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Bovis Lend Lease

Bovis Lend Lease

Small-firm feel, big-firm benefits

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | August 11, 2010
This article first appeared in the 200705 issue of BD+C.

At $3.4 billion in revenues last year, Bovis Lend Lease is one of the largest construction management firms and general contractors in the hemisphere, with 2,800 employees in 21 offices in North America and Latin America. Bovis ranks #1 among CMs on Building Design+Construction's 2006 “Giants” list and #2 among construction firms. In 1999, the company, then known as Bovis Group plc, was acquired by Australia's Lend Lease Corporation Ltd. and later merged with Lend Lease Projects to form Bovis Lend Lease.

Despite its size, Bovis Lend Lease exhibits many of the desirable traits of a much smaller company. In a recent employee survey, Bovis workers praised the company's sense of camaraderie, the ability to take time off when necessary, and the visibility and accessibility of CEO Peter A. Marchetto and his management team.

“People here like what they do, and they like the people they work with,” says Greg Myers, senior vice president of human resources. Bovis's robust investment in training, career development support, and health and safety also contributes to employee satisfaction and a relatively low (10%) turnover rate.

Trust fund benefits employees

The company has several innovative programs to promote inter-office networking and team building. The Lend Lease Foundation, a trust fund established for the benefit of employees, provides $2 million annually for employee events and learning experiences.

Many of these activities bring together staff from different regions, departments, and job levels. One of these is Springboard, a four-day team-building and personal development program held six times a year in the U.S. and at various locations throughout the globe, including Australia, Scotland, Italy, and Thailand. The program uses the 1914-1916 Shackleton expedition to the Antarctic as a metaphor to encourage team building. Just as Shackleton's crew were pushed to the limit of endurance, Springboarders discover their limits and how to push past them to achieve their life goals.

Myers says his own recent Springboard experience in upstate New York was a great opportunity to get to know employees from around the world, and at all levels. “You could be sitting next to an administrative assistant from Australia or a director from the UK,” he says.

Another Lend Lease Foundation program, Developing U, provides training that employees can apply to both their personal and professional lives, such as presentation skills, negotiation skills, dealing with difficult people, Spanish language for the job site, and business writing. There's even a course on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

A rich career development program

In the area of professional development, the company offers a two-week executive training program that it developed with Columbia University. The program aims to bolster executives' skills in leadership, collaboration, strategy, and partnering. Participants develop ways to improve leadership and management within the company. Bovis's Safety Academy, a safety training program, originated from an idea developed by participants in this program.

Last year, Bovis extended its training program to mid-level managers in a course called Emerging Leaders. About 100 project engineers and project managers participate in the three-day program, which focuses on communications skills, employee discipline, effective performance appraisals, and coaching.

Bovis associate making "training roadmaps."

Another program, Bovis Works, is available to all employees, but is geared primarily toward employees with two to five years' experience. Its purpose is to provide a knowledge base of the disciplines that support basic operations, such as technical services, insurance, contracts, information technology, financial reporting, project controls, and marketing and business development. Participants learn directly from Bovis's subject matter experts.

The newest career development program involves technical training and will launch this June. Recognizing that it can be difficult for employees to figure out what type of training will enable them to get that next promotion, this program will provide “Training Roadmaps” to help participants understand what they need to study and learn and what technical skills and training will help them take the next step up the career ladder.

Bovis's career development programs have proven impact. Of the 20 offices in the Americas, principals-in-charge at 15 of these have been promoted from within. CEO Marchetto himself started in the firm at an entry-level position.

The company's college recruiting strategy for most of its larger offices includes an ambitious two-day program in which candidates are divided into teams, assigned a project, and present the results. The real-world project tests candidates' knowledge, presentation skills, and ability to work in teams. The program also includes meetings with recently hired college graduates and Bovis managers in which candidates can learn what it's like to work for the company.

Keeping safety top of mind

“Working incident and injury free is a choice and a basic human right” is Bovis's credo. The company's global awards program honors employees who display initiative and have a notable impact on safety. With the honor comes a weeklong stay in Sydney, Australia, the parent company's home town. Last year, 180 employees from around the world won.

Bovis spells out an impressive list of guarantees on safety policy to its employees:

“If you stop the job for a safety reason, we will back you up.”

“If you bring up a safety concern, we will address it promptly.”

“If there is an injury, we will conduct an incident investigation in such a way that the person is not blamed.”

“We will remove the barriers to your being successful in safety and support supervisors and crews in taking time to do it safely.”

These concepts are reinforced at annual workshops. Additional workshops are held regularly on project sites, with hourly and union laborers as well as subcontractors.

Promoting good health

At Bovis's yearly health fairs, employees can get free tests for cholesterol levels, diabetes, bone density, prostate enzymes, blood pressure, body mass index, and heart health. Bovis also provides a generous health insurance benefit, with employees paying approximately 10-15% of total premium costs.

The Lend Lease Foundation subsidizes smoking cessation programs for employees, spouses, domestic partners, and dependent children, paying 80% of the costs up to $500 per person. The foundation also pays 50-80% of the cost of Weight Watchers, aerobics, Pilates, yoga, or league sports for groups of four or more employees participating together.

Pressing the big-firm advantage

Although many employees appreciate Bovis's small-firm traits, the company's size provides significant career benefits. “Given the fact that there is always a backlog of work, there are many opportunities fueled by different types of projects,” Myers says. Both newer and more experienced mid-level employees are not held back by a lack of challenging work on which to build their skills.

Bovis encourages employees to take advantage of career-building resources by paying for memberships in professional organizations, including the AIA, the ASCE, ASME, the Society for Human Resource Management, the Construction Management Association of America, and Professional Women in Construction.

The firm also fosters global information sharing to provide advice on project challenges when needed. A program called ikonnect has an employee dedicated to tracking down the best Bovis professional to provide answers to urgent questions. Sharing such resources worldwide is one of the advantages of a company of Bovis's scale.

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