2017 saw our company undergo significant structural changes. We moved from three businesses under the Willmott Dixon umbrella, to a family of three sister companies - Willmott Dixon, Be and Fortem. While each company now operates with far greater independence, in very different markets, they remain committed to delivering social value, and continue to play an active role in supporting The Willmott Dixon Foundation.
Our achievements are the result of the hard work and commitment of our people. In 2017 a staggering 80% of them took part in community activities, contributing over 61,000 hours of their time. This Review celebrates what they have done, and highlights the achievements of some of the people we worked with throughout the year – many of whom have shown considerable courage and perseverance to overcome personal challenges.
From providing work experience opportunities to refurbishing community buildings; from mentoring young people facing significant life challenges, to organising events and fun days – over the years, community investment is something that we’ve become known for. Contrary to what many people may think, this does not make our businesses any less competitive: far from it. I believe that our commercial successes can be firmly linked to this culture. We know that our expertise in delivering social value helps us win work and build stronger relationships with our customers. But it’s more than that.
It helps us recruit the best people, at a time when the skills shortage is one of the biggest threats to our industry. A survey of our millennials found ‘working for an ethical employer’ to be top of their list of priorities when it came to choosing a job, and anecdotes from our recruitment team suggest that our focus on social value is a factor for many applicants.
It helps us grow our people. According to our most recent staff survey, practically everyone who took part in community activities last year said they received some personal benefit – from developing new skills, such as leadership and communication, to the ‘feel-good’ factor of being able to make a positive contribution or difference to someone else’s life.
It helps us foster a culture of innovation. When we set our ambitious 2013-2020 target – to enhance the life chances of 10,000 young people – we didn’t have a detailed route-map to success. We presented our people with the challenge, and asked them to come up with ideas. Their response and ingenuity has been amazing.
Nowadays, many companies are adopting a more “purpose driven” approach – but our commitment is not a recent phenomenon. Community investment (or, as it was called in days gone by, charitable works) has been part of our culture since our business was established in 1852. I am clear that Willmott Dixon and sister companies have a purpose beyond profit, and the work we do through the Foundation gives us the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better, and leave a lasting legacy.