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Culture club

Recruitment profile

AMP4 success and its own open culture are providing plenty of opportunities for everyone working at There is an almost tangible buzz about Carl Bro; a sense that the company is on the brink of major expansion, and exciting opportunities are opening up for the staff.

The ulti-disciplinary consultancy is looking to take on more than 100 new technical staff in the UK - a 20% increase on its regular annual recruitment. These new jobs have become available because of Carl Bro's success in winning AMP4 framework deals with the water companies, as well as dramatic growth in its building, environment, systems, and transportation divisions.

With so much new business and expansion into different markets, one word keeps recurring in conversation with Carl Bro staff: 'opportunity'.

'We have got such opportunities for growth that there is room for everyone to move on and develop, ' says Lawrence Hughes, chief executive officer for Carl Bro in the UK and Ireland. 'What that means is that there are no real limits. If you are able to do something, and you want it, you can do it.' This attitude has led to Carl Bro having one of the youngest age profiles among UK consultants - the average age is in the 30s - with staff getting management opportunities at a far earlier stage in their careers than at many of its competitors.

Although the Danish-based firm first moved into Britain in the late 1980s, Hughes says the real birth of Carl Bro as a UK consultant only happened within the last five years. 'We're new in a lot of ways, and our culture has developed over the last two or three years.'

That culture -described as 'unique' by the Highways Agency during its recent CAT assessment - is a strong selling point that has played a major part in Carl Bro's success in winning the water sector frameworks.

Corporate cultures are never easy to define, but Hughes says Carl Bro's is the result of marrying the pragmatism that comes from having its UK base in Yorkshire ('where you call a spade a spade') with the openness and slightly more relaxed, friendly style of the Scandinavians.

The result is an atmosphere in which teamwork, partnering and information sharing are the norm, where enquiring minds are actively encouraged and where the senior management team sits in an open plan office, just like the rest of the staff. But behind the friendly approach and light, Scandinavian-influenced furniture is a high level of professionalism and competence that has led to the firm becoming the seventh largest consultant in the UK water sector.

'We do have an ego, and we are comfortable standing up and believing in ourselves, but we are happy to leave the ego outside when we are in partnering situations, ' explains Hughes.

He is extremely conscious of his role in developing and safeguarding the Carl Bro culture as the firm grows.

'We're aware that we have something here, even if we can't define it, ' he says.

'For the company's leaders and managers it's about treating others as you would want to be treated yourself.' The open plan management suite is no gimmick and extends to Carl Bro's regional offices as well as the head office in Leeds.

Staff constantly pass board members as they walk to and from their own desks, and can stop any time to ask questions or pass on suggestions.

'At this company you will never get into trouble for putting your hand up and admitting you've got a problem, ' says Hughes.

'But you will get into trouble for trying to hide it. We think that calling for help is not a weakness. But at the same time we have to make sure that the culture of the organisation is such that people can say that there is a problem and know they will be listened to.'

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