Sunday, June 14, 2009

Contractor boss goes undercover as labourer on his own sites

The chief executive of a civils contractor has pledged to change the way the firm communicates after two weeks undercover as a labourer.

Stephen Martin, chief executive of Clugston Construction, worked among his 600 strong workforce to find out what life is like at the coal face of his firm.

“I’ve been chief executive for two years and thought it would be a good way of getting under the skin of the company, work with all our great people and find out what life is life at the coal face,” he explained.

Martin spent two weeks being followed by a television crew while he worked on a variety of Clugston sites. To immerse himself in the role he gave up his comfortable executive lifestyle, grew a beard and dossed in a ВЈ27 a night B&B in Scunthorpe. ADVERTISEMENT

Contractor boss goes undercover as labourer on his own sites

Each morning Martin was picked up and taken to a site where he would muck in with the other labourers.

Explaining his reason for the stealth, Martin said: “I’ve been around every site we have, but when you’re in a suit and a tie you’re invisible to the workforce.”

By shedding his suit Martin learnt that all the carefully sculpted communication the company sent round was being ignored.

"I’ve resolved to abandon our glossy bulletins as I realised no-one read them,” he said. “Particularly in a recession we need to stop the rumour and have honest interaction. People need reassurance and information. I’ve now changed the style, time and way we communicate.”

He has also launched an initiative called вЂBridge the Gap’, having identified that “we have an ageing workforce and are at risk of losing lots of skills, expertise and knowledge”.

The scheme aims to identify those with the ability to coach, develop those education skills and ensure the knowledge is passed on. “There needs to be a collective approach to apprentices so that the skills of the older generation and enthusiasm of apprentices are not lost to the industry,” Martin added.

And in terms of his own development, Martin is now more sympathetic of the tough grind life on site can be. “I realised just how hard people work. I was definitely pulling my weight, though most of the people I worked with would have said I was holding them back. It was really physically tiring.”

“I’m glad I did it and I’d encourage any other boss to do it. I don’t know how else you can get the truth from your workforce.”

Undercover Boss will be aired on Channel 4 on 25 June