09/10/2007 - 22:00

Case study: Structerre lifts its HR focus

09/10/2007 - 22:00

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Engineering firm Structerre Consulting, like many other businesses in Western Australia, is feeling the pinch of the state’s tight labour market.

Engineering firm Structerre Consulting, like many other businesses in Western Australia, is feeling the pinch of the state’s tight labour market.

Started in 1980 with a focus on residential engineering, Balcatta-based Structerre has grown to offer civil and commercial engineering to its clients across the state with its 170 strong team and regional offices in Bunbury and Geraldton.

The company also has a Brisbane office with 28 staff.

Founder and chief executive Gervase Purich says the company has reaped the benefits of the state’s property boom, achieving strong organic growth that has allowed Structerre to expand its service offering.

“We’re the engineers of the masses,” he told WA Business News. “As our [builder] clients have grown, we’ve grown with them.”

But while the construction boom has been good for business, Mr Purich said it had also placed added pressure on staffing.

In a competitive marketplace, Structerre had to be innovative in its approach to human resource management, and in marketing the company to prospective employees.

“Across the board, engineers, financial controllers, administrators…we just weren’t able to get them,” Mr Purich said.

“The only way was to grow and develop our own.”

The company implemented a number of human resources initiatives designed to attract quality staff, and to create a positive working environment with opportunities for professional growth to retain staff.

Building a new 2,000 square metre custom designed office this year presented the opportunity to incorporate modern staff amenities in the office, including bigger working spaces and large social meeting areas.

The new building also allowed for the company to develop a baby room, giving employees the option of bringing in their small children to be cared for while they worked.

Mr Purich said with female engineers and draftspersons, administrators and clerical staff making up roughly 40 per cent of the Structerre workforce, accommodating for their requirements was a necessity.

Flexible working conditions were adopted, allowing some employees, particularly those with children, the option of working from home on occasion.

A busy social calendar, fully funded by the company and open to family members, also contributed to the positive working environment.

Mr Purich said it was important for Structerre to do things a bit differently to its competitors, creating an egalitarian workplace with a fairly flat hierarchical structure, where the passion and values of the first generation owners filtered through the organisation.

“We wanted to breed that culture. It’s a mindset we think is infectious,” he said.

Career development initiatives were put in place, including a program for undergraduates, and allowing employees access to training and education.

Earlier this year, Structerre implemented its associated and partners program, giving exceptional staff members the opportunity to share financially in the success of the business.

Employees are appointed associates if they are deemed to have added value to the organisation, while those appointed partner have been recognised by the directors as having long-term leadership potential within the company.

Mr Purich said the scheme not only recognised significant contributions from individuals within the organisation, but also provided role models for the rest of the staff who aspired to progress within the organisation.

“There’s equal opportunity for everybody. The back end is just as important to the smooth running of the organisation as the people at the top making the decisions,” Structerre director Greg Higham said.

Recognising the importance of having a strong presence and profile in the marketplace, the company embarked on a brand awareness marketing campaign to promote the business and more importantly to put it on the radar of prospective employees.

Mr Purich said the company’s previous strategy of staying under the radar was beginning to hamper its ability to attract professional staff, and it was necessary for the founders to overcome their fears of having a public profile.

“It was a catch 22. It didn’t hurt us, but we didn’t have engineers looking through the windows,” he said. “But as we got more confident with the business we went out to make sure the engineering fraternity knew who we were.”

With a strong presence across WA, Structerre is now looking to extend its model throughout Australia, seeking out opportunities for potential acquisition targets or setting up new offices in other states.

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