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Company life: What's going on within Bovis Lend Lease
Contract Journal16 August 2006

Bovis is one of those ever-present names. Not just a stalwart in the UK construction sector,  its hand stretches all round the world, a truly global player. John Leitch reports.

Beverley Perkins, HR business partner for Bovis Lend Lease (BLL) UK, provides the people-related information and Scott Farquar, chief information officer, supplies the answers on IT and communications provision.

Company snapshot: Bovis Lend Lease

Head office: Harrow
Founded: 1885 by Charles Bovis
History: acquired by P&O in 1974 and then sold to Lend Lease Corporation of Australia in 1999.
Turnover: BLL's figure is £3.3bn worldwide. There is no breakout figure available for the UK alone, but Europe contributes £1.1bn. The turnover of the entire corporation stands at £3.9bn.
Chief executive: Bob Johnston
Employees: 8,000 worldwide and 2,500 in the UK.
Primary business: Construction, project management, PPPs.

How many days annual leave? The standard here is 25, plus bank holidays, but the introduction of our flexible benefits scheme, 'Preferences', means that we also offer the chance to buy or sell up to five days of annual leave. This is a popular option, with 16% of employees choosing to vary their leave. During the period it's been in place, there has been a fairly even balance between sellers and buyers.

Can you take holiday when you want? Yes, provided it's agreed in advance with your line manager.

How long is the standard working week? 42.5 hours for site staff and 37.5 hours for office staff.

What is the average weekly number of hours worked? It's the same figures as above. Our aim is to help people manage their time so they achieve a work-life balance.

What is your churn rate? 18%. That's the number of leavers as a percentage of the average number of our people. Interestingly, our organisation has grown by 12% in the last year. We are reviewing our resourcing approach to ensure we remain competitive and clearly communicate some of our unique offerings, such as extensive flexible benefits, generous maternity/paternity support and our 'Foundation' programme offering support and development to our people and the communities in which we operate.

Is there a good work-life balance? This is important and it gives us a key differentiation. We have a department here dedicated to well-being. We offer help with diet and exercise as part of our 'Feeling Alive' initiative. We have a course where the theme is 'Leading Change', which could be a change in the employee's work or in their outside life.

We are active on the medical/wellness front, providing a company doctor. Also, all our people have private medicine provision through BUPA and we are currently looking to appoint a wellness manager to advance our range of provisions on this front.

To help support our employees in their family life, we provide paternity leave of four weeks on full pay and maternity leave of six months on full pay.

What help is there towards employees' fitness? We have several initiatives to promote diet, exercise and relaxation, including yoga and tai chi in some offices. We encourage employee participation in certain activity events. For example, we had teams taking part in the London to Brighton cycle ride and the Five Peaks climbing challenge.

What is Bovis Lend Lease's average days sick/year? We do not hold central records for all sickness absence. However, we closely monitor any incident that results in absence due to a work-related injury or illness. We seek to minimise or eliminate absence through our 'Incident & Injury Free' programme that promotes best practice to prevent accidents.

Are private e-mails allowed/frowned upon/censored? E-mail is provided for company use, although we allow some personal use. The call would be if company systems were in danger of being compromised.

Is the virus checker kept busy? Yesand the numbers are big. We get 5,000 viruses a month, which are detected and cleaned. On top of that, we block a further 100,000 suspicious items of traffic a month. The result, for anyone working within Bovis, is that the e-mail system is pretty safe. We employ software that learns all the time, such as Symantec products and Ironmail.

Most people who get something suspicious call the service desk and don't simply open the attachments. But the good news is that most turn out to be harmless, as our systems are pretty robust - we've spent quite a bit of effort in getting to this position and are pretty proud of where we're at.

Do you have an integrated network connecting all parts of your business? Yes. At the core is MPLS (Multi Protocol Labelling Switching). It's running in all Bovis offices throughout the world. It has a feature of automatically diverting and routing items round bottlenecks. We also have VPN (Virtual Private Network) that makes use of the internet. The core of all our internet exchanges are by way of MPLS, but on the smaller sites we communicate either by VPN over the internet or by way of a leased line.

Do you have a high-speed internet connection? Yes. We run a link providing 34 megabytes/second and it's good. It's the drawing and collaboration software that is the most demanding.

What proportion of your employees have access to the internet? All staff who have access to a computer. In the UK, that means 1,622 individuals.

Are there any restrictions on internet use, for example, restrictions on the downloading of software, or rich-media presentations? Fundamentally, no, none. If they are not slowing the rest of the company's operations, then we don't mind. Only if something slows down everything else do we step forward. That said, if an issue of inappropriate items arises, it would be handled by the individual's manager. But no, we don't have an overarching software tool that imposes fundamental restrictions.

Do you personally make use of the internet and, if so, what type of information do you access most often? I'm a big user, especially for research, as there's a lot of information out there on the internet and search engines are getting smarter. Wikipedia is great. It's an on-line encyclopaedia that can be updated by anybody. It's very interesting and it offers a different way for people to link up and collaborate. There are hundreds of thousands of entries. You get a collection of views - they are uncontrolled, but the site has its own governance model and anything inappropriate gets removed.

What is your favourite website?

Do you see the internet as an aid to productivity or a hindrance? It has the potential to be both. The general view here in Bovis is that it is proving to be a significant aid to productivity. In the instances where it becomes a hindrance, then it becomes a management issue and is resolved through that channel.

Does your company make use of project collaboration tools? Bovis became famed for Hummingbird, our earlier project collaboration tool, but for the past 18 months we have been moving further ahead by developing Intouch, in partnership with BIW, and it's now taking 60,000 hits/month. Intouch covers collaboration, drawings, editing and process costs, as well as defects and snagging.

We did an assessment of potential partners and BIW was in the best position to satisfy what we were looking for. I think that between us, we could establish a product that proves to be a market leader.

Already we have Intouch working on 60 of our 84 projects in the UK. It's being rolled out wherever the client expresses no preference, as it's now our system of choice.

Do you have access to mobile devices such as a PDA/hand-held computer or a smart phone? Bovis makes use of 3G cards. We also have Blackberries and for managing snagging/defects we provide PDAs, the software they carry being part of our Intouch range.

How do you see the role of mobile technology evolving over the next few years? It will offer better coverage and I'll be happy when everyone is able to access company knowledge at all times. It's getting better and we're connecting up more of our individuals wherever they are. The technology will continually become of a higher value and be more readily available.

Where do you see future challenges? We have a workforce that contains four generations: veterans, baby-boomers, generation x and generation y. The latter two are more comfortable with technology. It's embedded in their way of thinking and we need to attract the brightest of these two younger generations by the way they perceive Bovis, in particular its technological footprint. It's important to brand ourselves well on this score.

We will need to cope with faster technical cycles, so keeping up with that is a big challenge for us in IT, and integration technology will keep evolving.

[Contract Journal, 16 August 2006, p. 9]


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