There is always a warm reception at Windsor Castle for staff in the Kier Group. When flames engulfed the building in 1992, they were in the middle of restoring a different part of the castle but gathered all hands to salvage works of art and stop the fire from spreading.
Employees are royally proud of what Kier Group creates — from the award-winning Wellcome Wing at the Science Museum in London to an 18-screen cinema in Glasgow. The group, made up of 32 companies in 27 offices, has projects including building, civil engineering and estate management — it carries out repairs on 29,000 homes for the London borough of Islington and patched up the crumbling ceiling in the House of Lords.
Founded in the 1920s, the firm became part of Beazer Group until an employee buyout in 1992 — giving a feeling of ownership staff retain although the group was floated on the stock exchange four years later.
British sales rose by almost 5% in the last year to £1.38 billion. Site agents, the most common job title, are paid £29,158 a year and 63% of staff feel this is fair. Facilities at head office, Tempsford Hall, near Sandy in Bedfordshire, are excellent. There is a heated swimming pool, tennis courts and sports pitches at a cost of 70p a month, with a subsidised canteen. Staff can claim a 25% subsidy on gym membership.
Although the firm’s final-salary pension has been closed to new employees, there is a contributory pension and sharesave scheme open to all. Kier, part of the male-dominated building trade, scores less well on its female-friendliness: maternity pay and leave are only statutory, though adoptive mothers get the same; and just a fifth of employees (and seven of 185 senior managers) are women.
Employees have good relationships with their managers, and 77% feel their judgment is trusted, while the firm tries to dig out good ideas from everyone with a “penny off the pound” campaign — rewarding cost-saving suggestions with a prize supermarket dash.
A total of 80% of staff feel they make a valuable contribution to Kier’s success and the company told us: “No matter how big we get, our background as an employee-owned organisation has a legacy that keeps us close to our people. We’re a family business, and our motto is: ‘We are building for ourselves’.”
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