Driving social value in construction and civil engineering with Chris Winfield and Jas Sandhu

Chris Winfield from Hercules Site Services and Jas Sandhu from Balfour Beatty Highways will share latest approaches and challenges in driving the social value from a client and supply chain perspectives and how digital is moving the industry forward.


 

Intro: Hi everyone! Thanks again for tuning in for our next concat. Today, we have two very special guests, who will be chatting with Mamta. Chris Winfield from Hercules site services and Jas Sandhu from Balfour Beatty highways. From the conversation, you will not only learn about Hercules site services, this truly amazing, rapidly growing, and forward-thinking company. 

 

The company that provides expertise across the sector in supply of labour, an experienced civil team, a flourishing suction excavator fleet, as well as healthcare, training and digital solutions, but also cover their approach and challenges around creating social value from a client and supply chain perspectives. You will hear how Hercules collaborates within the industry. 

 

And what it really takes to be strategic partner when working with Tier 1 companies and their latest approaches to social value and SEE, finally, our guests will also address how digital is moving the industry forward. Enjoy. 



 

Mamta

 Hi everyone, welcome to the Future of work in construction podcast. I’m delighted to introduce our next guests, Chris Winfield and Jas Sandhu. Chris is head of business excellence at Hercules Site Services and Jas is a social value manager at Balfour Beatty. Thank you for joining me today both, I hope you're well, and before we start, it'd be great If you could both tell us about your role or responsibilities at Hercules and Balfour Beatty. So, Chris shall we start with you? 

 

Chris

 Okay lovely. Thank you Mamta , thank you for inviting me along to the Concast, very exciting. So yeah, I'm Chris Winfield. I'm the head of business excellence at Hercules and my main roles and responsibilities are essentially around operational excellence. And also looking at areas such as social value, SEE, EDI and also, just the sort of general day to day operational execution of what we do as a labour supplier on our sites.

So that that's essentially my day to day. I'll hand over to Jas. 

 

Jas

 Thank you so much, Chris. Thank you Mamta. Thank you both for inviting me to join this concast and I’m really excited for it. So my role is social value manager, working for Balfour Beatty. And so what that means is, I managed the amount of social value that we generate on each of the projects that we work on. 

 I help set KPIs, and really target social value and drive it around the local communities that we're working in, to make it more meaningful, more impactful and bring the benefits from each of our schemes to our local communities, our local partnerships with local schools or organisations and, we sort of can't do that without the support of our supply chain and Hercules being one of our key strategic supply chain partners. 

And hence why Chris and I work quite closely together on a number of our schemes. So, it's just really, how can we bring the most positive benefits to the community that we're in? And so that's my job and that's what I kind of do day in and day out. 

 

Mamta

 That's great. I think it's so inspiring to be able to, you know, understand this and how companies formed together to make changes as well, which I think is super positive, but thank you for saying what you do in your in your various companies and I’d like to start with asking a question with what do Hercules see as the main challenges facing the industry in the current climate that we're facing at the moment? 

 

Chris

 Sure. So I think for us clearly we are predominantly, in what we do, we are we do provide site services, so it's not just labour supply, but predominantly labour supplies is the main focus of our company. 

 

So the biggest challenges for us therefore is quite obvious I think, is labour going forward. The industry has known for many years now that we have a skills and labour shortage within the construction industry. It's very well publicized. I think when you look at, you know, there's different commentary on this, but if you look at some of it you've got something like £600 billion worth of construction pipeline going forward which is incredible and very positive, but we have a 200,000, you know, labour shortage and we need to deliver that £600 billion of work. 

 

So at some point there's going to be a bit of a clash here and we need to try and avoid it as best we possibly can. So the work, you know, that Balfour Beatty in particular, Jas has been talking about you know, how you get involved with the communities. That's one element of how we can try and promote and engage with you know, youngsters for one. I think that's a big challenge facing the industry. How do we affectively communicate to youngsters coming through, not just secondary school, I would suggest also primary school, and people that are going on to further education about the incredible breadth of opportunities that are within our industry. It's probably still a bit of a misnomer that, you know, it's all about getting into a muddy hole in the ground on a wet and windy day on a construction site. 

 

Does it sound so glamorous? It is one of the realities but it's only one and I think there are so many other opportunities there, whether it be for people graduating, going through to university and thinking about what they're going to do when they finish uni, things such as getting into quantity surveying, for example, you know, being a project manager and being an engineer, there’s so many opportunities there. 

 

But also, for the people that perhaps university is not that path they're going to take and therefore potentially they look at other site-based roles such as being a groundworker, working their way through. There is a career progression there and I think we sometimes forget that.

 

 Other challenges I would suggest are going to be around materials and things like that. Again, the cost of material is going up and I think for the industry, you know, we need to get through this really uncertain phase that we're going through at the moment and push on through to the other side. But getting the youngsters involved, educating them what the industry is about. I think that’s the biggest challenge and we need to keep feeding that machine and getting people coming in, otherwise we're not going to be able to deliver those projects, simple. 

 

Mamta

 Yeah. Absolutely. And Jas, what kind of things are doing within the community to kind of engage youngsters to help them through and get inspired? 

 

Jas

 So, can I just say Chris, absolutely hit the nail on the head exactly where he mentioned about early school engagement and, you know, it's all completely fair to go into a secondary school or university and speak about creating construction. But I personally think the right time to go in is at the primary school age and really explain about the careers in construction because it's evolved so much from being you know, out on site and digging a hole. 

 

There is so many more disciplines that are available and you know, a lot of them are site based and you know, in my role I cover environment. I look at spending, how much we're spending in the local economy, our employment skills in the community engagement side and I barely get a chance to even put my PPE on and go out and have a look at the site. 

 

So what we do is we, when I strategize our social value plan, within that, I will pre-plan and forecast over the project duration, how many careers events are we gonna have? Another one is what schools are we really going to target?

So, what I actually do is, I commission a social enterprise and external organisation called the Social Value Portal who run needs analysis for us, and it's the needs analysis based on the area that we're going into based upon that postcode with a certain mile of radius. 

So we've got a sort of parameter which we're reaching into and that analysis will tell us like what schools are more in need you know, what was the lowest qualities of life? You know, local areas of deprivation and that's where we really really target our engagement activities. 

So we'll go to a school and we'll agree with them in advance either directly through the school or will work with a careers and enterprise company. And you know, what was going to be the most meaningful? Is it going to be going in and delivering a careers talk? Is it going to be running an activity? Is that bringing them to our site? And you know, showing them what our sites look like.

 

 And then it's the same, you know, we encourage our supply chain to also undertake talks like this, going into schools, talk to them about what you do. And you know because again, labour agency and materials plant, they're all completely different fields and again, they all have different disciplines. And 9 times out of 10 are when I've gone into a school talk, because it's been quite some years now since I’ve done it, but this you know the kids are all like they had no idea that there's so many different roles and so one of our things that we're pushing and I'm trying to drive is early school engagement and again likewise it goes for, you know local employment in the area. 

 

You know, there's so much work that can be done with jobs centres and you know helping unemployed people get back into work. Not necessarily, you know, going out to see if there's a job available because you've got to have the right skills, but you know, mentoring them. We offer career mentoring for under 24 and over 24 years old, which is separate from schools career talks, and there's so much that you can do to support these people. 

 

And I've run courses like this with local councils and honestly, just knowing that impact that you have had. And I ran that with another supply chain partner actually for six weeks and it just made such a huge difference. And so, yeah, I would say that’s some of the activities, I could go on and on.

 

Mamta

 It sounds amazing. 

 

I mean, it sounds like you do such amazing things, and it’s so inspiring because the kids really need it. Like it reminds me of my nephew who is primary school age and he's always been fascinated with architecture, engineering, how to put things together and he's never learned that , it’s just come naturally to him and he’s interested in it. 

I think that’s what we want to do is always encourage him, so when we get a complicated delivery or we need to put something together, we’re always asking him to do it for us, so you can like keep that interest going as well because often you get swayed by your peers or your parents. Especially in the community as well, you know, to do different things rather than following your dreams. I think just to keep people inspired despite that, throughout that primary school age, high school age to universities, is so important

 

Jas

 Absolutely, I completely agree with that. I do take a lot of inspiration from my nieces and nephews as well, they’re all at school level and I say to them what support do you get at school? Do you know about this career? Not necessarily construction and like, do you know about business? Some of them are like, no, we don't get the support or, you know, we do know about it but we really don't know enough about it. So, I do get a lot of my inspiration from them, and I love how you're already getting him into the architecture world.

 

Mamta

 I have my ways, trust me

 

Chris

 It’s true though you know, you look at those, that primary age group that we've both mentioned now. I mean, at what point do the children stop watching Bob the Builder? I mean at some point. They’re so obsessed with the builder, you know, let's build on that. Let's keep doing more on top of that and get them using their imaginations. And I think some of the, you know, I know it's aimed at a slightly older age group, but the STEM ambassador network as well is really useful, you know, utilize it, you know, the schools out there. 

 

If you go on to the STEM network, there may be someone in your area that you can connect to. You could come along to your school and deliver a really, you know, engaging, I don't know half hour, hours session, however much time the school can afford. The ones that I've attended with a colleague, you know, they've essentially asked the pupil's almost on a voluntary basis who wants to come and listen to this. 

 

Let's make it mandatory. Let’s not make it voluntary, but even some of the voluntary ones you know, the kids come along and it's a very good mix of boys and girls you know, again, the industry's got a huge task on its hands, with trying to promote more women into construction, it's the thing, right? 

 

And I know that the events coming up next year are gonna focus on that and have some really good speakers involved. And you go to loads and loads of events. Jas will know this, that she goes to the same events and it's the same message getting pumped out but where's the action? Where's the where the positive outcomes of the ground?

 

 I think, you know, building on the work the schools are doing, more schools are introducing engineering into the curriculum. Let’s build on that, tap into that. Identify those schools that are doing that but again, you know, Jas is working for Balfour Beatty, you know, that's our clients. 

So, when Jas has a new project coming up and, you know, I know the work that Jas will do in the build-up to even starting work on that, looking in the local area, identifying where the opportunities are, looking at deprivation and the demographics of the area to find out what we need to do to get some positive outcomes going on there. 

 

And again it is all about outcomes. You can put lots of effort in but its this measurement of the outcomes that is the important thing. And getting an apprentice, or a work placement from a school, very good. It’s all very, you know, great work but the positive outcome would be to get that work placement on a project and into employment and even staying on that project and growing with the company. That's the positive outcome. 

 

Jas

 Yeah, I've got a prime example of that. A couple of years ago, I was working on one of our projects, and I took on a young student called Hannah for work experience, and she was fantastic. You know, interested in quantity surveying, unfortunately, for us our project was coming to an end. It was a two-year scheme, she came up at the end.

 And up there I was working for a regional project so I reached out to our highways business where I am now, actually. And I said, do you have an opportunity? You know, I’ve got a very, very strong potential candidate here who wants to become apprentice quantity surveyor and within two, three months they took her on. She's back with Balfour Beatty now on the A2 project, one that you'll be very familiar with Chris, as an apprentice quantity surveyor and we’re going to try and retain her for future projects in that area. And that's also very important to us. It's keeping our staff in the right area, right. 

Rather than traveling left, right, centre. So we really do try and target the areas that we're working in. Find the right candidate. It's so important and nothing satisfies me more when a student reaches out to me directly over work experience. It just shows that they're willing, they want to prove themselves. And she only came about that meeting from our attendance at a careers talk at the at the Academy that we went to. 

 

It was just so, you know, an evening, couple of hours and she reached out to us through that just by googling and LinkedIn. So that’s how she came through to us.

 

Mamta

 I love that, Linkedin is great for that isn't it, To be fair? Yeah, exactly. I mean, you both have so passionate about social value, which is so amazing and it's important to both companies. But how does, I mean Chris mentioned that being measured? I mean, what’s the ideal measurements and how do you measure it to make sure that you're progressing in the right direction? 

 

Chris

 Yeah, there's a lot. There's this plenty. Jas alluded, a second ago to the Social Value Portal. So this is one way in which it's measured. 

 

There are others and each client ,each company ,and by clients I’m meaning Jas here in Balfour Beatty, but this is also Skanska, also Costain. Lots of others that are doing the same work in the space and they all measure it potentially differently. There's lots of tools out there to measure and, you know, you're looking at things such as local labour and so, the Social Value Portal puts quite a high proxy value on getting local people into employment on the projects that are within normally a 40 mile, 30- 40 mile radius, isn't it Jas?. 

 

Jas

 Yeah , 40.

 

Chris

 Yeah so, 40 mile radius. So how many people can you get in the area? Therefore, you’re helping potentially with local employment, looking at getting unemployed people in the local community into employment if possible, and things like that. So again, you're looking at maybe locals supply chain spends, how much are you spending in the local supply chain?

 

And again, giving back into that local area. Looking at school engagement. We've talked about careers events and things like this, there's so many others. And again, you know, it's not necessarily so prevalent to a labour supply company, but you're looking at carbon emissions. Again, we can do things around that but maybe not as much as some other companies. 

 

So we may want to- well we’ve been quite limited with covid. Its been quite damaging in this regard- But, you know, putting people into a mini bus service, picking people up, making sure that we're bringing down our carbon emissions and not having so many cars driving to the project. We’re trying to reduce that but Covids kind of kicked that into touch recently but so many things to measure. 

 

I think there's 70 odd different pieces of information on that report to try and fill out and you know you can't fill everything out, but where you can, you can make a positive impact and as a labour supply company, well, we supply labour, it's what we do. So let's really try and target local labour. 

 

So, you know, we introduced a recruitment app a couple of years ago, and it has been doing tremendously well for us because it allows us to target a 40 mile radius of our projects. Look at who has downloaded our recruitment app within that area. And we also then can gather their EDI information. 

 

We can gather their skills and qualifications information and we're getting that at the point of contact. And then we can on board them, bring them through on the onboarding process and really add great, tremendous value, with local employment. And again, that has positive knock-on effect and things such as fatigue management obviously, which is a big thing for the industry. Traditionally, we used to be asking these guys and girls to travel miles, you know? And they would do. That was the norm to them. But you look at some of the negative impacts that has on their life and their wellbeing. Wellbeing is a hot topic at the moment within the industry and reducing someone's commute time by finding them a local project to work on, amazing, you know ,you’re potentially having a positive impact on their life because you’ve found them a local job. 

 

They don't have to commute and therefore they're able to be a better worker essentially as well on site because they're a little more engaged with it. So lots of positives to think about, just by local employment alone. But lots of other measurements. And again, you know, producing the evidence to back this up is a, is another important point because without that evidence people like Jas can't report on that back to the likes of Highways England, or whoever Jas has to report into and particularly on the highway side, you can't move forward and look at what areas do need work on or need that extra bit of work. 

 

Jas

 Yeah. So, and obviously just following on from that, obviously Chris will record and monitor their social value activities as a result of each of the projects that we're working on, and then he’ll either submit it back directly to myself or we mentioned the Social Value Portal and we, you know ,I use not just the Hercules data but obviously all of the supply chain working on the project who we plan that in advance, who's going to be our key strategic supply chain partners on the project, you know who's there for the longest and can have, you know, because it's all great taking on an apprentice but there's no point taking on an apprentice if they're only going to be there for a couple of weeks or just to fill somebody else's role or just to hit a target, you know, that’s not what we want to do at all. 

 

So we really do plan what partners are we going to use? And obviously, Hercules is one of our top strategic supply chain partners and, you know, not just because Chris is on the call. But, you know, one of our most engaging ones that just submit the most value to us. So I collect all of that data and I combine it along with Balfour Beatty’s data, and I'm not absolutely not saying that our supply chain does everything for us, its literally 50/50, 50% comes from Balfour Beatty, 50% comes from all our supply chain, and I add all that data together.

 

Chris mentioned proxy values, so how we measure social value, every metric or measure, we use the national TOMs. And so the national TOMs were actually set by the Social Value Portal, created by them. As, you know, TOM's themed outcomes and measures, measures or metrics. They all hold a proxy value which means it holds a monetary value to the activity. And absolutely no way I’m saying we're only doing this for the money, you know, everything on there, it's focused locally. Everything is targeted to that needs analysis that I spoke about, you know, areas of depravation. How can we support under representative groups? How can we support those that are long-term unemployed, you know, needs, and those are not in education, employment or training, you know, how can you get a more diverse workforce, you know, and disabled employees, previously homeless, for example. 

 

And so, when I go from my planning stages before the projects, even go on board, I go through each of these TOMs and there's about 50 of them or like about 70, as Chris said, and I really do try and put figures against each of those. 

 

That, number one, are realistic and, number two’s, gonna have the most impact and it's not just me, you know, our commercial team come aboard so we embed it in our procurement process. So each of our tenders that are gonna go out, or have gone out will hold sort of social value commitments, and that's how we measure it as Balfour Beatty, once we've got a package in place, we’ll include social value targets because we've got our overarching plan, but it’s all great having figures against it, but how are we gonna really deliver it. And that's how we kind of break it down and then we collect the data. 

 

So it's a data collection process but you know the best good news stories comes in the form of case studies. So we really love a case study and we really love to promote a good news story and so should we you know. If our supply chain partners are doing such good news, sometimes they do it and they don't realize they're doing and they're like it's the norm for us. 

 

But you know, for the industry, we've won best practice award for the Considerate Constructor Scheme for something smaller like a couch dumper truck. You know, they haven't seen that before and we've got an innovation for it. So I always say social value is not just the target and you know, you hit your target great, but it's just, it's always about doing more. It's how can we give back more? You know, we're very privileged to work in the communities that we're in. You know, we genuinely are destructing people's lives. How can we do that in the best possible way? How can we reduce our environmental impact? 

 

And so there's a lot of measurements around there and you know, Chris mentioned about car miles, you know, how can you use low or no emission vehicles, you know, carbon reduction. And we do we monitor all of that and we've got different teams who, you know, kind of report into social values. 

 

So it's just how can we bring those altogether and and obviously, Chris will be the collator of the data for Hercules across all of our schemes but again it's how can we make sure we're not double counting data? We're very very fair if Hercules are working on one Balfour Beatty project down south and they reported, for example two long-term unemployed they will not then report that for a project up north or another project down south. We’re very hot on double counting data. 

 

We're not here for the figures, we're not here for the monetary value. We're really here just to make that positive impact to the communities. And so, and I think that we're all doing very, very well on that actually. And I haven’t come across the double counting so, definitely working. 

 

Mamta

 So wonderful to hear like, you know, not just in this industry but across industries, people have like this thing of wanting to add social value or do things around EDI but often, you know, it's that once but they don’t measure it through, or they don’t seen the results. So you're doing your extra, extra stuff to actually capture that and I think this is really inspiring to other companies in other industries to see how you're doing things. So they can mimic that too because I think it's, not just construction, it's just industry you know like every industry can learn from this, I think, so it’s amazing. 

 

You mentioned a few areas to focus on to produce positive social value outcomes but what the top priority areas that you are focusing on currently? Because you can't do, I guess there’s so many areas but like are there any particular ones that you're, you know, focusing on? 

 

Jas

 And if I can go, you know for us it's underrepresented groups, you know, how can we help bring them back into employment, how can we mentor them. Then it is the skills gap, and how can we target it, the young, the next generation from a young age and we do focus on that a lot, and we have like these skills leads or employment leads that works within Balfour Beatty as well, who produced year strategies and, you know, this is what schools we are going engage with or universities. We do a lot with organizations, such as the Princes Trust and Groundwork and have new partners as well. And so, you know, how can we help and support them in their initiatives? You know, is it career mentoring that they need? Is it work experience that they need? 

 

Do they have individuals who genuinely can't get employment and have got all the skills and they just can't catch a break, you know? How can we support them? And, you know, they'll come to us with opportunities and eight times out of nine, we'll pass those opportunities onto our supply chain because, you know, we can't do everything ourselves and, for example, Balfour Beatty have asked me to launch a new sustainability strategy and the core of that comes under three pillars: environment, materials, and communities. 

 

And within that is, you know, we've got 2030 targets and 2040 ambitions and it's very, very clear on there that is all achievable with our supply chain. So it's, it's bringing our supply chain on board and, you know, and sharing those opportunities. One person can't do everything, but if we all come together, we can do everything. 

 

And so it's that you know it's really hard to focus on something but there are sort of categories and obviously environment is huge for us, how can we reduce our environmental impact? And we do some really, really good things, but you know, beyond net zero carbon and you know, low and no emission plant or vehicles around the site. And Chris, I'll let you go on to Hercules.

 

Chris

 Thank you. I think like Jas just said, you know, there's not one particular thing that we're focusing on, but we're also not trying to spread ourselves too thinly across too many different things. 

 

And but I think if I, if I step out of the Balfour Beatty and Hercules, supply chain relationship, and just look at something that Hercules internally is focused on, particularly since I joined the business three years ago as an ex-serviceman, you know I looked at trying to get Hercules set up and signed the armed forces covenant. 

So, you know people may or may not realize, but 14,000 people leave the armed forces on average each year, that's an awful lot of people. And those people have a lot to offer society and are looking for that break when they leave to find employment, it's one of the key things that service men and women need is stability when they get out. 

 

Otherwise, you know, it's very highly prophesised that, you know, that the suicide rate amongst veterans is high. Well, guess what? It's really high in construction too, unfortunately. And having that stable work, when they leave the forces is critically important. So we've then worked our ways through – so there's something called the employer recognition scheme which is run by the MOD and that is essentially looking for business to engage with the entire military community, whether that's veterans, people about to transition out, spouses, you know, friends, family. 

 

You know, the whole community is looking at how we can engage with them and present them opportunities for employment. And because some of them may be resettling back into the UK for the first time and maybe they've been stationed out in Germany and they're coming back to the UK. 

 

And they are going to have some form of impact on the communities, they go and live back in, and we need to present them some opportunities and construction is a great overlap with the military. It almost has a rank structure that makes sense. You know, you join the army as a private soldier. 

 

If you're a soldier and you work your way up, it’s a bit like being a labourer, you can work your way up to becoming a foreman or a works manager. If you are an officer leaving the forces, similar, you know, you leave and you come into construction, maybe as a young engineer and you work your way up to project manager and beyond, project director, its similar in the military, the overlap in structure is so similar. 

 

But yeah, I mean it was fantastic because two weeks ago we got the gold award from the ERS and we were, I was so chuffed about that. I was honestly, it was fantastic to see that the work we’d been doing actually recognized and getting awarded for it and I know and I'm really proud of that achievement. 

 

And I think, you know that particular area for us is something that I will always have an empathy towards because I've been there. I know how difficult it is when you leave to find employment. And the other things, I think I've already mentioned is the schools engagement. I think there's loads more we can do with that. 

 

And you know when Jas is doing that needs analysis she talked about, identifying those schools, Balfour Beatty are brilliant at passing that information down to the supply chain. And you know, when Jas and her colleagues are upholding those monthly or quarterly catch ups with us as part of the supply chain, they're really helping us to focus on what we need to focus on. 

 

You know, this school is going to hold this event. Brilliant. Any volunteers from the supply chain to turn up and do this that and the other. And I think that's more of that is, would be great. And if every client was like that, you know, crikey, we'd be, I'd have several social value managers working here and, we’d have a whole team dedicated to it. 

 

But, you know, it's something that the industry is taking hold of, you know, Jas probably has something to do with, or know of at least the Supply Chains’ Sustainability School, and they’re doing loads of great work in this space. Getting together to have labour groups, they’re setting up a new social value working group. And this is, this is, you know, attended by tier ones. It's attended by supply chain partners, and tier twos, even tier threes on that. 

 

So social value is, is up here now, it used to be a little bit down here, and people didn't quite understand it and couldn't get their head around it and how we could have that impact. But it's now up here. It's on everyone's agenda. It's the most talked about. Well, I see it as one of the most talked about things in the industry for years, and I'm sure Jas will back me up because that's her data

 

Jas

 Probably because I talk to you about it all the time. 

 

I've really like, beat the message home, I think.  Really congratulations again on the award and but, you know, I completely absolutely vouch for that, you know, social value is not new, you know, it's not new to Balfour Beatty, but it's definitely become more as a focal point, and we take social value very seriously. 

 

It forms a big percentage of our tenders and our client, Highways England, also takes social value extremely seriously and, you know, more so again, just in the positive effects that we can actually have. And so many people didn’t use to understand social value. It's really exactly what Chris said, how can we, you know, what is social value, how can we measure it, and it's really breaking it down activity by activity. 

 

And 99% of the time, everyone's reactions are “we’re already doing that. you know what, you know, we're already doing that. That's normal process”. So, I'm like, oh my god, talk to me about it or, you know, talk to somebody, so we can record it, you know, then we can promote the good news, you know. I'm not saying that you should only do it for recognition, but you know, there are so many other organizations or industries that can learn from it. You know, using the likes of Linkedin or the Consumer Constructors Best Practice Hub, it's how we can share our best practices, our innovations, to other industries, you know?

 Even coming out of the Covid crisis. There are so many things that each individual's doing. It's not a competition. It's, you know, how can we all come together as an industry and support the next or the, you know, the generation or the individuals that have been impacted the most, I don't see it as a competition at all. 

 

You know, I would happily share something on social media. If I see that it's got benefit, if I've got an opportunity, I'll share it as widely as possible. Those calls that we've had for the projects, you know, is we've got a careers talk and we genuinely don't have the support from Balfour Beatty, we would ask our supply chain, like we had some volunteering to do a community lead on the A2 project and organized some volunteering around delivering Easter egg activity packs to disabled children in the Kent area. It was something as simple as loading up our cars. They loaded it for us, we just drive around and deliver it. And, you know, we got members of our supply chain taking their days out, one of them even came from I think from the Midlands to come down, just because he wanted to just take part in it. And you know, it's the good news, it’s things like that. You know, if somebody needs support, we're going to go do it.

 

 And I'd just say there’s social value to it. There's actual physical value. You genuinely are making somebody's life so much happier just by one little knock on the door, and, you know, just things like litter picking, we’re trying to push, and volunteering again, getting to get Balfour Beatty to use that. We brought in a new policy, Leo Quinn, our CEO, launched a new volunteering policy of every Balfour Beatty employee gets to use a certain number of hours per year as paid volunteering. 

 And going out for a litter pick, you know, first of all I wasn’t sure, I don't know, I'm not, I'm not gonna, you know, I'm gonna be completely honest. I was like me and litter? Like I can just about clean my own bin out. But it was the most rewarding and fun four hours I've had. We were in you know, we're in small groups because it was still in Covid this bit. 

 

It was split into groups of two, but we were literally just walking up and down the street and we had such a laugh, you know, some of the things we found were just like shocking, but it was so rewarding. We walked past a home and the ladies were like waving at us and were like ‘good job’, ‘thank you’, ‘well done’, and we’ve got our bin bags. But between 10 of us, in four hours, we collected 36 bags of rubbish just from the main road!

 

Mamta

 That’s insane, oh my god.

Jas

 Yeah. But yeah, it's fun, it's meaningful. And, and, you know, it, it's important. And, but yeah, 

 

Mamta

 I won’t ask what you found. 

 

Jas

 well don’t think too far.

 

Mamta

 That's the thing, right? And this is saying about feeling good, giving back. And people don't realise how good it feels, when you do that as well, because you're really changing a person's life, you're changing the environment. You know, you're changing yourself by doing that and I think you guys are doing amazing. Yeah.

 

Chris

 Yeah. I think, Mamta, you know, one of the areas I think we've, we’ve touched on many areas now of what we, you know, target or what we report on. But it all sort of does feedback to the problem we talked about at the very start is that labour shortage. How are we gonna find the people to do the work we’ve committed to deliver?

 

 And I think you know you've got to look at what I talked about. The armed forces people, you know 14,000 people a year on average, and we've not talked about prisons you know. The work going on in prisons, these days, it goes under the radar quite a lot, I think.  Pre-covid, I did a prison visit in the West Midlands at a prison called HMP Featherston and there's a sort of a group of prisons there on a huge site and inside that prison, it's almost like a factory. 

You know, these guys are producing some seriously skilled work inside there and they're getting paid for it, it feels like they're getting rewarded to do the work. You know, they get a, very albeit, you know, small sum of money to do the work and but it's work. 
They're doing a shift. They're reporting to work half past eight, nine o'clock. They have a break for their lunch and then they go back and do an afternoon and finish at four, five o'clock and then they're back in their cells. But the work they're doing is fantastic. I mean, you know, all of those soldiers I talked about, they're sleeping on beds made by people in Featherston prison, in the barrack rooms. 

They're learning construction skills in there. They have NVQ assessors, teaching them construction skills, and they're able to come out when they're ready for release and with a CSCS card, which is the minimum requirement to be able to work on a construction site and they may even have other skills as well on top of that.

 

They may have very basic skills, such as, you know, being a traffic marshal or they're even talking about having plant and machinery, now in the prison where they can learn to operate, a dumper, a dumper truck. It's simple things like this that you're providing these people with as much opportunity as you possibly can do in those circumstances for them to come out of prison when they're released and find meaningful work. 

Because if they haven't got meaningful work, they run that risk of going back into that vicious cycle of, you know, crime or whatever. And they're back in prison again, which is, nobody wants that. But again, its people like that, we need to upskill, train them up and get them back into society and help us plug those gaps and work on our projects. 

Jas

 Yeah, I'm really glad you mentioned that actually, Chris. Balfour Beatty do a lot with the armed forces and supporting them back into employment. But more recently, actually, I’m working with an organisation called the Glass House and they work with, it’s for a project that's based down in Kent. And they work with a local women's prison who grow and nurture plants in the prison glass houses. We’re actually buying those plants, and one, one of our initiatives is, we're donating the plants towards a local hospital to create a memorial garden for them. So they grow the plants, they'll go and deliver them and, you know, that money that the Glass House gets, it helps to rehabilitate them in real life when they come out, you know, get them back on their feet to stop them from reoffending.

 And you we’re just talking about their handy work, Chris. We're actually building new offices for a future scheme. And the whole area, its a massive area, and it all needs landscaping, we want to create that staff recreational areas. We’re using the Glass House to do all the landscaping and through the Glass House, we're gonna be working with the men's prison who are gonna build us our picnic benches. And again, you know, that just getting them to do that. One the ladies got to come up to site on the site visit with us and had a walk around and she's fully involved, she sent me the quote, you know, as part of her, it’s part of her day job in there and you know again and even with the with the picnic benches it, you know, fine work, it's proper craftsmanship. 

And you just think, oh my god. Like when you come out, there really is going to be a job waiting for you, and you can really feel the difference it’s going to make for them, and some of them are so grateful for the opportunities. So, yeah, I'm really glad you mentioned that because the Glass House does amazing stuff. 

So, if anybody's listening to this, please, please look out for them and use them, utilise them. They do some amazing plants, it’s an amazing initiative

 

Mamta

 I’m definitely gonna do that. I think I’ll check them out straight after this. But you're right, Chris, it's like breaking the cycle, isn’t it? And by being given the opportunities, like sending the quote, for example, Jas, getting them involved in it. Like really does help them see that there's more opportunity out there for them once they leave prison as well, which I think is great. 

 

Brilliant stuff. So, before we finish, I’d like to touch on being digital and tech basically. So, I know Hercules is seen as a digital innovator, which is quite rare. And I'd like to know what Hercules is doing, particularly, as a labour supplier in that term, to make it more appealing for people. 

 

Chris

 Yeah, okay, so I think for us we're, you know, we're 13 years old as a business. We're called a young pup amongst some of our competitors, okay? Some of our competitors have been around for 40, 50, 60 years in some cases. And we've all ended up working all on the same projects and we've all done things the same way for years. And I think if we're going to move forward as an industry and appeal to that younger generation, we have to move forward. 

And we can't rely on doing things the same way as they've always been done, because it's worked so far, we've got to think outside the box. That's what our MD, that's his mindset, is to think outside the box, he actively promotes it internally. Now if you've got an idea don't sit on it. Bring it to the table and we'll listen. And if it's a great idea, we will get it project managed and we'll run with it. And that happens three, four years ago. Now, when we had an idea that we wanted to do something in terms of recruitment, how could we help ourselves as a business, but also help the worker?

 

So, if you think about the workforce, they turn up to site at seven o'clock and they’ll knock it on the head at five. They're not allowed to use their mobile phones on site for obvious reasons. And they can't look for jobs. How can they look for a job during the working day? 

They may, you know, traditionally in the industry they might turn up to work on a Monday and then they may be informed that they're going to be off hired at the end of that week. You know, the project is moving on their role is, you know, no longer required. They need to find work. And so, we decided to design a recruitment app that could give them access at any point in time. So, when they finish work, when they've got a break on site, they can get their mobile phone and they can search for a job. And it’s aimed at, finding them jobs, local to them. 

 

People said, it'll never catch on. It will never work. People won't use it, you know, they're just relying on the traditional method. We've now got thousands of people who downloaded that app and are actively using it. The information and the data, and the analytics that we can then present to our clients is phenomenal. I mean, everyone sort of coined a phrase “data is king” and, you know, without that data, people like Jas and Balfour Beatty, can't make strategic decisions on where they perhaps need to bolster the work force on a project. And we can say, well, look in the local area, we have x y z, number of people with particular skills and trades and we can move them on to that. So that's one area and the other area is, you know, having an onboarding process that is fit for purpose. 

Again, reducing our paper trail, reducing our carbon that way. We produce an awful amount of carbon in this industry and paper is one of the biggest sort of guilty parties for this. The amount of paperwork required to send a training pack. The paperwork required to produce a contract. Well, let's digitise it. So, 95% now, I think the last, it was sort of 96 point something percent of our new starters are being onboarded digitally. That's incredible. It’s all paperless.

 

 Yes, we still have the traditional methods, so we're not forgetting about the, you know, the person that isn't as savvy with the mobile device as someone else might be. So, we look after them. We still, you know, have the Whatsapp group, if we need a Whatsapp group to chat and all this that and the other, but we have totally streamed lined our process and the information we're getting, that we can then pass on to the clients as well, is really, really cool. 

We're looking at some other pieces of work as well at the moment which is quite exciting. And again, if that all works out for us, you know, we hopefully will have a very, very good product. We're doing some work currently with, with HS2, Old Oak Common, that's a BBVS site and we're doing some work there around SEE and hopefully we're going to get some funding through there to help us push on with a really exciting piece of work. So, if that works out, you know, that will be for everyone. It's not just for Hercules, it's for that for the entire project, and it's all about collaborating, with our supply chain partners, our competitors. You know that space is really developing. 

We were one of the labour supply companies that were part of the first integrated labour team on the A14. And again, that was an award-winning project because labour supply companies came together and collaborated as opposed to being opposing each other and all that kind of stuff. There's real progress going on in the industry. 

I think we've sometimes don't do ourselves enough justice, but we are really trying to push it on and make it more appealing to everybody, you know? So yeah, I mean I could whittle on for ages about digital, I love it. I think it's great. I came out of, you know, I came into construction from working within a digital environment and working and recruiting with tech companies and how cool it was and how appealing it was to the youngsters coming through school. 

We need to be tapping into those guys and telling them about the cool stuff we're doing. And I think we can, it's just gonna be hard work, but it's doable, more than doable. 

 

Mamta

  Well, absolutely. And that's how you make your process more equitable. And, you know, the youth are into their devices so they can be informed more easily, they can apply for jobs and that sort of stuff as well. But I think that's, that's fantastic. Jas, did you think you'd like to add to that. 

 

Jas

 No, I love hearing about innovations as a the whole but obviously digital and the things that you can do. Even with Balfour Beatty, you know, we've begun paperless, you know, everything's digital. 

We actually have digital rooms where, you know, we do our morning reviews by interactive boards, and we have summer placements who come just for digital. In fact, we've got a work experience student who's with us last week, and he's specifically asked for to work with within the digital team. But, you know, I still like to give a varied placement, so I do say, you know, you still get a day or half a day with each of the other disciplines, but I love hearing about digital innovation and especially Hercules who are, you know, fairly new as an organisation and just how much they've evolved. 

 

You know, again it's this up that Chris was talking about. It's fantastic. You know, what better way to be able to target the youth by really talking to them, you know, being a bit more, you know, tech savvy, having a bit more ‘in’ with the generation. I think it really does make a huge difference and so yeah, I think that's something that would definitely like to see rolled out a bit more and you know, a few of our other supply chain partners as well and just because it's a proven and effective way of working. 

So, yeah, Chris please share it. Share it as widely as you can!

 

Mamta

  Absolutely! Chris, Jas, it's just so, it's, like I'm inspired. You know, I'm talking to you guys and other people will be listening to this as well, if they have any questions or want to get in touch, how was the best way to do that? 

Chris

 I mean, I'm happy to share my details at the end of this Mamta, and if you wanted to, you know, if people wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm on LinkedIn. I'm there quite a lot. So yeah, anyone wants to connect me, just search me out on LinkedIn and I'll happily connect, and yeah, share as much as possible. Sharing is caring, right?

Mamta

 100%

 

Jas

 The same for me too. Please feel free to pass along my contact details, my email address. Or again find me on LinkedIn. Probably not as active as Chris, but I am on there and I do respond. And you know, I do love to check on what other companies are doing. 
So any questions, you know questions about how to join us, you know what I'll be doing in certain spaces, anything you know. We're here to help, we’re here to support, we’re here to share and you know, it's sort of about sharing and exactly what Chris said, ‘sharing is caring’. 

 

Mamta

 And on that note, we can end a session because it's brilliant. So thank you so much for your time, Chris and Jas, I really appreciate it. And please everyone, reach out to the guys. It's amazing what they're doing, everyone can learn so much from them, so thank you.