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In the family way

Working lives Staff development

Companies should be more than just places to work, says Faber Maunsell.

Staff increasingly expect more from their jobs than simply to come to work and then go home again, believes FaberMaunsell director of human resources Jeannie Edwards. 'People are looking now for the work environment to be their family, and demanding a lot more from it, ' she says.

The firm's core purpose is summed up as being: 'To create a better environment in which to work and live'. Taken at face value, this might simply refer to the obvious physical impact of its infrastructure projects. But the same vision drives a host of initiatives for staff and the community at large, FaberMaunsell sets aside 1% of its pre-tax profits for charity and community initiatives, a policy which won it the Association of Consulting Engineers Outstanding Contribution Award in April 2003. In 2000, £70,000 was donated to charities including the NSPCC - chosen by a staff vote - and the construction industry's charity for the homeless, CRASH. This financial support is backed by staff who give time to fundraising activities and community projects.

The firm is widely recognised as a good employer. The Sunday Times lists it among the '100 best companies to work for' and the Financial Times calls it 'one of the 50 best workplaces in the UK'.

There is a culture of help and support both within the company and outside. Graduate representatives guide newer entrants through the maze of professional qualifications, helping to identify appropriate institutions, supervisors and training. 'We are the first point of contact when a new person joins the company - particularly graduates straight out of university, ' says traffic engineer Paul Morrison. The graduate representatives also arrange social events which give a great opportunity to meet people from other departments and offices, says Morrison.

Support extends beyond the company. Link officers work with all the comprehensive schools near the St Albans head office, with similar programmes elsewhere.

The schools scheme is not the only way of helping younger people outside the company.

Civil and structural engineer Joyce Ferng has chosen to offer support through a new mentoring scheme for women in construction. 'I would have valued it when I was starting out, ' she says.

Initiatives like these help foster a sense of responsibility.

Both Ferng and Morrison have been given their own projects from early in their careers.

Taking responsibility also extends to keeping your career moving along. Senior environmental scientist Nigel Triner made a major change in direction by getting qualifications in acoustics after recognising that there would not be enough work in his initial specialism.

Edwards believes that what matters is career progression and to work for a company where people feel they make a difference.

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