Amit Bhatia, QPR co-owner and chairman of Hope Construction Materials, on his masterplan for encouraging talent
The old adage goes that finding good people is one of the toughest things in business. Ask any employer, regardless of whether they run a multinational or a local firm, and I bet they would all be willing to share stories of their negative experiences of recruitment. So why not look at things a different way and seek out young talent, ideally in your local area, and develop them into the people you want?
The UK economy is still finding its feet and business is more competitive than ever. It is those who are willing to invest time and money into developing their workforce that will reap the benefits of motivated and dynamic employees in the long-term.
After founding Hope Construction Materials, the UK’s largest independent cement and concrete firm at the beginning of the year, I have made it a priority to develop young talent among our 800-strong workforce. Being ‘entrepreneurial’ is one of our four core company values.
I was fortunate enough to be named ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013’ earlier this year at the Asian Business Awards and enterprise is something I believe is essential for the development of any company, regardless of industry.
The common perception is that it is only those at the top that are the ‘enterprising’ ones, yet I would argue that a successful company has enterprising employees too. People are the heart of any business and if you can encourage employees to become intrapreneurs – entrepreneurs within a larger organisation – you are more likely to attract,nurture and retain fine young talent.
Of course this approach is easier said that done. I find that speaking directly to those who could become your future colleagues is an important first step. Through doing this you are able to put your business in front of those who are keen to take their first steps in the working world. The second step is showing real interest in young people and helping them develop their knowledge and talent and identifying their beliefs and passions.
Hope Construction Materials offers both mechanical and electrical apprenticeship schemes through a partnership with the Stockport Engineering Training Association (SETA). Apprentices are given a clear development path within the firm, involving a structured work programme and a dedicated mentor to help them through the four-year scheme. They know exactly how they will progress, who they can turn to for support should they need it and ultimately, and possibly most importantly, what they will achieve as they follow the plan.
One of the most common complaints of the young unemployed is that they will never get anywhere in a job and so by showing them a compelling description of what their future successes can be, this is a great way to bring in new, enthusiastic talent. Feeling you’ve made a contribution is priceless.
What is also important is guarding against complacency. Work methods change, industry practices change and so should apprenticeship programmes. For them to be successful in the long-term, development schemes must constantly be revisited, evaluated and tweaked to ensure they are offering both the apprentices and the firm the greatest possible benefit.
Businesses should instil a culture whereby each employee feels they have the ability to make changes – and I mean real changes. All members of staff should feel that if they spot an opportunity to improve either themselves, the business or both, they should be able to put their ideas forward in the belief that they will be considered to the same degree as that of more senior staff. If this spirit can be fostered it’s a win-win situation, company leaders receive a wider range of ideas and employees feel valued and incentivised.
With this in mind I believe the London Loves Talent Awards are a great way of celebrating those businesses who have sought to develop talent. Having worked in and launched a number of companies both in the UK and abroad I have absolutely no doubt that the future of the economy is heavily linked to developing and retaining the best talent. Britain needs enterprise and enterprise should be celebrated.
Many people out there may still struggle to see how they can make a valuable contribution to the UK economy. At least through the awards I can salute some of the country’s top businesses trying to change this for the better.
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