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Waterman Aspen


Few jobs offer the chance to work with a range of different organisations on a variety of projects, but still provide the security of permanent employment. But Waterman Aspen says it does this by sending employees on medium to long term placements with local authorities and other consultants.

WA was established as Aspen Associates 16 years ago to help clients cope with high workloads and staff shortages.

Now part of Waterman Group, it employs around 200 people, in positions from technician to director.

Working for WA has many of the benefits of freelancing or contract work while also offering the employment benefits - guaranteed salary, pension, company car, holiday entitlement and sick pay - of permanent employment. There are also training opportunities, career progression and promotion prospects.

Salaried WA staff are paid whether they are on a secondment or not, so they do not need to worry about being out of work when their secondment comes to an end.

In practice, though, WA rarely has difficulty placing anyone, and a new secondment will start immediately after one has finished. On the rare occasions that this does not happen, short term work is found in one of Waterman Burrow Crocker's regional offices.

Many secondments start as a short term arrangement - perhaps to cover for an unfilled vacancy or to bring in a particular expertise - but can last for years. Local authorities that have brought in WA staff to help with peaks in their workload often find their budgets continue to increase every year, and there is always work for the secondee.

Chris Chaplin, WA managing director, says the company has been successful because it combines a private sector management style with the public sector ethos that many of its employees hold dear.

'Our staff are mostly from the public sector and they like working in the public sector.

They feel they are working for the community and that what they do makes a difference.

But they often just want to get on with the engineering and not get involved with the politics.'

As well as competitive salaries and career progression, WA supports training agreements and arranges for graduates to receive the full range of experience needed - usually with the willing participation of the organisation they have been placed with.

The company has a hands-on approach to management, with the bulk of the secondments arranged and managed through regional offices. Staff are usually found placements within commuting distance - unless they specifically request a move - and area managers provide support, regular meetings and organise training.

But the managers - and even the directors - are themselves on secondment, creating a very lean management structure.

This reflects the thinking throughout Waterman, where senior staff are all actively involved in project work.

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