take?

If you need advice on bonus structures and what to consider, contact us today on Tel: 020 7183 0255, we’d be happy to help.

30/05/18


Technology is driving change at a pace that many companies are finding hard to keep up with. Especially those entrenched in traditional modes of operating. There is no question that change is necessary and innovation is one way to go about it. But in corporate cultures where it’s more important to follow policy and procedure, who is going to step up and drive the change?

The creative thinkers
The entrepreneurial mindset is not often found in large corporations, because innovators generally don’t like to be encumbered by reams of red tape. But that doesn’t mean innovation can’t be cultured or managed for that matter. When innovation is driven by organizational leaders, and people within the organization are provided with room to come up with creative solutions to problems, it can build a platform from which intrepreneurs can be cultured.

Intrepreneurs are managers who are visionary and have a passion for innovation but at the same time know they’re accountable to delivering ideas that translate into a tangible ROI. The best intrepreneurs are those that understand both the organizational capability and structure and typically they have a solid reputation that has earned them respect within the industry. When they propose changes, it’s generally for the purpose of being able to deliver a better ROI.

What can organisations do?
It’s one thing to desire change, and another to allow people the room to implement it. Innovation can’t thrive where there’s no room to think outside the box, or no opportunity for failure without fear of recrimination. Organisations that want to become more agile will need to accept that with innovation comes a degree of risk. As much as ideas can be tested or trialed, failure is part of the process. There cannot be the expectation that innovation will always result in success.

Secondly, because technology is a major driving factor for change, companies need to be willing to invest in technologies that support innovation. Whether this is systems based, streamlining tender processes and project management, or whether it’s providing scanning, monitoring or safety tools on site, innovation goes hand in hand with technology.

Most importantly though, organisations need to decide where they want to position themselves in the marketplace. If it’s going to require change and innovation to get there, then it may be time to consider hiring some visionary leaders – Intrapreneurs who can drive the change.
30/05/18


When risks are assessed in the construction industry it typically brings to mind worker safety and the question of on-time delivery by subcontractors and supply chain vendors or payment by clients. However, with technology increasingly being incorporated into construction it has opened up the industry to an entirely new type of threat.

Smart technology is being increasingly introduced to manage systems and these applications vary from smart motorways, to building heating or cooling systems, power supply, lift operations and security systems. Not to mention data servers which may contain BIM systems, blueprints and supplier or employee data. Cybersecurity is something that the construction industry should be concerned about, especially with the new GDPR regulations. Yet the overall feeling in the industry seems to be that it isn’t a priority - it should be.

Everyone is vulnerable
Hackers are only too aware of the opportunities that exist as more industries start to embrace technology. While headlines have been made with cyberattacks that have been made on financial institutions, the implications for the construction and infrastructure sectors are actually a lot more scary.

Imagine a hacker is able to access the smart systems controlling motorways or rail systems, they could cause accidents, and bring transportation systems to a standstill. In Kiev in December 2016 the city experienced a city wide black out which was thought to be as a result of a cyberattack. One small vulnerability can open up cities to a great deal of risk with regards to smart technology in infrastructure.

Is there a solution?
Industry experts advise that a proactive approach is needed in construction to improve cybersecurity. Those companies that start implementation first will have the competitive advantage and will be less likely to become targets because there will be many other easier targets around.

Additionally, companies need to take into consideration how to build more secure systems and manage them from a holistic perspective. Vulnerabilities often occur at the point of integration and hackers only need a small window to get through. Having a master systems architect that can review all systems and integrations and identify vulnerabilities is important, especially in large corporations that have thousands of employees and suppliers, and run multiple operations systems.

Assuming individual systems are secure is not enough, there need to be proactive policies in place geared towards making sure that vulnerabilities are closed up. Otherwise it’ll only be a matter of time before a cyberattack becomes a reality.
30/05/18


Network Rail recently announced ambitious plans to upgrade the outdated Victorian rail transport system and it can’t come soon enough. With passenger numbers on the rise there is an urgent need for the railways to operate with greater efficiency and frequency.
Converting to digital railways will enable rail operators to schedule trains closer together while at the same time improving the level of operations safety and reliability. The increased frequencies will transport more passenger during peak commuting times when it is most needed thereby contributing to operational efficiency and creating much needed additional capacity.

15 year roll-out
Because almost two thirds of the signaling needs to be converted, it is estimated that it will take at least 15 years to have up to 70% of the railways operating on digital signaling. This opens up an opportunity to increase the future pipeline of work for railway contractors.

The good news is that it is already being rolled out on the Thameslink trains that operate through London Bridge. It is estimated that switching to digital signaling will create an additional capacity for 40 000 more people on these routes alone. London’s Kings Cross and Waterloo station will be next to come online and in the future the Digital Railway Strategy is planned to roll out across the Pennines by 2024.

This all forms part of the government’s modernization of the rail network which has been allocated a budget of £48bn between 2019 and 2024 for maintenance, upgrades and renewals.

Everyone wins
Digital technology and innovation offers a solution for bridging the productivity gap that has plagued the industry for years. Digital scheduling and monitoring can help ensure that rail services to run on time more often, and operate with greater frequency and efficiency. This will generate a better return on investment for private investors and ultimately benefit taxpayers as it means public funds allocated to rail projects will be utilized more effectively.
Commuting passengers will benefit from shorter journey times, increased frequency and capacity and more efficient rail operations, but they will not be the only beneficiaries. The faster more frequent services will be able to contribute to improved logistics for commerce and industry. Most of all the infrastructure sector is set to benefit as technology in incorporated into more aspects of railway development and upgrades and the pipeline of work expands to accommodate these changes.