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Can property companies have good workplace culture?

Published on: Tuesday 4th July 2017

By Michael Pemberton, CEO, Britain’s Energy Coast

Workplace culture is increasingly linked with long term company success. Uber’s CEO recently resigned after a board report showed ‘toxic’ culture spreading like disease in the company – nothing could serve a stronger proof point.

But the truth is a lot of property company employees will see a glimmer of reality in the Uber news. The high pressure environment with tight margins and moving deadlines has made for a decades long de-prioritisation of workplace culture.

Every year Hays do a ‘mega-survey’ that acts as a barometer for thinking around training, recruitment, HR and culture. The stats from the property and construction sector make for grim reading. 52% rated their work-life balance as terrible-average and 39% said they were straight out dissatisfied or indifferent.

Of course such surveys need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but we can’t hide from the fact that claims about training offered and training received do not add up. 69% firms say they offer external training and 82% offer on-the-job training. So why then do only 43% and 47% of employers (respectively) say they receive it? This points at culture issues – either you’ve got employers promising training and not delivering or employees receiving training and not understanding or registering it.

At Britain’s Energy Coast (BEC) we don’t want to be one of these low-culture / no culture companies.

BEC is a profit for purpose property company. This in itself helps our culture because the work we do benefits our community and non-financial benefits of work always score a big tick when it comes to better culture. It’s easier to deal with the everyday work rollercoaster when you know you are working to make a difference to the people and places around you.  But we don’t rely on just our commercial model to build our culture. We invest in it in other ways.

We’ve put a lot of hard work in over the last 6 months to build our behaviours and values and we are implementing this into our everyday working. Our behaviours cover areas where we need to bring about change such being commercially astute (critical since we became a fully commercial organisation last year) and being environmentally responsible (this is the golden thread of our business and as we often say, there is no point having a business if there is no planet to have it on!)

Our values have just been developed and we are really proud of them. We held a whole team meeting in November last year and invited graphic facilitators along to steer our discussion around our values. It took months of fine tuning but we are now ready to launch them to our organisation. Our values are built around the concept of self-worth, bringing in respect, support, kindness and integrity. We look forward to rolling them out across the company and using them as our foundation for growth.

We also build values and behaviours into our recruitment process. We are just kicking off a hiring round for a number of key posts across our finance, estates and property teams.

New job interview questions include:

  • We give you 14 hours volunteer time every year. Tell us the type of things you’d like to use this for and why?
  • Give three examples of using our behaviours in practice over the last 12 months?

These questions will help us find team members with the right attitude – that’s all any CEO can hope for. I watched a film recently and was struck to the heart by a scene at the very start. It had Will Smith standing in front of his team in New York saying “Life is about people. At the end of the day, we’re here to connect love, time and death. Now these three things connect every single human being on earth; We long for love, We wish we had more time, We fear death.”

I absolutely believe passionately that it is our attitude to these three that shape and define who we are. Attitude, to me, is more important than education, money and circumstances. It’s more important than failures and success or what other people think or say or do. It’s more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company and a team!

Choose your attitude, and own your choice!

At BEC, we choose to build the right culture. We don’t already get it right all the time – no company does, but we pledge to keep trying. We want to lead the property and construction industry into a better era and teach all our industry colleagues that you can have good workplace culture AND a healthy bottom line.

Britain’s Energy Coast is recruiting. Click here to view the latest vacancies.