The only way is up!

Although true on so many levels, never has there been such an ironic headline to an article. In fact, our headline depicts two different aspects from one of the most valued industries in the UK. Having worked within the construction sector for over 18 years, it’s provided me with insight into this fickle and unforgiving industry we love – I’d like to share my thoughts on both aspects of ‘the changing landscape’;

As we enter Autumn 2020, the forgotten rumbles of construction seem to be on the up once again. At the beginning of this strange year, there were building projects that were quite literally changing the landscape around us. It seems wherever we looked, new developments, homes and apartment blocks were being built in virtually every village, town and city across our green and pleasant land. In fact, the rise of commercial developments and business parks in previously untapped regions outside of our largest conurbations, seemed to keep the construction job market relatively stable.

Paradoxically (and roll forward to right now), as homeowners, we still find ourselves amid challenging times of affordability. Our shattered economy has spawned a whole new breed of audience (dubbed ‘generation rent’). Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the government and housing companies are still doing their best to redress the balance with numerous schemes such as ‘help-to-buy’ and ‘shared ownership’ programs. Only time will tell if the housing market will prove successful, but this brings me nicely to my second point.

The only way is up
Over the years (and especially during these times), the construction industry probably sits near the top of the ‘challenging times’ league. Whilst many may argue it has reaped what it has sowed from before the pandemic, green shoots are certainly on the horizon. The much publicised ‘wrongs’ in the construction have had plenty of air-time in the last 36 months, so let’s ask ourselves, what does a positive future for the construction industry look like?

Probably the two most notable changes in construction are ‘unity’ and ‘mind shift’ – Let’s delve deeper. Not so long ago, the industry had a very formulaic structure; main contractors sitting at the top and managing the projects, and sub-contractors making up the many tiers of trade and service. This often led to a ‘them and us’ culture, and over time, the cracks began to appear revealing a very disconnected sector. But, as the song once lamented “things are a changing”.

Now more than ever, the industry is trying to feel more united, more together, more connected. Don’t get me wrong, it has a very long way to go, but this is where mind shift comes in. Larger corporations and main contractors are beginning to embrace the notion that ‘community starts at home’. Some of these companies now actively promote the sharing of knowledge and working-together with all parts of the supply chain as their business strategy. Some are bringing previously excluded partners into their fold, realising that change needs to be the result of the sum of all parts working together. Suddenly, the notion of collaboration is not only bringing in a more optimistic mentality, it also brings a much-needed boost promoting construction as a great industry to work in, and therefore beginning the long road back in filling the widely publicised skills gap.

So, what does all this mean? Firstly, some of the news about our industry is more welcoming, and certainly slightly more positive. It’s almost definitely more inclusive than ever, with businesses of all sizes being open about mental awareness and the need for a better work-life balance. This is where Poppet Construction has seen a huge change. We are seeing that construction businesses (no matter their size) are really seeing the benefit of building well-thought business strategies. They are beginning to look inwards at their people and their culture, and not just outwards for sales and turnover. Suddenly, us as business leaders have a broader role to play, connecting business philosophy, people and culture to our collective business strategies. Companies are building better propositions to support their business narratives, which in turn creates more awareness, purpose and empathy.

In truth, construction now has a huge job to do, but this ill-timed global setback may just be something we look back at as the moment the landscape in construction changed forever.

Paul Goadby
Founder – Poppet Construction