How Willmott Dixon Construction connected the dots between high-level strategy and worker experience.
major projects reviewed
Willmott Dixon has been a people-first construction contractor in the UK for 170 years. Family-owned, Willmott Dixon operates six regional business units delivering construction projects in sectors spanning housing, education and leisure. It employs over 1,500 people directly in addition to a large workforce of contingent workers through their supply chain partners across approximately 100 sites. They were the first tier 1 contractor to mandate that their whole supply chain be audited by the Considerate Constructors Scheme against social and environmental best practice.
Steve Watson, Willmott Dixon Construction’s National Supply Chain Director, is accountable for ensuring that they have a supply chain capable of delivering construction projects to meet and exceed regulatory, customer and other stakeholder requirements. Steve joined Willmott Dixon in 2007 as a supply chain coordinator. Today, he develops and leads the national Supply Chain Strategy.
As the National Supply Chain Director, it is important to Steve that Willmott Dixon works with like-minded supply chain partners who share the company’s values and reflect the business.
Challenge: How to connect the dots between high-level strategy and worker experience
Steve’s team was looking for a data-driven way to measure how workers were experiencing work on their sites, particularly since the majority of the workforce is not employed or managed by Willmott Dixon but by their supply chain partners. Steve’s team wanted visibility on any problems or opportunities workers were facing and an evidence-based way to make better decisions that could lead to better business outcomes.
“It is hugely important for us to understand what it is really like to work on our sites. Worker Feedback Club allows us to get insights that in the past we have been unable to obtain,” says Steve.
Steve’s team faced some challenges to collecting sentiment data from workers on their projects. The multi-tier structure of supply chain partners sitting between Steve’s team and workers on-site meant that the relationship between those running the site and those doing the job was not always connected.
Furthermore, in the absence of data, decisions were more likely to be made on an anecdotal basis drawing on the experience of the people involved, who were missing out on opportunities that they would see if they had the data.
Finally, the large operational costs of planning, deploying and utilising the results of worker consultation activities were not sustainable for a company with such a vast, geographically dispersed project portfolio – particularly over the long term.
Solution: A conduit for communication
With a clear objective to overcome these obstacles, Willmott Dixon selected Worker Feedback Club to support its worker consultation efforts. Worker Feedback Club was a natural choice due to its direct and confidential approach to sentiment collection, science-backed data analytics capability and sustainable costs.
Worker Feedback Club’s in-person and digital data collection solutions were used on six of Willmott Dixon’s sites across two regions of the UK over a four-week period. The consultation generated both quantitative and qualitative data, which enabled analysis and comparison of sentiment between regions and sites. Overall, 86 workers participated spanning a wide range of trades, nationalities and seniority levels.
The data – which covered themes including safety, team, pride and future outlook, training, pay, and mental health and wellbeing – showed not only the specific strengths and characteristics of each site, but also revealed overarching themes relating to the performance of Willmott Dixon sites overall.
“We now have tangible feedback that has come directly from our site operatives, which means we can respond and ensure that we are our supply chain partners’ contractor of choice,” says Steve.
Result: Leveraging transparency to support change
Workers reported that the presence of Worker Feedback Club on-site showed that Willmott Dixon cared more about their mental health and wellbeing relative to other contractors. Workers also said they were grateful for the opportunity to discuss their experience of work in a structured way with anonymity guaranteed. The findings have helped Steve’s team to make decisions that further improve conditions for workers, such as adding iconography to signs to help non-native English speakers better navigate sites.
At the core of their approach, Willmott Dixon believes in continuously discussing and acting on what is working well and what is not. This creates a culture of open communication, which increases understanding and creates a platform for positive change in the business. The data Steve’s team collected using Worker Feedback Club has played a key role in enabling these conversations and reinforcing the link between worker sentiment and business success.
“I am really excited by Worker Feedback Club and truly believe this is going to have huge benefits to ensure we have a progressive and industry-leading supply chain, not just for Willmott Dixon but the industry as a whole,” says Steve.
Looking ahead, Steve’s team are widening their strategy for how they use Worker Feedback Club, including rolling out the Worker Recognition and Issue Reporting functionality on selected sites. With these new tools, Willmott Dixon Site Managers will have access to a powerful Culture Dashboard giving them the data, insights and resources they need to understand the culture on-site, reward their top performers and promote positive behaviours and quality workmanship.
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