Granger Reis are working with a range of partners and individuals to develop an insight series looking at the talent needs and trends in the transition to a net zero economy.
Under The Paris Agreement, the UK has pledged to cut co2 emissions by 68% by 2030. It’s vital that businesses begin more environmentally sustainable practices to fulfil their social responsibilities and lay the groundwork for greener forms of economic growth in the long term.
With this time horizon fast approaching, industries such as the house construction sector must build new strategies for greater energy efficiency from the ground up.
In this interview, we’ll be speaking to directors of two major construction companies, looking at how those at an executive level can rejuvenate and incentivise talent across all levels to drive the sustainable agenda and aid companies to reach net zero targets.
Edward Ali McQuilton (senior partner and practice leader for real estate at Granger Reis) spoke with Kieran Daya (Managing Director at Crest Nicholson) and Helen Bunch (Executive Managing Director at Wates Group LTD).
Read the transcript of this conversation below.
Edward: So why is enlisting and managing talent within the broader residential development sector so difficult? And what can the industry do to retain those who champion sustainable initiatives?
Helen: It is a challenge for our sector. I think recruitment has always been quite difficult, from in my experience within the industry.
That's particularly related to the construction side because it does have a bit of an image problem: tough working environment, long hours, very male, very white.
I think the industry has done a lot to try and change that over the years and it's certainly getting better. A lot of people don't understand the variety of roles (including professional roles) that are required within the development and contracting world.
Quite a lot of education needs to be done in schools and colleges about the increasingly diverse range of career opportunities there are in the organisation.
There are definitely challenges, but there are things that we can do to make it a more attractive proposition for people.
Edward: Kieran, what are your thoughts?
Kieran: The talent pool in our industry has not materially increased for some time. It's not seen as a particularly attractive talent pool for many people which is absolutely incorrect.
There's a bit of education to be done on what it is that residential house builders do and actually the dichotomy of roles and the plethora of roles that we've got.
It's about growing the candidate pool, whether it be from people who are just joining the job market, whether people are leaving education (or apprentices or graduates) but also people coming from different industries. I came from a different industry, I was a lawyer, and actually the skills that I had to transfer across were really useful and helped me progress my career at a pace.
Edward: From your experience, what type of challenges are companies facing in the journey to become net zero businesses? And how can the right talent help overcome some of these challenges?
Kieran: The big point is on communication. It's communicating the huge part that house building as an industry can play in what could be the greatest challenge of our time.
The sustainability in the race to net zero is top of the political agenda. It is top of most people's agenda in terms of their worries and concerns in what's going on in the wider world. It's really communicating to our own staff and other people looking into the industry about the role house building can play in mitigating biodiversity loss and then having biodiversity net gain.
The transition to net zero is about making sure that our people know and that external people know the role that we're playing in fighting against those things and then being a part of the solution.
Edward: Helen, what are your thoughts?
Helen: There's a lot of terms - zero carbon, neutral carbon offsetting - That if I'm honest, I don't really understand. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people that I sit in meetings with where we are now talking about these things don't understand it.
So, we need help to create a language that is accessible and meaningful to everybody and then, I think we need to establish a framework that can show how we are going to go on this journey.
I just think about the journey that the industry has been on around health and safety and, you know, there were very clear goals that were very understandable. It was being made very meaningful for individuals about, you know, how you want to get home and see your family.
We should take some lessons from some of the other journeys that we have been on in as an industry and apply those to how we're approaching this agenda.
Kieran: The people who are entering the house building industry really get it.
The net zero agenda is something that people want to be a part of. People want to be a part of a company that's got a sense of purpose and people want to be a part of a company that can lead and participate in these changes.
Helen: If I could just sort of build on that, I completely agree. Every organisation in the world is facing this agenda, whatever industry you're in. Those people are therefore in great demand and - from people that I know - they are they are going to join organisations that are really committed to this and prepared to make all the changes, behavioural products, whatever it takes to achieve this.
Edward: What role do leaders play in enacting the big changes required for a company to go net zero?
Helen: If people in the organisation don't believe the leadership are committed to it, it's not going to happen.
That commitment takes all sorts of forms: it's about resourcing it appropriately, setting the plans, maybe the incentivisation.
You know, you look at FTSE companies now, many people are looking to the ESG performance of organisations as to whether they're going to be investing in them.
Certainly, discussions have started about whether this should be a bonus-able objective.
Kieran: Companies are incentivised to select Chief Executives, CEOs, Managing Directors, Directors of Businesses that want to deliver. It's a selection of boards who actually believe it communicating down to the staffs and selecting and communicating the strategic direction, why this is the strategic direction, and the methodology.
Whenever that can be arrived at, it might be incremental because the solutions and all of the ideas aren't here yet. But it's communicating that methodology in whatever piecemeal fashion that we can and looking to build upon that.
Edward: So finally, what types of experiences and skills should be sought after and also nurtured in an organisation to ensure companies net zero targets are met with success?
Helen: There's a lot of very technical papers that can be read. It also has to be made practical and understandable, so somebody who understands the whole agenda but also has the capability of translating it into some plans.
I guess you need data to do the analysis, to set the plans, and then communicate those plans and work with the teams as to how we're going to start this change. So technical expertise, project management, change management skills, and I think a massive dollop of passion as well.
Kieran: We talked at the beginning about candidate pools and perhaps attracting different people into the industry. Of course, one of the great things that different people bring into the industry is a different way of thinking and not having done the same job for a number of years or got comfortable doing the same thing. Having a different experience.
We know how rich our workforces and our lives are for having diversity in our workforce. But, of course, diversity of thought when we're having collective thinking can really be impactful.
I think that the sharing of information between organisations (and there's already good platforms for that) and the ability to bring in a richer and more diverse workforce will really help us to move forward, because we've got really ambitious targets we don't know in reality how we're going to meet some of those targets.
We certainly don't know how we're going to achieve the global response to the climate crisis so the more industries - and the house building industry in particular -that really take collective thinking seriously and try and achieve diversity of thought, I think will stand us in the best stead.