As you are aware, the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) has partnered with Timewise, the flexible working consultancy, to help develop a ‘Flexible Working Initiative’ that can be used to educate and assist members develop flexible working schemes within their own companies. The initiative has been progressing and on 27 September 2021 the FPS met virtually with Timewise for an update.
Whilst progress to date has been good, there are still many challenges ahead. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is one of practicality; whilst there are many reliable flexible working schemes in place for back-office staff, there are still many issues that must be resolved to extend the option – in whatever form – to those working on-site.
It might seem obvious, but there are very few examples of how flexible working has been brought to site-based occupations, so the task ahead is to look at developing a framework that can be established from the ground-up. Any initiative will also require support of both the client and main contractor to be successfully implemented. This may well require BuildUK involvement and their ability to facilitate what will be required from clients and main contractors. In fact, BuildUK is already working with Timewise so there is a similar mindset and desire to develop a flexible working initiative so collaborating could be of benefit.
FPS members are still open to the idea, as the sector has to evolve to attract and retain people. The existing workforce across the entire construction sector is aging, so bringing in new talent is vital. According to FPS data currently 99.99% of site workers are male, so if the sector is ever going to meet the growing shortage of skilled workers it will have to look beyond its traditional recruiting profile and talent pools and that means adapting working practices to make the sector more attractive. Flexible working is just one part of the working practices, but is it is an important aspect as it will attract and retain a young and diverse workforce.
Of course, some of the sector’s problems are endemic too; there is a definite industry bias towards workers who are motivated by working long hours for more pay. Though this is changing, due in part to the existing pool of people diminishing, to be replaced by young adults, less inclined to work in poor conditions on site, the issue is still present.
A couple of workshops are planned to follow up the September meeting, the first is scheduled for the same day as the FPS Awards Dinner (15th October 2021, 10-12pm) This will be aimed at people managers within the membership, with a view to explore how to manage flexible and inclusive workforces for the benefit of the piling sector. Specifically, it will provide those attending with an insight and advice to embrace flexible working for the long term, as well as provide an opportunity to share practical tools and guides that can be used straight away. The workshop will also look to identify the potential pitfalls and opportunities that exist and which it is important to be aware of, also provide examples of what other organisations are currently doing and which may help with the FPS initiative.
Also scheduled for the same day – 15th October 2021, 1-3pm – is a workshop about Flexible Hiring and Job Design with Timewise (HR & Labour Managers). This later workshop will equip attendees with an understanding of the case for promoting flexible working and a recognition of the ways in which to work flexibly and the principles of flexible job design. The key steps to hiring flexibly will also be discussed. The opportunity to discuss reasons why managers may object and how to address this will also be presented, it will also be an opportunity to share what will instigate the change that is needed so badly in the piling and wider construction sector.
The business case for working flexibly is very strong and with government already indicting that employee’s will have the right to request working flexibly from day one, initiatives such as this are important.
More details about progress will be posted following the two works shops in October 2021.