An improved digital presence and a new focus on engaging potential recruits has delivered significant results for Bovis Homes.
Vicky Beckwith, head of HR at Bovis Homes
Vicky Beckwith, head of HR at the housebuilder, which has locations across England, said that the business was attracting top-class recruits across the workforce, from directors to apprentices, thanks to a shift in culture, which has also seen a 22 per cent rise in female staff numbers over the past three years.
The house builder has taken on 50 apprentices for its September intake, double the amount of last year and has continued to increase the number of new starters with an armed forces background.
Vicky, who has worked in HR for more than 20 years and at Bovis Homes for more than two years and overhauled the HR service delivered to the business, said: “We have put in place a lot of changes over the last two years. We now have a preferred supplier list, cutting the number of agencies we work with down by more than half.
“We ensure the agencies are getting the right people to support our recruitment every year. Next, we want to talk to them to make sure we are getting representation of more women on our recruitment shortlists.
“As part of our corporate DNA, we recruit the best person for the job regardless of background or gender. We’ve done very well naturally because of that. By creating a great atmosphere here, we can attract more diverse staff.
“We make sure our shop window on LinkedIn is as good as it could be, to make sure that we are properly represented on that platform.
“We need to be mindful of what candidates are looking for in an employer and this focus has changed a lot in recent years. We must treat potential candidates like customers.”
Bovis Homes increased its female staff numbers from 327 in June 2015, to 417 by the same month this year. Women now make up 34.1 per cent of the total workforce.
Perks for all workers, including flexible working, company awards, team building days, recognition for long term service, free lunches and regular pulse-style staff engagement surveys, are ensuring a happier workforce with lower staff turnover.
Bovis Homes’ HR department also now has a more hands-on approach, attending candidate interviews across the business. Chief executive Greg Fitzgerald brought in this change when he joined the business last year, which includes training for recruiting managers.
“HR wasn’t involved with interviewing when I joined, and we put that in place very quickly,” Vicky said. “All directors are now interviewed by senior members of HR. Since Greg joined, HR are on hand and involved in as many staff interviews as possible and all recruitment managers are up to the same competency levels.
“We are also improving our connection with schools and colleges. We go out to them every year and take on new apprentices. We try and increase that pipeline for both our business and our suppliers and cater for more work experience requests.”
The latest batch of apprentices to join the company have recently been undergoing a two-day induction programme at regional offices.
The budding carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers and business administration workers are growing in number as Bovis Homes managers look for industry stars of the future. The company aims to have at least one apprentice per site going forward and already celebrate the youngsters’ achievements with annual apprentice awards.
And more of these apprentices are also set to be female as Vicky says education is vital to attracting more women into the construction industry.
Bovis Homes recently held a ‘100 years, 100 women’ event to celebrate women within the business and mark 100 years since they were given the right to vote.
The event included speeches from Lt Col Katie Hislop, who talked about her experiences as a female within the armed forces and Roger Morton, performance director at Bovis Homes.
A former Royal Engineer, Roger joined the house builder in 2016 following 25 years in the Army. He said there was more to do to attract ex-armed forces personal into the company.
Roger Morton, performance director at Bovis Homes
“There are three things you need in a great recruit – knowledge, skills and attitude. You can grow knowledge and skills, but attitude is different,” said Roger. “What we want are people who are disciplined team players who can see the end-state. Those are the types of characteristics that many military personnel have.”
Bovis Homes has signed the Armed Forces Covenant and is striving to achieve a Gold Award in the Government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme in 2019, which has criteria looking at whether companies employ staff from the armed forces community and proactively demonstrate forces-friendly credentials.
There are around 70 employees with ex-military backgrounds within the company, including site managers, technical staff and trainers. The company has also introduced a trainee assistant site manager programme, which targets ex-armed forces personnel.
“There’s such a synergy between house building and the skills that Royal Engineers and other parts of the military can provide,” Roger said.
Almost 50 per cent of Roger’s team are ex-military and he adds that Bovis Homes’ culture will set the business up well for the future.
He said: “There’s a family ethos within Bovis Homes and a genuine interest in people and I think that’s what makes us different to other house builders.”