While most companies in the construction industry claim to value their younger members of staff, few go as far as WSP in demonstrating its commitment to retaining them.
In 1995, group chief executive Chris Cole launched WSP Taskforce, an internal working group designed to act as a catalyst for inter-company communication and raise recognition of WSP activities throughout the group - particularly among younger employees.
Taskforce comprises 12 individu - als selected from the lower and mid - dle management levels of WSP, most of whom are aged between 28 and 35. Taskforce meetings are held regionally at different WSP offices, every four to six weeks.
Members undertake research and prepare presentations and papers for the executive committee and group plc board. 'Taskforce enables younger members of staff to learn more about the business as a whole, ' says Diane Goodwin, princi - pal planning engineer and chair of the ongoing Taskforce 2006, 'which is important given the increasingly multidisciplinary nature of this business.' It is one of the only forums in WSP - other than the executive committees - where members from each operating company meet on a regular basis, she adds.
Taskforce is also responsible for organising and hosting WSP's annual 'young conference', where engineers, archi - tects, scientists and support professionals from group companies around the world are invited to meet and spend several days in workshops and seminars with their WSP counterparts.
The theme of this year's confer - ence - held in Bristol in October - was WSP people. Some 88 delegates, 67 of them from WSP's various UK trading companies and the rest from the US, Sweden, Hong Kong and South Africa, met up with the aim of advancing their knowl - edge of communication, team building and awareness of cultural differ - ences.
'The goals set were successful and there was a great deal of inter - action, ' said group property man - ager Jonathan Miller of the event. 'It was great fun, but very hard work and people walked away with a very different view of the company.'
Susan Nilsson and Daniel Lund - strom, from WSP's recently acquired Swedish consultancy J&W, agreed that the conference offered young people 'the chance to make a point' as well as providing the opportunity to put faces to names.
Most overseas delegates were impressed by the openness of WSP's senior managers, many of whom attended the conference as delegates, and admitted to feeling more confident about their future as part of the group.
And what about the staff who helped organise the conference?
'The sense of achievement from hard work and seeing delegates gain experience from interaction was immense, ' says Taskforce member and structural project engineer Geri Howson. 'And although there are no statistics to prove that Taskforce encourages staff retention, ' she adds, 'feedback from events such as the young conference confirms that it gives our younger staff an additional career goal, and offers something different from our competitors.'
Young engineers are looking to improve their business skills as well as their technical skills l An open management approach can improve staff confidence l Involvement in decision making enables engineers to feel valued