What it’s like working at… Rider Levett Bucknall

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  • What it’s like working at… Rider Levett Bucknall
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Sarah Draper


Sarah Draper


People & Culture
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We believe that it is our people that makes RLB different. You can find out more about life at RLB and what makes the team so special from Sarah Draper, our Head of People and Culture, when she was interviewed by Construction Manager magazine.

Working for an employee-owned business allows people to take control of their career, Sarah Draper, partner, head of people and culture, tells Construction Manager.

What are your USPs as an employer?

We are an employee-owned business and take great pride in our ‘people first’ mindset. Being independent means we are able to truly take the employee voice and use that to shape our business and react quickly. Our ‘people first’ approach benefits our business as we know when people have ownership at work, feel valued and are engaged it drives productivity. I think this has played a large part in RLB receiving a Top Employer UK accolade for 17 consecutive years.

What feedback do staff give you on working at the company?

Our employees really like the way the business is structured, not just that we are employee owned but also that we have a non-hierarchical matrix structure. We get a lot of positive feedback about the level of autonomy and empowerment this brings. One recent new starter posted on socials that we ‘care about doing things right’ which to me is a great reflection of our culture.

How do you identify and deliver staff development needs?

Our employees are encouraged to own their career development and we support this through the delivery of training, mentoring and other personal and professional development strategies. We are in the midst of digitalising our entire HR system which enables employees to take ownership of their development through updating objectives and asking for 365-degree feedback at any time. It allows a continuous conversation rather than waiting for a set point in the year.

How important are professional qualifications, such as CIOB membership, for your staff?

Professional skills such as CIOB membership and chartered status for relevant colleagues are key to ensure that they are gaining knowledge and insights about the industry as well as being able to show our clients and those we work with that the RLB team is qualified within their specialist fields.

How are you trying to boost diversity?

We are continuing to create an inclusive workplace where diversity is not only accepted but valued and built into our culture. Creating opportunity for all is the foundation to this, ensuring that this vision isn’t just a tick-box exercise.

We have had a D&I (diversity and inclusion) strategy and training in place for the past five years and set up a community to support the action plan and calendar to drive forward the agenda. We recognise there is still much we need to do as an industry, but we are making good progress. In the UK, 29% of our team is female and 32% of our senior leadership team, which is well above industry norms.

How do you look after staff wellbeing?

Making sure employees felt connected and valued is paramount. We have introduced agile working with core hours to support our team and have also rolled out a number of new wellbeing initiatives in the past 12 months. These include: an innovative health insurance scheme; ‘mental wealth’ training; new policies and awareness-raising on subjects from domestic violence to the menopause; a new ‘thank you’ bonus scheme; and small group virtual catch-ups with chief executive Andy Reynolds.

How do you recruit the best talent?

We have made changes to the way we recruit, from addressing unconscious bias to changing job titles to ensure we widen our appeal.

For example, we know apprenticeships are a great route into our profession for people of all ages – not just those starting out on their career. Our graduates also spend time promoting the career opportunities in our industry and routes to access it as part of our Bucknall’s First Rung programme.

We are very proud of our track record of nurturing our employees: two of our managing partners started as graduate trainees and one as an apprentice.