The social good you do as a business. The social life you enjoy as part of a business. For Walker Sime, inclusivity in both is vital, which is why we’ve launched two new committees to drive the social difference we make. Joe Evers, Senior Quantity Surveyor, is driving our Social Value Committee. Here, he explains what it’s all about.
The Social Value Committee
For any construction company involved in public sector frameworks, which we are, the social value generated by a scheme is hugely important. Social value is a measure of the positive difference businesses make in the communities in which they operate. The number of apprentices you employ, the local college engagement talks you do to inspire future quantity surveyors and project managers, the work experience you offer and the number of local unemployed people you give opportunities to: it’s all part of it. So are the charities and initiatives you support.
Our Social Value Committee was launched in October 2022 in response to our Have Your Say sessions, to ensure there’s a strategic plan to our actions. We want to make sure social value is represented across all our service lines and offices, so the committee includes people from across the business. Working alongside me are:
• Matt Edwards, senior project manager, heading up social value at Walker Sime
• Charlie Chu, senior project manager, representing our team in the Merseyside region
• Ryan Newman Jones, assistant project manager, representing our Leeds office
• Karen Stevenson, assistant quantity surveyor, representing the Manchester office
• Addison Holland, who represents our infrastructure team
• Natalie Charlesworth, accounts assistant, who’s my right-hand person and ensures things get done
• Alison Pemberton, our office manager, is responsible for pulling together our internal social value strategy and managing accounts
• Leighton Le Carpentier, trainee QS, who forms part of our People Together (see below) and Social Value committees
• Ian Cockle – Senior QS and part of the Social Value Committee
How do you measure social value?
Social value is defined by the Social Value Portal, a platform that helps you measure, manage and report social value. Effectively, it enables everyone in the industry to ‘score’ their actions and the social credits they can gain from them using a standardised model. Every time you take on an apprentice or go into a school or college to give a career talk, your actions are given a value. It’s a way of ensuring we can track the volume and impact of what we do.
A society we want to live in
For the people within Walker Sime who carry out projects with social value targets, there’s a big sense of fulfilment from what they do. Construction is about changing the built environment. You’re making it better, more inclusive. To be able to go out and talk to the next generation and inspire local people to come into the industry and make a difference to their environment is a powerful thing.
With a growing number of women in the business, it’s also extremely empowering to go out to colleges and say to girls that there’s a STEM pathway into construction for them – and it’s a really welcoming industry.
If you were to ask me why I feel so passionately about social value, I’d say this: when I started out doing bricklaying at night college, I didn’t have any prior exposure to construction. I worked my way from the ground up (excuse the pun) to become a Chartered Surveyor.
Some of the experiences I’ve had in this industry have been quite negative. So when I came to Walker Sime, with its ‘people people’ focus, it made me want to contribute to it and make sure we maintain it.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Adding social value is just helping people, isn’t it? Your teammates, your clients, but also helping society because ultimately that’s what we’re building for.
Not just a corporate slogan
Of course, social value is an expectation across the construction sector. Everybody’s doing it. The difference at Walker Sime is that it’s not just a corporate slogan, it’s something we live and breathe. From the top down, we care about what we do, the quality of the service that we give to our clients, and the knock-on effects for society. We recruit people who share those values too. I believe that’s something that really does set us apart.
People Together Committee
Look across all of our offices and service lines and you’ll find an eclectic mix of people from all different backgrounds and cultures. In construction, the stereotypical social event has always tended to revolve around football and the pub, but we wanted to create a more inclusive social calendar that reflected – and appealed to – the people and business we really are.
That’s the reason we’ve launched our People Together Committee, which runs in tandem with our Social Value Committee and comprises people from across our service lines, offices, and those on secondment. Our objective is to make sure as many people can take part in as many activities as possible by offering something for everyone.
This isn’t exactly new. We’ve long been aware of the need to ensure more of our social events meet the needs of our people. That’s more important than ever with the cost-of-living crisis, but it’s always been the case that a work social event isn’t truly inclusive if people with caring responsibilities can’t make it. It’s not truly inclusive if it only ever really works for people in the Manchester office. It’s not truly inclusive if every event revolves around football and beer. The committee formalises this and ensures there’s a structure to what we do and that it is driven from the top down.
Listening to our people
The need to do more was something that came from the one-to-ones our MD, Duncan Firth and Director of People & Culture, Caroline Rennie, hold with our people.
There was a clear momentum to make activities more inclusive, to really think about our colleagues from different offices, cultures, faiths and genders. How do we include people who are anxious (or just don’t want to get involved)? How do we cater for everyone?
The result is a calendar of activities based on a survey of what people really want – and with a response rate of over 80%, we know we’re catering to the preferences of many more people. Challenge walks (distance as well as height) and rock climbing are joining a roster of events that already included bowling and cooking. We’ll be visiting more local gigs. And there’ll be lots of charitable activities like our bake-offs, sweepstakes and dressing up/down days.
Through the People Together Committee, we’re raising money and awareness of issues in our community (and having some fun and staying healthy along the way). Through the Social Value Committee, we’re ensuring local people have the chance to understand what we do, and get the chance to be a part of it. And everyone’s invited.
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