In 2021 CIHT worked with the recruitment company Carrington West to explore how the pandemic has changed the way organisations in the highways and infrastructure sector operate.
As we move forwards, many companies will be rethinking the way they operate and the future of their workforce, to ensure business continuity and the happiness and safety of their employees.
Through a series of three surveys sent to CIHT members and Carrington West contacts, between September and November 2021, we investigated:
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Andrew outlines the aim of the research, the partnership with Carrington West and how the thought-provoking results will help drive future planning and action for CIHT and the sector as a whole.
Carrington West is a recruitment company providing high calibre talent to the UK highways, traffic & planning, town planning, water & environmental, utilities & power, building and rail industries. We recruit interim, temporary and permanent professionals from entry to board level across multiple disciplines for private and public sector organisations.
Each of our specialist teams consist of consultants who are experts in the sectors they service. They understand the unique challenges our clients face and have successfully formed long-term partnerships that lead to time and cost-efficient solutions. We work on contingent, preferred supplier or sole supplier agreements and are ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO27001 accredited and RISQS and Achilles registered.
Founded in 2011, we have grown quickly due to the passion, integrity and excellence of our people who consistently deliver outstanding levels of service so our clients can achieve their goals. We are active members of the recruitment community striving to improve industry standards as REC members and we have proudly achieved Investor in People platinum status.
Read the guest blog proudly developed with Carrington West, the Future Skills Partner of the CIHT Young Professionals Conference, we get their perspective on the results of the three surveys developed in collaboration with CIHT exploring how the pandemic has changed the way organisations in the highways and infrastructure sector operate.
The way we work changed dramatically in March 2020 because of the need to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This adaptation has resulted in what looks to be part of a longer-term change in how we work, particularly with a move to increased use of hybrid working.
Before the pandemic, just under one in three people worked with mixture of home and office, in a hybrid way. After covid restrictions were fully lifted this increased to 3 out of 4 people adopting hybrid working. Our results show people value this, two out of three respondents said they would only consider jobs in the future if they could work remotely all or some of the time. Technology is key to making this work and technology skills are more important now than before the pandemic.
This change to our working patterns also means a change to our travel patterns, something that affects all CIHT members.
The support for people’s wellbeing was high on the agenda for the employers of the people that responded to the survey. Something that was great to see and CIHT believe should continue as we move forward.
Finally, we saw some interesting results around equity, diversity & inclusion (ED&I) policy. Larger companies have put in place policies, but for smaller organisations further progress needs to be made with establishing policies.
The survey results confirm that the pandemic has opened the eyes of many to new ways of working and hybrid working has now become mainstream. However, the challenge is to maintain and increase productivity across the sector as almost 20% felt their productivity decreased while working from home.
Furthermore, the majority of respondents have felt the impact of the pandemic on the culture of the workplace though the experience has not been consistent for all.
Finally, an interesting question is raised from the results, as will the demographic profile of the office start to change as younger employers will be most likely to be the ones solely working in the office while more senior staff have access to hybrid working?
Please note 13% of early career professionals with 7 or less years in the sector felt they would be working in the office only.
Please note 41% of those involved in the decision-making process for recruitment or manage a team or influence staff development within their organisation said yes
The evidence suggests that hybrid working will persist due to the competitive pressure of attracting and retaining talent as almost two thirds of respondents would consider jobs in the future if they could work remotely all or some of the time.
While a minority believed that the skills we need in our organisation have changed as a result of the pandemic it is clear that interpersonal skills maintain their importance even with remote working.
ED&I policy, training and guidelines appears to be better established within larger organisations however, the challenge to solve remote or hybrid working to better meet ED&I objectives when hiring is a problem across the sector and a matter of urgency if ED&I is not to take a backwards step.
Furthermore, to compound the issue, it is of great concern that a number of respondents who are involved in the decision-making process for recruitment or manage a team or influence staff development within their organisation are not aware of an ED&I policy within their organisation.
Training to help staff understand how to contribute positively to inclusion and diversity in the workplace is inconsistent at all levels of surveyed organisations with nearly 50% of respondents (65% of respondents in organisations with less than 499 staff) receiving no training.
ED&I makes business sense because it helps us to attract and retain the best talent, it enables us to understand and meet clients’ and supply chain needs more effectively and so provide a better quality service.
Discover the CIHT Routes to Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit
The toolkit is just the first step towards embedding a diversity and inclusion culture in highways and transportation to enable the sector to reap the proven business benefits of workplace diversity.
CIHT Diversity & Inclusion Charter
The signatories to this Charter believe that a commitment to diversity and inclusion is essential to reflect the communities we serve.
Fewer than 10 staff: 61% yes / 35% no / 4% don't know
10-49 staff: 88% yes / 6% no / 6% don't know
50-249 staff: 69% yes / 8% no / 23% don't know
250-499 staff: 94% yes / 6% don't know
500+ staff: 96% yes / 4% don't know
Please note that with respondents from organisations with less than 50 staff 0% said yes
Please note that respondents from organisations with less than 250 staff less than 47% said yes
Please note that respondents from organisations with less than 499 staff 35% said yes
The results presented here clearly show that training and development is something that is very much still expected in the workplace post- pandemic, and the question of how best to deliver this in the future is something that organisations will need to review. This is something that many organisations have, with 69% of decision makers saying that training programmes have been adapted to accommodate remote workers. Conversely, only 43% of employees feel that their organisation has done this.
Young professionals appear to be the ones that have had their learning and development opportunities impacted the most. A majority of respondents (66%) indicated that learning and development for young professionals is harder than pre-pandemic. 41% said that young professionals do not get the same level of support they had previously. The lack of training and development opportunities for young professionals was going to be a likely consequence of the pandemic in the industry, especially informal opportunities that are found in a face-to-face environment. Something that is a clear indicator of this is the fact that a fifth (20%) of respondents said that the pandemic had affected their career progression.
Please note 10% of those NOT involved in the decision-making process for recruitment or manage a team or influence staff development within their organisation said yes - positively
Please note those respondents who worked in companies with 250-499 staff 78% yes. In contrast those with fewer than 10 staff 39% said yes.
Please note those respondents who worked in companies with 250-499 staff 42% said yes. In contrast those with fewer than 10 staff 0% said yes.
It is encouraging to see that 76% agreed that their organisation had taken measures to engage with all their employees during the pandemic. 68% agreed that their organisation took active steps to look after their health and wellbeing during the pandemic. A better work/life balance is something that was also seen as a positive outcome of remote working, but it is important to note that not all in the industry can work from home so easily.
What is interesting to see is that despite the support for a hybrid work environment, many felt detached from their workplace (38%). Perhaps more concerning and an area to be addressed is that 56% felt it is harder to build relationships working remotely.
The pandemic has not resulted in hiring freezes as some had anticipated, however, we did see organisations across the sector furlough employees. A higher proportion of professionals with less than 7 years of experience and women were furloughed.
In March 2020 the UK went into lockdown, organisations that were technologically enabled were amongst those that proved to be most resilient, managing to more easily and quickly shift to digital ways of working. While some organisations were already technologically equipped to deal with the change, 49% of respondents said that their organisation has had to make a significant investment in technology over the past 18 months to facilitate remote working. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority (66%) of those who were surveyed believe that technology skills are more important now than pre-pandemic. Work still needs to be done, however, as 40% believe that their employers do not adequately invest in their IT/digital skills training.