Waterman Aspen, the specialist secondment arm of Waterman Group, has been significantly expanding as the construction industry and economy have been emerging out of the prolonged downturn. Having seconded engineers, mainly across the highways and transportation industry for the last 26 years, the company have come to establish a strong and distinctive position in the market place.
The demand for Aspen’s services are at record levels throughout the UK, and there is no sign of a slowdown. With its core client base being mainly public sector highways authorities, predominantly county, city, unitary and borough councils, the company has taken great strides in gaining new clients as staff numbers have more than doubled In the modern era the company has in the past 18 months. There is an abundance of sought not to just service peaks in workload profitable work to underpin its current and future but also provide an element of core growth, and all this has been happening whilst resourcing to councils as they reduce their there is a defined skill shortage for qualified staff establishments under mounting engineers in the market place. budgetary pressure.
Increasingly councils are funding their additional staff requirement via specific project funding as it becomes available, rather than from a general staff budget. This approach has enabled them to switch on and off extra staff resources as required.
Managing Director, Chris Chaplin, explains the prime focus of his business model, “We are a people business. Our philosophy is to focus firmly on the needs and requirements of our staff and our clients. Well-being, career development and building strong personal relationships are all very high on our list of priorities. We engage with a wide range of clients so we are able to offer our staff permanent employment working on secondment with a variety of clients.”
“This allows people to gain a broad range of experience very quickly, often by moving between departments within the same client or joining a fresh client entirely giving staff the opportunity to try something new without the hassle of changing their employer. We like to say we offer our staff ‘variety with security’.”
Some projects don’t lend themselves to a traditional consultancy approach. In these cases clients can retain control of the project in-house by using Waterman Aspen to provide staff without the worry of redundancies. Chris says this method is showing no sign of abating and Aspen are now approaching 400 staff – their highest ever figure!
“We are increasingly teaming up with major consultants specialising in public sector work to bid for long-term frameworks, offering clients a cost effective secondment alternative to a traditional consultancy approach. Approximately half of our business is now secured via these major frameworks.”
Chris selects managers who have good inter-personal skills, an ‘eye for a deal’ and are interested in developing their careers. Being involved in managing people, developing new business and negotiating rates with clients and contract staff, all add additional interests to their technical secondment and give managers the opportunity to progress their careers into senior management.
Chris says that Aspen’s strategy of recruitment adds more of a personal touch compared to that of the traditional agencies and headhunters. “We use a wide range of channels to promote career opportunities. Continuous networking, social media, technical press advertisements, referrals from staff/clients and monitoring of CV sites are the most effective methods. We also have an extensive database through which we keep track of everyone we have spoken to over the years. Everyone in our management team is trained and mentored so that they can take responsibility for interviewing and making job offers to potential staff on a continuous basis. They are then responsible for managing those staff, ensuring that they place them on secondment with a client and that all parties are happy.”
This positive engagement ensures that Aspen’s client benefits from motivated, professional and technical staff who can focus on project delivery without being distracted by the inevitable day-to-day office politics and worries.
The team spirit plays a crucial part in Aspen’s success. Each regional team encourages a family atmosphere. Regular social events allow managers and staff to catch up in an informal environment and the quarterly newsletter keeps employees informed of what is happening throughout the company.
The future for Aspen is looking bright. Chris says, “The past 18 months have been extremely hard work but at the same time very exciting and rewarding. As far as I can see the current state of the market offers the promise of much more growth and excitement to come.”