Perspective

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Suzanne Archer, Director of Turner & Townsend

Suzanne is a Director at Turner & Townsend – the multinational professional services company that specialises in programme management, project management, cost management and consulting across the property, infrastructure and natural resources sectors. She is currently working for HMRC’s Estates Transformation Programme, one of the most significant Public Sector workplace projects in a long time

 


 

 

What is the best thing about your role at Turner & Townsend?
Turner & Townsend is a vibrant and dynamic business. It encourages all employees to contribute to the direction the business is going and to be involved in shaping it. The Turner & Townsend leadership invests time listening and getting feedback and ideas from all levels of the business, from graduates through to directors. I believe that this has been a key element to the success of the company. As part of my role at Turner & Townsend, I engage with employees within my team to encourage ideas to be shared.

What were you doing before this current role?
Before joining Turner & Townsend I was on maternity leave with my second child. I took a full year of maternity leave, after having both my children. I value the time I spent with my children – however I missed the excitement of working with a wide range of teams, delivering great projects.

What project(s) are you currently working on?
I am currently working for HMRC’s Estates Transformation Programme. This programme moves 58,000 employees from 170 offices into 13 Regional Centres. This is currently believed to be the biggest office transformation programme in Europe. It is forecast to generate savings of £100m a year by 2025.

It has been an exciting project to be involved in, as it covers all aspects of the real estate lifecycle; lease negotiations, CAT A monitoring, CAT B design and construction, staff moves, facilities management and office closures.

HMRC has been inspirational client to work for. They are always looking to improve the way they do things. ‘Challenge something, change something, make something better’ has been a great mantra, which is instilled in every member of the team. I believe it will be one of the most successful programmes to be delivered for quite some time.

Name one thing that you think will have disappeared from the workplace in the next decade.

I believe we will see a reduction in landlords fitting out entire buildings to CAT A. A large majority of CAT B projects end up removing suspended ceilings and ductwork that have only just been installed. This takes time, costs money and is not sustainable for the environment. Wherever possible, we try to instruct required CAT A omissions to realise financial and programme savings for our clients.
Is the desire to create a great workplace for staff being considered earlier in the project life cycle than it was 10 years ago?
A good project manager should always start a project thinking about how we can make the workplace a better place for staff. A project cannot merely be regarded a success because it has been delivered on time and on budget.

The workspace is where we spend most of our time. Our colleagues and bosses see more of us than our families do. It is fundamental that it is a great place to be and our clients now realise this. Therefore, delivering great workplaces has become a driver to start a project rather than just about reducing square footage and saving on real estate costs.

Looking back five years ago, how has the work place changed – and does it ‘feel’ different?
Five years ago there was potentially more of a misconception that staff working from home were less productive. Employers are starting to realise the benefits of allowing staff to choose where, when and how they undertake their work.

In industries, we are seeing a large shift from the standard 9-5 Monday to Friday office hours. Going forward we need to think about how this will continue to change and, most importantly, the impact of this on the area required, workspace design and facilities management.

What are the biggest challenges you and your team face?
As a project manager it is too easy to fall into the trap of delivering services for a client that only just meet the contractual requirements. At Turner & Townsend we want all of our team to go that extra mile for our clients; where can we save the client money? Are there further aspects of the client organisation that we can help with? What have we learnt from our other projects, which may be of benefit to our current client?

There is a great knowledge-sharing base at Turner & Townsend, which keeps our teams thinking of innovative ideas to take to our clients and wider project teams.

What is the one thing that you would change when working with architects and designers?
Being co-located with architects and the design team brings many benefits to the project. I would certainly advocate this being implemented more in the industry. There is something to be said about seeing the team in person that I don’t think will ever leave the workplace.

Can you share with us a lesson learned and hopefully never repeated?
I started my career as a structural engineer and have worked on new build and refurbishment projects, both within the UK and overseas. For the past seven years I have been specialising in corporate fit-out projects. What I love about my job is there is always something new to learn.

I would therefore say that my lesson to be learnt is ‘never stop learning’. Most importantly, share this with other members of your internal team and client organisations.
Is there a new fad, buzzword or trend starting to surface in your world?
Inclusivity is having a much greater importance for Turner & Townsend’s clients. This includes gender-neutral toilets, gender-neutral showers, dog toilets, reflection rooms and accessibility – which is far greater than standard requirements. Employers realise that in creating an inclusive workplace, it brings opportunities to recruit and retain the very best and brightest talent from a broader pool of employees.

Are things better or worse than they used to be?
It has become tougher for students to obtain degrees from a financial perspective and I believe that this is having a very negative impact on the construction industry. Students in England are now paying up to £9,250 per year for a degree. Attracting graduates to the construction profession is something that we, as employers, need to focus on as a priority.

In 2018 alone, Turner & Townsend has welcomed 126 graduates, apprentices and those on industry placements to its UK business. There is a tailored graduate and apprenticeship programme, which is run in-house to support their development and learning.

Attracting staff to the construction industry needs to take place from school age. As a result, Turner & Townsend has also been involved in a number of initiatives such as STEM and Design Engineer Construct (DEC). We really want to be at the forefront of inspiring the next generation of professionals into the industry.