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Frank Haslam Milan gives a facelift to community housing that is showing its age, and the beautifying process starts from within, thanks to a proactive company culture that keeps employees' stress lines to a minimum. Staff are some of the least frazzled by their jobs of any of the Best Companies to Work For. Few have experienced any stress-related symptoms attributable to their job in the past year; the 83% positive score for the lack of stress ranking the company eighth in our top 100 companies. It stands at 15th for wellbeing overall.
FHM — as staff at the firm refer to it, not to be mistaken for the lads' mag of the same name — is a construction company with a difference. Rather than engaging in vicious tendering contests with rival organisations that could see jobs lost for a £1 difference, it has developed its own specialist niche working with leading housing providers in the northeast, Yorkshire and the East and West Midlands to build and improve about 20,000 properties a year. Its main arm is the refurbishment side, bringing social housing up to the government's Decent Homes standard. This means staff need to employ more social skills than are traditionally required on a building site, as workers may be entering the homes of people who are still in residence. Managing director of FHM North East, Dave Mellor, thinks his staff are a cut above the rest, as he explains: "The quality and number of people we've got is the differential that sets us apart."
Director Lisa Lormor agrees with Mellor. "There's only so many ways to fit a kitchen. It's the person who's fitting the kitchen that makes the difference. Our staff are our ambassadors. We've got a database of people wanting to work for FHM. There's 400 people on it, whereas other builders are complaining about skills shortages." An ethos of promoting from within and a focus on training and development helps build loyalty at FHM. Staff think their job is good for their own personal growth, rating this point 80% positive; they think the company really tries to help its employees (81%) and that they make a valuable contribution to its success (79%).
Each employee has on average seven days' training a year, at a total cost to the company of more than £300,000. Staff can also claim £50 towards a non-work-related training activity. Operations manager Keith McDougall puts his towards golf lessons. It's the little things like that, or the fruit baskets and newspapers on sites, that add up to a great company to work for, he says.
McDougall is also motivated by the career prospects, as he says: "Most of the board have come up from quite junior positions. I'm hoping to progress. There are lots of opportunities in our industry, but I've been here 11 years, which speaks for itself." The scope to move on is embodied in Mellor, who has worked at FHM for 18 years. "I started as a trainee quantity surveyor and progressed to managing director," he says.
The company is prepared to go further than most to ensure the wellbeing of its staff, as customer liaison manager Andrea Butterworth discovered when one of her teenagers was refusing to go to college. "They offered me a life skills coach. I had five sessions and it really helped," she says. FHM has the 10th highest score in the survey for work not interfering with responsibilities at home (75%).
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