Naylor Love Construction has a history of success in New Zealand’s construction industry going back more than 100 years. Continued growth meant Naylor Love needed an adaptable, flexible HR system that would become a living, breathing part of the enterprise.
It would gather information while ensuring its people were listened to so they felt valued and rewarded, and would see the company’s success as their success and the company would retain them in a highly competitive industry.
Before Pam McGarry started with the company in 2007 as head of human resources, Trevor Kempton, the managing director had the HR and people management responsibilities. Nobody was specialising in human resources.
They had managed pretty well because the business was based in Dunedin and was relatively easy to manage. But Naylor Love was starting to grow. Pam arrived as the company had moved into Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. It now has offices in seven locations and a staff of more than 700.
Back then, Pam found herself in green fields with no systems and processes. They had employment agreements which didn’t align that well with company objectives and no proper authorisation processes or checks and balances. With all the growth, it was quite a stretch.
Polson Higgs, a business advisory company, interviewed managers around the HR side of the business and audited what was missing. Everything was manual. There was no transparency across the group because information from regions was held in the regional offices.
When Pam arrived, she was tasked with determining what needed to be done. “What do you want me to concentrate on first?” she asked Trevor Kempton. “Leadership” he said. Pam locked herself away for a couple of weeks, she looked at staff engagement surveys and what processes and systems existed to try to determine what they needed to achieve. It was clear they needed better systems and processes along with an HR manual. then embedding them into how the company worked was an obvious response.
Pam introduced a leadership programme to Naylor Love from 2009. But Pam, with considerable experience in HR, knew that much more was required. For example, how was the company recording and developing its people? How was it engaging with them, making them feel part of the overall business, more than just a place to come and work?
Without documentation that was hard to answer. Moreover, how could it be achieved – effortlessly and easily for everyone concerned, that is, the whole workforce?
“I wanted something that we could adapt as our needs arose.”Pam McGarry
General Manager - People, Naylor Love
In early 2013, Simon Lind from Montage Online visited. He demonstrated a proof of concept of a standardised performance review process. Pam listened but sent him away saying: “That’s not going to work for us.”
Pam knew she could put ‘a system’ in place but she wanted something flexible and aligned to the Naylor Love way. It also had to be easy to use. If the company’s people didn’t own it, it would not be used as the tool she envisaged.
“I wanted something that we could adapt as our needs arose.” Simon went away and came back with a message: “I’ve listened to what you said.” Pam’s challenge had piqued Simon’s curiosity. Montage prides itself on finding solutions for individual clients, tailored, something that met specific needs. His experience was that out-of-the-box solutions might resolve some issues, but they were often inflexible, and the client had to adapt to the technology, not the other way around.
Feedback results improved and that was just the start. “Every year at the end of the PDR process, we put out a feedback survey asking how well did it go this year? What needs to change? What needs to adapt?” Once the feedback is collected, Pam and Montage meet to review it and decide what needs to be altered.
“People are all different. Some don’t participate because they’re happy with the system. Then there are some who are quite vocal and think it’s a bit long or repetitive. We always listen to what they say and every year there are improvements put in place by taking that feedback on board.” Staff can also see they have been heard, and therefore buy-in to the process more.
Five years on, Naylor Love is now in its first year of developing coaching conversations. This will mean breaking away from the traditional PDR process to more of a regular coaching session, a conversation between a staff member and their manager.
The more formal annual review will remain, but while the manager and staff member are talking about a PDR, discussions about goals and the future will lead to setting an informal coaching catch-up date twice a year.
This idea for improvement came from staff engagement feedback and people saying that while the formal session was fine, it was only once a year and no further conversations were held until the following year. They felt they did not get enough regular feedback.
After that message had come through clearly, Pam suggested to Montage. “Let’s add this to the system.” Having such an adaptable Montage system proved the value of what they had implemented. Montage are “so accommodating. I come from left field and they never say ‘No, we can’t do that”
The PDR feedback process also gave staff a voice within the organisation, a sense of belonging.
“We’re very into measuring things at Naylor Love. Measuring what we do to see it’s adding value is very important.” (On the company’s website, it says: “Our mission is to be measurably the best construction company in New Zealand.”) Everything is recorded and reported, and technology helps.
“We’ve got apps so staff can record on their phones that they’ve had a coaching catchup and that gets downloaded into the PDR system and I can pull up a report to say, for example, that 60 percent have had their coaching catchup by XY date and then we can follow up the ones who haven’t.” Pam can also see if any issues are arising.
A new section was added this year: “What makes me feel valued?” Then, when they have their coaching catchups, Managers then have an idea of what makes those individuals feel valued and make sure they take this into account. Every year they seek to improve the system after Pam and Montage review the feedback. Now, all Naylor Love’s HR processes are in their Montage Online system. Everything from recruitment to termination.
“It all adds to that cog in the wheel of the central well-being of our people. We started with a PDR system and now the people and performance page we’ve developed does everything! So, we go from our recruitment process for managers requesting to being authorised. We capture all our training through Montage Online and our competency register. And it’s all in one place.”
“We’re very into measuring things at Naylor Love. Measuring what we do to see it’s adding value is very important.”
With a transparent, efficient system, and everything online and in the cloud, managers have access to the information they need. This is vital for the development of staff, them feeling valued, and tapping into their department to provide training. The captured information allows managers to see what training staff need - this can range from training in their internal systems to external courses such as negotiation.
The Naylor Love PDR is based on two questions that staff believe are important.
1. How are you behaving against the company’s values and
2. How are you driving toward the results the company wants to achieve?
Pam continually pushes Montage to keep it simple, which she believes is critical to success in staff development. The effectiveness of what has been implemented is easily measurable in a highly competitive industry.
Contented staff stay longer. Retention is key. Naylor Love’s retention rate is 11 percent. The New Zealand average is about 15 percent and in construction in general, last year was over 20 percent.
“We’re proud of our culture because we’re very people focused. Listening to your people will make them valued. Anything we do is central around our people. If you don’t have good people, you don’t have a business. We’re not a factory with widgets in and widgets out, it’s all about people and interactions with our people.”
The company’s skill requirements are broad - construction, carpentry, site managers, technical and site-based, quantity surveyors, designers, services, engineers, project managers, mechanical and electrical and senior managers.
“Even our CEO goes through the process with the chairman of the board. The whole team gets it - happy, more contented staff and company doing really well. The staff know they have a voice. It makes for a sense of belonging and if you don’t have that sense of belonging, people are not going to be content in what they’re doing and they won’t stay.”
“We’re proud of our culture because we’re very people focused. Listening to your people will make them valued."
“I want Naylor Love to be successful, I want our people to be successful,” says Pam. “That’s happened. We’re in a very, very solid position. We’re at our peak I would say. We’ve got very good projects, very good staff, and we’ve got people tapping us on the shoulder to come and join us.”
Not only do they have a great HR system, but Pam has enjoyed the journey with Montage “because they do listen. I think I’ve helped them on the journey as well. I’m quite an innovative person, thinking outside the square. So are Montage. I think Simon liked that challenge - so we complement each other.
“I’m open to suggestions from them and vice versa. They’re always exploring what I want to achieve. They’re very quick to adapt to what we want to achieve.”
"[Montage Online] are always exploring what I want to achieve. They’re very quick to adapt to what we want to achieve.”