What leaders think
Posted on

The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Bill Hocking

Bill Hocking, Chief Executive, Galliford Try Holdings plc

Chief Executive, Galliford Try Holdings plc

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

As a construction business, we have been operational throughout the pandemic. Our construction sites have continued to operate in a Covid safe manner and our offices have been open to a small number of people to support the sites, with all others working from home.

As restrictions start to be eased this week, most people want to come back to the office on a regular basis and we all obviously need to guard against complacency as we do so. We have provided succinct guidance to our office based staff to ensure a phased return in accordance with Government rules and our own, well established, Covid safe arrangements.

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?

We are reviewing our strategy for the next 5 years and this is foremost in my thoughts at the moment. The prognosis for the construction industry over the medium term is good as we support the Governments Levelling up and Zero Net Carbon strategy, play our part in the economic recovery and of course build the social and economic infrastructure to underpin a productive UK post Brexit.

We have had 2 national lockdowns and a range of regional tier variations over many months. In what way has your approach to these lockdowns / tier restrictions permanently influenced your own way of working and have you made or will you make any further adjustments now we are in a 3rd lockdown?

Some 18 months prior to the pandemic, we launched an initiative called “Smart and Agile Working”, the “Smart” being the technology to support mobile working and “Agile” being the culture to promote and empower flexible working practises. This stood us in good stead over the past year and we moved to home working, where we could, without missing a beat.

The pandemic has accelerated the cultural acceptance of flexible working immeasurably. Our continued challenge is how to improve the balance on our construction sites where, by the very nature of our work, it is more difficult to achieve.

Given the reliance on technology during lockdowns, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/workforce transformation in the short-medium term?

Yes. This was already in motion in the construction industry and the pandemic has provided additional impetus to the whole digital agenda.

What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?

The working norms on our construction sites, in terms of Covid safe practices, are embedded and will continue unchanged for the time being. Whilst more flexible working for staff is here to stay, we should not under-estimate the importance people place on the office as a place to learn, welcome new employees, absorb experience, maintain the culture of the organisation and make friends.

There is a dramatic reduction in carbon footprints during lockdowns, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?

Our Scope 1 & 2 Carbon emissions have more than halved over the past year. We are intent on keeping business travel at a reduced level as we return to normality. The days of flying up or down the country for a meeting are gone except for the most important occasions.

We are rapidly electrifying our 1000 strong car fleet with c40% of the fleet now hybrid or pure electric vehicles. Our fleet produced 133gCo2/km two years ago. It’s now 86gCo2/km and we are aiming to achieve 35gCo2/km by 2025. As well as saving a great many tons of carbon, we are also savings hundreds of thousands of Pounds in fuel costs.

In terms of personal well-being, what changes have you made and will you stick to them post lockdown?

My bicycle has seen more action in the last year than the previous ten and my children and I now know the local woods and trails like the backs of our hands. I will keep this up in the good weather and revert to the rowing machine when its cold and wet.

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

I had my first vaccination this week and the organisation, efficiency and cheerfulness of the staff at the centre was very uplifting. The ability to vaccinate 844,000 people in one day is as inspiring as the science behind it!

Given the recent announcements pertaining to a roadmap out of lockdown are you planning to book a summer holiday this year? If so where ideally would you like to go?

We have booked self-catering summer breaks in Cornwall and the New Forest. As an optimist, I have also booked a villa in Vale do Lobo, Portugal in November half term – carried over twice from Easter 20 and then Easter 21.

Any words of wisdom?

In the past year, despite the challenges, we have all learned things that will change us for the better.