Solomons Europe’s dedicated People and Performance team has and continues to be crucial to continued growth of the business and its talented, driven and passionate employees.
In this blog to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, People and Performance Manager Victoria Clements reflects on her time with the company, what’s been achieved so far, and what the future holds.
Driving into our Lambton office this morning it dawned on me that I’ve been at Solomons Europe for almost 6 years now. This realisation prompted me to reflect on my role at Solomons and what struck me was just how much we, the People and Performance Team, have adapted and developed our approach and the service we provide to our people over that time. This has in turn led to personal and professional growth for me individually, working with an enthusiastic and committed team to ensure we are able to provide a more holistic offering for our employees.
Proactively adapting to external factors and crises which have impacted on our people and our business has been a constant challenge at Solomons, and to some extent starting well before the pandemic took hold. It has meant we have discovered new ways to think about problems, to become more creative and to devise some rather radical and ground-breaking solutions to solve potential problems for our people.
From coaching on wellbeing, actively promoting lifetime learning, and more recently dipping our toes in the water to support people centric Business Development strategies - you name it, we’ve (myself and Dawn Powell) had involvement in almost every aspect of Solomons’ business strategy!
Our reach and involvement has far exceed that of most traditional HR functions, it’s simply had too! As an SME, support functions within the business need to be able to turn their hands to almost anything and have the agility and resilience to act quickly, take on new challenges and to be inventive.
Knowing our people, our directors and our business on a deeper level means we can join up the dots, whereas other areas of the business maybe hold part of the puzzle, myself and Dawn can see how the whole puzzle fits together. It's a position of trust which myself and Dawn treasure, and it requires us to be vigilant and open to new ideas.
Key to our role, and our own success at Solomons is our love of lifelong learning and the desire and commitment to support our people. Over the past 5 years, we have trained to be in-house career coaches hitting the books to acquire new skills and putting our learning in to practice with our teams, culminating in our most recent accreditation as WRAW Master Practitioners. We are proud to have armed ourselves with the tools help our people to proactively nurture and develop their own skills, wellbeing and resilience.
So, apart from the professional development and personal academic and technical stretch that I have experienced over the last 6 years, what other highlights spring to mind?
This week is National Apprenticeship Week and it’s quite a fitting landmark for me. Some of the highlights of my journey at Solomons stem from the people we have welcomed into the team, watching them develop and thrive, professionally and personally! From our first intake of non-cognate trainees back in 2016 to the most recent MSc Apprenticeship campaign. Watching our apprentices rise to the challenge and develop in confidence and ability as they progress through our fast-track programme, has been inspiring to watch and (I know Dawn feels this way too) we feel privileged to play a part in their journey.
I think of other people who have joined us with experience, that have gone on to do extraordinary things, such as completing their APC in 11 months, and the promotions we’ve witnessed and cheered for from the side lines. We are involved in every aspect of our peoples’ journey at Solomons
From recruitment, through to career coaching, developing bespoke training plans, organising and steering APC pathways, to sitting with pride on staff promotion panels, we are constantly championing our people and always looking for opportunities to best support them to achieve their goals.
Our people are very much the heart of what we do here at Solomons, and many come to us with firm career plans in mind - such as APC support and development. But regardless of their aspirations, everyone here is hungry to keep learning. Which is fortuitus, as it’s essential in this fast-paced era to keep skills sharp and to continue professional development throughout the whole of your professional career journey. There is no end point!
We appreciate development is about personal choice and isn’t ‘one size fits all’, so that’s why we look at all possible ways we can support lifelong learning at Solomons. Whether it’s Lunch & Learn session with external experts on Construction Contract Law, Project 13, Personal Wellbeing or a workshop to tackle the APC or understand the Construction Playbook, we continue to think creatively about how we can support our people and ensure their skills and knowledge are ‘Future Fit’.
Our most recent 6 MSc Apprentices are on a fast-track pathway to chartership within 33 months, but the learning won’t stop there, and it will be our job to ensure we can help them keep abreast of industry changes and continue to develop their learning skills to take their career to new levels post qualification.
It never ceases to amaze both myself and Dawn just how ready and willing our people are to #PayitForward. Acknowledging the support, they have received at Solomons by mentoring others, be that giving their time to support our apprentices, or helping to prepare content for lunch and learn sessions. We have many in the team who give their time and energy willingly to help others in the organisation, and who specifically cite being shown the same support and consideration in their own development journey as a key motivator in doing so - #payitforwward in action!
Another highlight of the last 6 years is witnessing the career progression of so many of our people. In some cases, we’ve watched them rapidly develop from Trainees to Project Quantity Surveyors before our very eyes. We’ve sat in coaching sessions and on promotion panels, listening to our people tell their story and show us the vast learning they have accumulated along the way.
I always say, “we reward on merit not time served at Solomons” and it's absolutely true. Sometimes we spot people are ready for the next stage in their career before they are even aware of it themselves, and that comes from knowing everyone individually, understanding the work they are involved in, their aspirations and development needs.
We are fortunate to have such capable teams at Solomons, everyone is passionate about what they do, they are conscientious and want to do a great job for their clients.
Something we’ve always been aware of, even before COVID hit, is that high performance, if not managed well, can easily lead to burn out and stress. Solomons strive to get to know our people very well individually, and the last thing we, or the leadership team want is for our people to feel excessive stress or strain from work. For this reason, we have always invested significantly in our employee’s personal wellbeing: from Willo’s Retreat (an executive lodge for exclusive Solomons staff use each year); to Fitness & Wellbeing Festivals and, most recently; plans for our very own wellbeing retreat currently under construction. Founding Directors Kerry and Dominic have taken people’s wellbeing so seriously from early on in the creation of Solomons, and I personally think is exceptional, and something I am very proud to support.
As a testament to this, myself and Dawn Powell recently completed WRAW (Workplace Resilience and Wellbeing) Master Accreditation training which equips us with the skills, knowledge and the tools needed to help individuals, teams, leaders and organisations to explore their Wellbeing and Resilience and look at ways to bolster and enhance their levels- to help them manage the ebb and flow of potential stress and strain in work and home life.
So, the next challenge for the evolving People & Performance team will be the rolling out ‘Resilient You’ training internally as part of our Future Skills Academy. WRAW principles feed in perfectly to our ethos of Lifelong Learning, providing our people with practical tools to manage their own resilience levels for the rest of their career, come what may – literally instilling skills for life. If that’s not a potential highlight and endorsement of our team’s central role in the business, and our commitment to the positive impact we can have on our teams then I don’t know what is!
You’ll notice there is a common theme that runs right through all my highlights - supporting our fantastic people gives me a sense of purpose, joy and fulfilment. I can’t wait to see what the next 6 years will bring!