How our teams can be fit for the future to drive sustainability and longevity

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We all know that the health and wellbeing of our teams is vital in sustaining the success of not only our businesses, but the future of the project management sector. It was therefore really interesting to see that one of the key themes at the APM Women in Project Management (WiPM) Conference was ‘Better Balance’ and hear the speakers talk about how we can, as an industry, work towards achieving this balance. 

We too at Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) are taking the balance between work and life, and the wellness of our teams seriously. Last summer we started piloting the ‘Fit for Future’ programme that looks holistically at our team and encourages us as a business to support and foster them, and not just in the workplace.

Our trial is evolving, and we hope that by the end of the year we will be in a position to put into permanent practice some of its attributes. These are the five key learnings we have taken to encourage our teams that you can do too:

  1. Bring your whole self to work

Nurturing talent isn’t just about helping them climb up the career ladder, (although it doesn’t exclude career success) it is about acknowledging that work is one element of who they are. It was great to hear Cally Beaton, echo this approach at WiPM by commenting “the whole is never going to be the sum of the parts, unless the sum of the parts is diverse”. To be able to give their best selves in their professional lives we need to allow team members to be their whole selves – whether that is a parent, a carer for an elderly relative, if they have a parallel career or volunteer out of the office. Where many organisations understand the importance of supporting team members, much of this can be lip service with policy miles away from practice. However, the Fit For Future initiative aims to

  • allow our team members to play to their strengths;
  • be open and honest about where their passions lie; and
  • shape our project management service around them.
  1. Be flexible

As an industry, the construction sector hasn’t been quick to embrace flexibility in the workplace. Although those of us working in project management are normally one step removed from the building site, the construction culture and attitude to work needs to change. Being flexible and agile around team members often brings a higher sense of ownership and responsibility, which works hand-in-hand with feeling more positive about your job. So allowing someone to work part-time or begin later in the day isn’t an issue; it is the outcome of their work rather than the hours they are at work that matters.

  1. Allow everyone a voice

Instead of a structure with the commander at the top and the soldiers at the bottom, allow everyone to have a voice in the conversation. Our structure at RLB encourages this since it is a partner organisation with little hierarchy. However, it has made us think beyond the set team structures we have in place and how we share knowledge to ensure that those who have additional skills or interests from previous projects, or even out of the office, can join a project if relevant, rather than a silo approach to workloads.

  1. Instead of job descriptions have job roles

Instead of taking a traditional approach to recruiting a team for a certain project, look more at the roles involved. So, instead of fixed project teams, break the projects down and look at who is best placed to be able to deliver with more fluid and granular roles. This might mean the structure of what is offered is different – with a flexible team across different disciplines and sector experience - or it might mean someone seconded within a client organisation to really be able to get under the skin of the project. It is about bespoke structures based on best outcomes.

  1. Change needs to be embraced by all

This change isn’t revolutionary, it is evolutionary and something that needs to be embraced by all of us. As we work towards our 2030 plan we know that it is our teams that will drive our success, and we need to ensure that everyone is healthy and happy in their roles to be able to do this. It is about breaking the patterns of how we work, transforming the way we work and above all talking to colleagues about how they want to work.

To quote the Association for Project Management WiPM Conference keynote speaker Cally Beaton again, “real equality isn’t possible if we don’t celebrate our differences” and it is by celebrating these differences that we allow our teams to be proud of who they are and their role within the project management sector. The conference reassured us that many organisations and individuals are taking steps towards a better industry for those who work within it; and that collaboratively we can bring longevity and a sense of pride in what we do and to the project profession as a whole.

Further reading

Jackie Pinder

Posted by Jackie Pinder on 4th Oct 2019

About the Author

Jackie Pinder is the Managing Partner of the Bristol office of Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), an independent construction, property and management consultant and ranked in the top 10 of Building magazine’s Project Managers.

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