James Neil Managing Director at Dalcour Maclaren answers questions on why people are at the top of his agenda.
Q: What have you learnt from growing the business from three people to 250 people?
A: We started the business in 2003 on the premise that we did not want to be like other old-fashioned partnerships. We had come from a business that treated its people as commodities and not as valuable assets. It has been a huge learning curve with the way we have evolved our people strategy. I think it is clear that our people strategy can never stand still and needs to be flexible to make sure it works for our people and the world we live in.
Q: You say that your people are valuable assets. What do you mean?
A: People are at the heart of our business. We are a service organisation and, quite simply, if we have “crap” people we have a crap business. Therefore, it is imperative that we firstly find people who will work to our values, but secondly it is essential that we develop all of our people so that they achieve their own aspirations, but also with a growing business like DM, meet our requirements for our long term growth plans.
Q: You talk about your values. Why are these so important?
A: Values are key to DM and these are very simple being Excellence, Progression, Pride, Trust and One Team. We all work really hard to make these a reality.
Excellence – We are all wholly focussed on the client and making sure we provide a fantastic service.
Progression – All our people are proactive with a focus on getting the job done, but also innovating and adding value for our clients.
Pride – I joke with staff that when they join, they get a free DM tattoo, but what this really means is that we want people to be proud to be working for DM and proud of the service that we offer to our clients. Slightly worryingly, there is a member of staff who actually has a DM tattoo – and it’s not me!
Trust – Through the whole business trust is paramount. From the top down we need to ensure that we trust people to do their job and this creates an environment of honesty and openness across DM.
One Team – This is a really important value, and one we have to work really hard at. There aren’t many companies of our size who operate without silos, and to me this is key to our success. We work hard and we play hard, but the key thing is that we are all one team and we will all help each other achieve success in the challenging world we live in.
Q: These all sound like fantastic values, but are you actually living them?
A: These are at the core of our business, and if we didn’t and don’t live them, our business would not be a success. There are plenty of examples, but I think the clearest current example I have of where our values have shown how successful we can be in this current COVID-19 situation. Everyone was plunged into an unknown world at the beginning of March, and we were no different. However, within three days of lockdown, we were already planning how we were going to help our clients achieve the results they needed to during this period so the key infrastructure projects that kept the lights on and the water flowing were achieved. Our whole team embraced our values continuing to give great service in our normal proactive style and we really capitalised on the whole One Team principle. As a result, the company has not had to furlough or lay off any member of staff, and in fact we are busy recruiting. We have 30 graduates joining us from August this year and, unlike many companies, we are fully committed to them and look forward to their arrival.
A key part of keeping the DM machine on track has not only been focussing on work, but also focussing on team morale. There are many examples of fantastic weekly team quizzes, photo competitions and baking challenges etc. We have also sadly not been able to have our regular summer party where we would normally get together for training, as well as some fun. However, in true DM spirit, we had an Apart-y which was a fantastic event. Everyone received a box of goodies and there were team challenges throughout the day that involved baking, video making, cycling, running and more, culminating in a team winner, and then virtual pubs until late into the evening. A massive success and 100% buy-in from everyone in the company.
Q: You have bold growth plans. How are you going to find all these people?
A: As with all companies, recruiting people is a challenge, particularly in the areas that we are looking to recruit for. However, at DM this is now becoming easier as our vision is to be an employer of choice which, as set out above, means that we have an offering to our existing people that is such a great experience that others on the outside are now wanting to come in.
Another really important part of the DM strategy is our apprenticeship and graduate programmes. We have been working on this for some time and have invested heavily to ensure we get really good apprentices and graduates into our business who we can then develop as they are the key to our future.
Q: Where do you see the future with your people?
A: DM’s ambition to be an employer of choice means that we constantly need to review, reflect, listen and remain flexible with our people strategy. The world is a changing place. A lot of employers moan about millennials, but actually I think they have brought a lot of good practice to our business and we need to make sure that our people offering is attractive at all levels. Our values embrace our desire to be a fantastic employer and, as we enter this new world post COVID-19, it will further enhance the work/life balance with flexible working throughout our business. If we get it right, it is a win-win as the people and DM will achieve their aspirations.