Rhys Skym – Managing Director. SWJ Consulting 

SWJ is a relatively new company (28 months old) and has a team of eight, including three directors. We have been challenged to look at our employer brand to help us attract the high-quality candidates we need to grow our team. Defining our HR strategy is not something we’d thought about before, but for us it boils down to ‘Encouraging Excellence’.  

How can we encourage excellence in all that we and our staff do and circumnavigate the crippling pressure the word ‘excellence’ can bring? 

Because we have a small team, with three directors, our staff have direct access to both the leadership team as well as the clients. Everyone is client facing and this requires a degree of competence and confidence as well as trust that SWJ will be represented appropriately.  

So, what we do as a management team is create a safe space that encourages learning 

We start with support and information sharing so everyone is very clear on what they should be doing, and this includes client interaction. With this established we then have the flexibility to give loose briefs to our team members, so they are encouraged to come up with their own solutions instead of being told what to do. As a management team we do not want a team of calculator-monkeys that rely on us to tell them exactly how everything should be done. We want to encourage creativity. I have seen in previous roles how great engineers moved onto pastures new by because alternative ideas or opinions were not valued or considered. By creating this culture of learning without fear of failure we’ve also installed a strong sense of accountability.  

We have a robust checking process in place which is key to our notion of creating a safe place to fail. All the directors are easily approachable for questions and double checks. This creates a naturally collaborative style of working that builds on everyone’s ideas to reach the best solution. Currently we have a technician, Poonam who is working towards becoming a EngTech TIStructE, with Membership of the IStructE as an Engineering Technician. As we go through her course work with her, we encourage her to re-think some of her answers instead of checking and fixing.  

Our culture of accountability means that employees feel trusted to be their own time keepers and ensure their work is of the highest standard; if they need help, they only need to ask for it. In this way they remain responsible for their growth and learning while we ensure they have access to the support and training they need.  

We are looking to employ creativity and potential over emulation and repetition. We work with the latest in virtual design and construction technology; and our technicians are given the time and freedom to explore packages like Revit or Dynamo to see what more we can do and how we can improve as a business.  

I am a professional Reviewer of the IStructE, ensuring candidates have satisfied the 13 key objectives to be approved. It has opened my eyes to the layers of learning, and the full exposure to a range of disciplines that quality engineers need. When drilling down into candidates’ portfolios and the design decisions made it can quickly become apparent if it’s not 100% their own work. That’s the problem of being ‘given’ a solution. It is obvious to me, therefore, that my engineers need to be finding their own solutions and understanding why their plans or ideas may be challenged.  

As we continue to grow as a business and grow the team, we’re mindful that we don’t parachute in new management that won’t embrace our strategy of encouraging excellence. We have some work to do on identifying our employee value proposition and making this clear on all our communications, but we’ve made a start;  

  • Creating a safe place to fail 
  • Access to directors’ expertise  
  • Guidance over dictation  
  • Ideas and opinions valued 
  • Encouraged to find own solutions 
  • Robust checking procedures  
  • A culture of accountability  

We know the type of candidates we want, those willing to both learn and nurture their colleagues to not only encourage but empower excellence in all we do.  

If you’re looking for a new role in structural engineering please send your CV with a covering letter to rhys.skym@swjconsulting.co.uk