Constructing better, longer staff relationships - Marion Forbes of Mactaggart & Mickel

Employee engagement is a hot topic in 2020. As margins are squeezed and businesses look to increase their productivity, a motivated, positive workforce is a big plus.

Mactaggart & Mickel staff helped Lee Davidson and her family decorate their home in time for Christmas. Picture: Andrew Crawley
Mactaggart & Mickel staff helped Lee Davidson and her family decorate their home in time for Christmas. Picture: Andrew Crawley

But creating lasting relationships with employees is not as easy as it looks. It can be tempting to task someone with organising a charity event or two and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, these activities rarely build the kind of engagement that is transformational in business terms.

To drive proper engagement – where people are willing to go the extra mile for the company they work for – businesses need to find or create something that resonates with employees and reflects the organisation’s values.

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Mactaggart & Mickel is a family-run company and that feeling of family, and the values that support them, run through everything we do. It sets us apart from PLCs where shareholder value reigns supreme. So, when we set out to find a charity partner, we had these values front and centre. We were in search of like minds.

We rolled up our sleeves and brought our 'day job' skills to the table, says Forbes. Picture: Contributed

'We rolled up our sleeves'

In January last year we signed a partnership with Who Cares? Scotland, the then UK Charity of the Year, to provide vital life skills and practical support to care-experienced young people.

Our involvement was far more than a few bucket shakes and fundraising events. We rolled up our sleeves and brought our “day job” skills to the table.

Teams of Mactaggart & Mickel employees have carried out essential repairs and refurbishment for care-experienced young people who were moving into their own homes for the first time. We’ve had painters, plumbers, joiners and office-based staff released from their regular “day jobs” to lend a hand to these adults, many of whom have little family support to help them renovate or decorate their property.

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We decided on this practical solution because some of the biggest challenges faced by people leaving care are when the formal support system stops at age 21 and they have to fend for themselves, often lacking the life experience and practical skills to help them find their way.

Most recently we decorated a family’s home in Linwood, in time for Christmas. Lee, a single parent to four children, spent seven years in the care system as a child, then a further decade battling homelessness. However, she is determined to realise her potential and is studying for a university degree before pursuing a career in the voluntary sector. Her commitment to making a better life for her family is what connects her story to ours.

'Willing to go the extra mile'

A further strand to our partnership was organising an employability workshop at our head office for ten young adults from a care-experienced background. The day equipped them with essential interview skills and enabled them to practise these skills in a relaxed environment.

The session was a success as already three have been taken on as apprentices with NHS 24, Scotland’s national telehealth and telecare organisation.

In terms of employee engagement, this partnership is striking a chord with our teams because it’s about people and providing practical assistance that has measurable, positive outcomes. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

As an additional benefit, the initiative has brought together construction and head office staff in a way that does not often happen during the working day.

There’s better understanding of individual roles within the organisation and a willingness to go the extra mile to work together to achieve business goals.

Furthermore, recruitment – still a thorny problem in the construction industry – is showing signs of easing, with more high calibre applicants than we had seen in the previous year.

There are many ways to be an employer of choice but authentic engagement with your employees is surely one of the most important.

- Marion Forbes, director, Mactaggart & Mickel