staff engagement
Staff Engagement – First Impressions & Inductions

Perpetual Partnerships’ Managing Director, Garry Rogerson, talks about the importance a great induction and why it is vital to staff retention and staff engagement.

Most businesses hugely underestimate the cost of staff turnover. According to the Telegraph, staff turnover costs British businesses at least £4.13 billion each year. When considering the cost of replacing staff, most employers think about recruitment fees. However, in reality, that is only the tip of the iceberg. When you add in the time taken for a new member of staff to reach optimum productivity (an average of 28 weeks), the average cost for replacing a member of staff is estimated to be a staggering £30,614. With figures like that, staff retention and staff engagement should be at the top of every business’s agenda.

So how do we keep our staff engaged and happy in their jobs?

According to research published by Equifax, 40% of people who voluntarily left their job did so within the first 6 months and a further 16% left within 12 months. Those statistics make it plainly clear that a company HAS to make a good impression when on-boarding a new member of staff.

First Impressions

Many businesses put a lot of time and energy into finding the right candidate, but what comes next is equally, if not more important.  Making a positive first impression is a two way street and businesses should consider the first 6 months of a new starter’s employment as a probationary period for both the employee AND the business. Starting a new job can be a daunting and anxious time so, as a business, you should do your best to make the process as stress-free as possible. Employers should have a well-planned ‘On-boarding Process’ which should be followed when recruiting new members of staff.  There are three stages in the on-boarding process.

1. Period of Uncertainty – before the employee starts work

For a new employee it can feel like a really long time between acceptance of a job offer and actually starting the new role.  During this time, new recruits may doubt whether they have made the right decision and start to regret making a move but there are some simple and effective things employers can do to make a great impression and minimise potential anxiety:

  • Communicate – keep in touch
  • Ensure paperwork is sent out correctly and on time
  • Make sure they know the start time, date, location and who to ask for on their first day
  • Invite them to any upcoming social events
  • Send a welcome pack with paper work
  • Invite them to like the company LinkedIn or Workplace page

2. Induction and First Weeks

It’s vital to plan a thorough induction.  Not only does it help you and other members of the team get organised for the new starter’s arrival, they will appreciate a clear plan so they know what their first day or weeks have in store for them.  The best inductions cover the first few weeks of employment and are communicated to the employee before their start date.

During the induction process you should make the new employee feel as welcome as possible and communicate useful information about the company and their role its all about staff engagement.  There is nothing worse than turning up for your first day to find your work area and IT equipment hasn’t been set up.  Define their roles and responsibilities, clear goals, targets and mutual expectations and run through the Company’s Mission Vision and Values.

Introduce them to their colleagues and give them a brief overview of their role.  It’s difficult to remember everyone’s names to begin with so an organisation chart with staff photos is a real help to new employees and will take away the awkwardness of having to ask people their names after having being introduced.

HR Balance Poll 2017 lists the top 10 things to turn off a new employee so try to avoid these rooky mistakes:

  1. Not having own work area
  2. Manager away or on holiday on first day
  3. Left in reception unattended
  4. Everyone heading out for lunch on day one and not being included
  5. Overloaded paperwork
  6. No introduction to co-workers
  7. Left with a negative member of staff for the day
  8. Mentor too busy
  9. Left to carry out mundane tasks
  10. Lack of equipment (laptop/phone etc)

3. Harmonisation period
Once you’ve successfully managed the period of uncertainty and induction stages, you need to ensure you keep your employees engaged.  This part is possibly the most difficult and requires careful thought on behalf of the employer.

Here are some of the things you can do as an employer to keep your employees engaged and reduce staff turnover in your business:

  • Offer a forum for recognition and reward
  • Give employees a voice
  • Conduct regular one-to-ones and appraisals
  • Provide an ongoing and defined training and development programme
  • Offer defined paths for advancement based on skill development and achievement
  • Give and receive feedback at 3, 6 and 9 months on a 360 basis

Remember, employees who feel appreciated and valued by their employers are more likely to stay so every employer should give some serious thought about how they can make their business a great place to work and keep their staff ENGAGED.

Read more on how to retain your staff

Garry Rogerson is Managing Director of Perpetual Partnerships and is an experienced strategic recruitment leader with over 17 years’ experience helping engineering business attract and retain the best talent in the industry.   Garry is part of the Leadership Team run by Hopkins & Ball and is connected to a large network of professionals and leaders.  If you want to be notified about Garry’s next seminar email

Follow Garry on LinkedIn.

northern powerhouse
What is the Northern Powerhouse – by Ben Appleton (Head of Senior Appointments)

The long anticipated “Northern Powerhouse”

funding was recently confirmed by Theresa May’s government. This is viewed as a really positive step towards funding the continued growth of Northern industry and innovation. Being a “northerner”, it does, however, stimulate some thought to provoke questions…..

What is the “Northern Powerhouse”? Why does it have a “brand”? Why is it a separate policy to other UK investment? Why has this taken so long to be recognised? Is this the first movement towards a northern devolution??

Here in the North, we have survived booms and recessions continuing to innovate and manufacture the greatest British products often without the support and the infrastructure long needed. For a long time the fantastic Manufacturing, Engineering, Energy and Scientific industry of the North has been raising the bar for innovation and manufacturing.

The Northern Powerhouse is the brainchild of George Osborne who recognised the importance of Northern industry contribution to the UK economy current and future. When thinking about how this should be recognised perhaps we in the North aren’t the best at promoting our successes and needed this brand in a time when too often investment looked inwardly to the capital. This explains the second question that rightly or wrongly it required promotion. It is interesting however, that there has been an inherent perversity of local authorities having control of only five per cent of their money raised within their boundaries meaning to a certain extent it has had limited control on investment. So then can this be seen as the beginnings of devolution of the North? Separate policy and funding for areas of the UK? More control over funding? It certainly suggests that whichever political party wants to win the next general election will need to have a clear policy towards devolution.

Rightly, wrongly or belatedly it has been brought to the attention of the government and actioned and should be seen not as a huge win but a step in the right direction for the government and attitudes towards Northern innovation and industry. For me, working within Northern industry, we have always been a Northern Powerhouse and it is finally being recognised what a huge value the North has in shaping the future post-Brexit economy. We should never have needed the branding from the current government but it has generated significant support and backing across the UK. Looking into the funding, the details are as follows:

The £556m investment that will be split between the region’s 11 local enterprise partnerships.

The cash boost, first announced in the Autumn Statement, will go towards a series of projects including Goole Intermodal Terminal, £10m for the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Sciences Fund, and the International Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sunderland.

The government said a key part of the strategy’s green paper, published today (23 January 2017), was offer to businesses the chance to strike new ‘sector deals’, driven by the interests of companies and the people they employ, to address sector-specific challenges and opportunities.

As part of the deals, a range of support will be on offer, including addressing regulatory barriers to innovation and growth, looking at how trade and investment deals can be used to increase exports or supporting the creation of new institutions to provide leadership, support innovation or boost skills.

The green paper also sets out technologies where Britain has strengths in research and development which could be supported through the government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, including: smart energy technologies; robotics and artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology. This fund is part of £4.7bn of additional R&D funding announced by the Prime Minister in November.

In the North of England, £556m will be spent on a series of projects. They include:

  • Goole Intermodal Terminal which will mean the town’s existing rail, sea, motorway and inland waterway links into one site, providing an integrated transport facility for business
  • A 21st-century conference centre and hotel in Blackpool at the Winter Gardens
  • £10m for the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Sciences Fund to provide capital to local small and medium businesses
  • Flood resilience measures in Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Kirklees and Leeds
  • Building the International Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sunderland and South Tyneside – helping to create an estimated 5,200 jobs

In addition, the government has revealed how the Northern Powerhouse funding pot will be split among the region’s LEPs:

  • North Eastern £49.7m
  • Cumbria £12.7m
  • Tees Valley £21.8m
  • York, North Yorkshire, East Riding £23.7m
  • Lancashire £69.8m
  • Humber £27.9m
  • Leeds City Region £67.5m
  • Liverpool City Region £72.0m
  • Greater Manchester £130.1m
  • Sheffield City Region £37.8m
  • Cheshire and Warrington £43.3m


To conclude the investment in the Northern Powerhouse will go a long way to providing much-needed funding to promote business opportunities in local industry. It remains to be seen but it remains to be seen whether this paves the way for Northern Devolution.

The apprentice levy

It is a common theme that the UK has a huge Engineering skills shortage in the UK. Every year, the UK faces a shortfall of over 81,000 people with engineering skills in the workforce. As things stand, that means we need to double the number of entrants into engineering across all levels of qualification. In the energy & manufacturing sectors we face a particular challenge, because many of the most experienced engineers and scientists are set to retire in the coming years. In the background – key political trading conditions and the need for the UK to demonstrate its value as a high quality product provider.

The Apprenticeship levy
The Apprenticeship Levy was first announced by George Osborne in the November 2015 budget with a view to create 3 million apprentices by 2020. It is estimated that employers will pay in £2.6 billion into the pot that will fund the training of apprentices. The levy comes into play in May next year and will begin the process of approaching the skill gap. That said, the appeal of the engineering and manufacturing industry vs the software development/retail and more ‘glamourous’ industries will continue to be a challenge. How the Engineering/Manufacturing/Construction/Energy sectors markets itself will be key to its long-term success.

Who will pay the levy?
All employers in the UK with a payroll bill greater than £3m per year will have to pay the levy. The levy will apply to employers in all sectors – including those already covered by statutory levy arrangements (e.g. construction and engineering construction). If you already pay a levy, your industry training board (ITB) will consult with you on potential changes to your existing levy arrangements.

How much will I have to pay?
The levy will be charged at 0.5% of payroll. All employers will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against payment of the levy. So only employers with payroll bills greater than £3m will have to pay the levy. There will be a ‘connected persons’ rule, so if you operate multiple companies or payrolls, you will only be able to claim one allowance. You will be able to choose how to divide the allowance between the different connected companies. For the purposes of the levy, payroll will include all wages, bonuses, commissions and pension contributions on which NICs are due. In technical terms, payroll means the total earnings upon which Class 1 secondary NICs are paid. It will not include other payments such as benefits in kind.

How will the levy be collected?
The levy will be collected monthly through Pay As You Earn (PAYE) alongside Income Tax and National Insurance. Your £15,000 levy allowance will be translated into a monthly allowance of £1,250. If your levy liability in a given month is less than £1,250, you won’t have to make a levy payment that month. Any unused allowance will be carried forward into the following month(s) until you’ve used it. If the reverse is true, and you find that you have made levy payments, but not used all of your allowance you will be given a credit that you can offset against other PAYE liabilities. At the end of the tax year HRMC will operate a rebate system to make sure that you pay the right amount of levy.

For further information on how your business can benefit please feel free to contact Perpetual Partnerships or see the government website for instructions.

Steve Higham
LTD but not limited

Over the past 12 months

Perpetual Partnerships have seen a huge growth in personnel and are now heading in new and exciting directions.  A fundamental area of this growth is apparent in our Manufacturing and Engineering contracts division; which is now being headed by Steve Higham who joined our team in November.

Steve has a wealth of experience in contract as well as all the major areas of recruitment and has shown increased ability to offer and deliver the desired 360’ approach.  With a total of 5 years of experience within the industry, Steve has developed an extremely hard working and dedicated approach to all tasks. He knows how the contract industry works and is confident in his ability to find the perfect engineer to fill the post quickly. As organisation, quick thinking and networking skills are key in this sector, Steve fits the bill and has already become an important cog in the Perpetual Machine.

What does this mean for Perpetual? Perpetual will now become a key player in the all areas of recruitment. We are already a renowned permanent workforce provider, and we will now strive to become leaders in supplying contractor resource.

So, what does this mean for our clients? You can find everything you need under one roof. A dedicated team working for you and managed by people who know you. A quick completion of any job with quality people is our number one aim and to offer a dedicated after care solution for all contract workers.

We are all looking forward to our further developments and wish Steve a happy and productive future as one of the Perpetual Partnerships family.

If you are a client with contractor needs or a contractor looking for your next role, please contact Steve Higham on 01606 535061 or


vintage cars
A History Of Engineering In The UK – Part 2

Britain was the birthplace of true civil engineering,

thanks to the work of George Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Thomas Telford, who brought us techniques which are still in use today, even if the technologies on which they relied have long been superseded.

But the UK also played a major role in the foundation of the discipline of electrical engineering, once Michael Faraday had demonstrated how electrical energy could be converted into mechanical energy using electromagnets in 1821.

Just over 50 years later came the invention of the electric motor, when Michael Faraday demonstrated how electrical energy could be converted into mechanical energy by means of electromagnets.

The need to maintain the new types of specialised machines used in many industrial applications, such as spinning, weaving and heavy manufacturing, was the catalyst behind the development of the concept of mechanical engineering.

Any history of the engineering in its broadest sense can only scratch the surface of developments, so for the rest of this article we’ll present a timeline of major events from the last 200 years. From it, you’ll see that the roots of many of the inventions and devices which we take for granted today go back much further than you realise.

The Timeline

1822 – Charles Babbage presents his ‘Difference Engine’ – the forerunner of the modern calculator. By helping greatly improve the accuracy of calculations used to produce arithmetical tables, he lays the ground for massive advances in many fields of engineering and technology over the following century.

1825 – George Stephenson’s Locomotion railway engine is the first to haul passengers, on the 25-mile route between Stockton and Darlington on Teesside in north-east England. Four years later, a competition to design a locomotive to operate the first intended ‘inter-city’ railway service is won by Robert Stephenson, with his Rocket. The service, between Liverpool and Manchester, begins operating the following year.

1839 – Welsh judge and scientist William Robert Grove produces the first fuel cell, by which electrical power was produced through a chemical reaction. In his case, he combines hydrogen and oxygen, but the principle has been greatly refined over the years, and is now used in many modern vehicles.

1840Joseph Whitworth’s measuring machine enables the accuracy of any measurements to be massively increased – from one-sixteenth of an inch which had been considered the state of the art to this point, it enables the measurement of objects of as little as one-two millionth of an inch.

After The Revolution

1843 – The first fax machine is developed by Alexander Bain, who registers a patent for “improvements in producing and regulating electric currents and improvements in timepieces, and in electric printing, and signal telegraphs”.

1851The Great Exhibition, at Crystal Palace, south London, is staged to showcase the cutting-edge inventions of the day. Thousands flocked to see the displays, which covered a massive variety of British-designed products.

1856 – Henry Bessemer lays the foundations for the large-scale replacement of iron with steel with the introduction of his Bessemer convertor, considered to offer the first cheap means of mass producing steel from molten pig iron. Steel production is further advanced the following year, when William Kelly invented the blast furnace.

1858 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel launches his steamship the SS Great Eastern, which at 22,500 tons and 700 feet long, would remain the longest and heaviest sea-going craft for another four decades.

1862 – Birmingham-born Alexander Parkes develops a hard, transparent and flexible material which he calls Parkesine – it is the world’s first plastic.

1868 – After almost 2,500 deaths and injuries on the roads of London a couple of years earlier, the world’s first traffic lights are installed at a junction in Westminster, London, the device having been invented by John Peake Knight.

Rise Of Science

1876 – Scottish-born Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, by which speech is transmitted along wires using electric power. His invention grew out of a fascination with ways of transmitting speech to the deaf. Five years later, he experiences a rare failure, when his claimed metal-detecting device fails to spot the bullet with which US President James Garfield was shot in his bed.

1884 – The modern steam turbine, enabling steam to be converted directly into electricity, is invented by Sir Charles Parsons, who is later called “one of the greatest engineers that this country [the UK] has ever produced”.

1891-93Rookes Crompton develops and begins manufacture of a range of forerunners to modern kitchen appliances, including the toaster and electric oven.

1893 – Lancashire man James Sumner invents the world’s first motorised lawnmower. Powered by steam, it weighs two tons.

1907 – Brooklands, near Weybridge, Surrey becomes the site of the first purpose-built off-road racetrack in the world.

1913 – The world’s first moving production line is installed at the Ford factory in Michigan – paving the way for many thousands more during the century in the UK and worldwide.

1915 – British engineers developed the first battle tank, combining the availability of the internal combustion engine, armour plate and the continuous track to transform warfare.

1917 – The world’s first aircraft carrier, HMS Argus, is launched by the British Navy.

After The War

1924 – King George V officially opens Wembley Stadium. Built in under a year at a cost of £750,000, 25,000 tons of concrete, reinforced with 600 tons of steel rods, went into the construction of the stands and terraces.

1924 – John Logie Baird patents a system of mechanical rotating discs which later form the basis for his invention of television.

1929 – Frank Whittle invents the jet engine – despite initially failing to persuade the Air Ministry of the merits of the use of a gas turbine as a means of power for producing jet thrust.

1935 – Reginald Mitchell’s fighter plane, the Supermarine Spitfire, undertakes its maiden flight, three years before entering front-line service with the RAF.

1938 – Streamlined A4 class steam locomotive Mallard achieves a world speed record of 126mph – which still stands as the highest speed achieved by a steam loco.

1941 – The Gloster G28/39 is the first jet-propelled plane to use the engine technology developed by Sir Frank Whittle.

1944 – PLUTO – The Pipeline Under The Ocean – is completed, to supply petrol from southern England to Allied forces advancing through France after their victory of 6 June (D-Day).

1945 – Alan Turing develops his Bombe machine, an electro-mechanical device used to crack the coded messages sent by German forces.

After The (Second) War

1957 – The first commercially-operated nuclear power station in the UK opens, at Calder Hall, Cumbria. The site is now part of the Sellafield complex.

1959 – Sir Christopher Cockerell’s first hovercraft, SRN-1, makes its maiden voyage.

1967 – Barclays Bank installs the first, early version of an ATM at a branch in north London.

1969Concorde undertakes its maiden flight. It entered passenger service in 1976, and was withdrawn in 2003.

1973Dr Martin Cooper, working in conjunction with manufacturer Motorola, invents the first mobile phone. It weighs two kilos (4.4lbs).

Crazy Eighties

1984 – Charles W Hull patents the term ‘stereolithography’, the process of reproducing three-dimensional images, and the founding principle for the 3-D printer.

1984 – Apple introduces the world’s first commercially successful computer to use a mouse and a graphical interface.

1989-90 – Sir Tim Berners-Lee invents a system for interlinking text documents via a web browser, and so the worldwide web is born.

Mighty Nineties

1990 – Computer engineer Alan Emtage builds the first search engine.

1991 – The first wind farm in the UK opens, at Delabole in Cornwall.

1993 – James Dyson’s bagless vacuum cleaners enter large-scale production.

1994 – The Channel Tunnel opens, providing the first physical link between the Britain and mainland Europe.

1997 – IBM super-computer Deep Blue beats world chess champion Garry Kasparov, an event which was hailed at the time as a triumph for artificial intelligence – and today, much more sophisticated machines regularly beat human competition in other games of mental agility.

1998 – Work starts on the construction and launch of the International Space Station

Oh Millennium!

2000 – The UK’s first offshore wind farm opens, off the Northumberland coast.

2001 – The world’s first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, goes on sale in the UK and worldwide.

2002 – The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, linking the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals in central Scotland, opens.

2003 – The Renault Kangoo, the world’s first plug-in electric hybrid vehicle, is launched.

2007 – Sun21 makes the first solar-powered crossing of the Atlantic.

2008 – The first commercial carbon capture and storage plant enters operation.

2010 – Two scientists win the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work in isolating Graphene, a crystalline form of carbon and one of the strongest, lightest substances known to man.

2012 – The first electric vehicle charging stations appear in the UK.

2013 – BAE Systems launches its first ‘super sub’, HMS Ambush, which can ‘hear’ a ship before it has left port on the other side of the Atlantic.


Engineering experts are constantly seeking out new and exciting developments in the UK, but today’s industry is more global than ever.

All the developments above were made or advanced in some form by talented engineers working here. Who knows what developments they, and new entrants to the profession, will be responsible for in the next two centuries?

Exciting opportunities abound in many different types of engineering disciplines for people with enquiring minds who want to build the society of the future. Get in touch and register with Perpetual Partnerships if you want to find out more about some of these openings in and around Cheshire.

retaining people
Retaining Top Industry Talent

On 19th October

Perpetual Partnerships welcomed 30 HR and leadership professionals from the Engineering, Manufacturing and Built Environment sector to our parent engineering company, Cygnet Group in Northwich. The subject is on very close to the heart of a growing number of businesses both large and small, retaining top industry talent. In partnership with the Leadership Team the mornings content was delivered by Garry Rogerson, MD and Ben Appleton, Head of Senior Appointments and designed to be an interactive seminar with plenty of opportunity to share ideas and experiences.


During the beginning of my recruitment career without doubt  the most satisfaction I felt in recruitment was in finding the ideal candidate for a “tough to fill” role. The sound of the candidates excitement for the “job of their dreams”, the client, relieved and impressed by your level of service. As time went by, however there would be the occasional phone call from the candidate 3-6 months later asking for help as the role was “no longer for them”. Naturally this puts a strain on all party relationships. When I became more experienced I began to realise that it was far more satisfying when the phone didn’t ring and the candidate forged a long-term career and the phone call was one of a client asking for help to recruit. It was then I realised retention was far more important to my client. It begged the question, how much does poor retention cost a business? How much does it cost the industry? Why do candidates leave? Why do they stay? How does a business keep its top talent in competitive market conditions?

The Cost of poor retention

From research by a variety of sources it costs UK industry £4.13 billion which is indeed an incredible amount. What does it cost a business? When a candidate leaves and needs replacing it costs on average £28,614 which is all the more staggering given this is a base figure! It is not just inclusive of the recruitment costs, the time spent interviewing (this costs on average £5.5K), it also includes the loss in productivity that hits a business hard. Consider it takes 28 weeks for a new recruit to get up to speed. So why does a business lose its best people?

Why do people leave?

Often people get hung up on the hard facts such as distance to work, salary, bonus. In the main people don’t leave for money believe it or not. After breaking into groups during the seminar most came to the conclusions that in the words of Dale Carnegie, people leave people. Meaning they leave because they are not stimulated, don’t have support etc. They are mainly behavioural and career related challenges. All the things that should be provided by good leadership.

What are the things you can do to prevent people leaving?

Day one is so important! We examined the importance of the opening impression the business has on new employees and the first few weeks are vital. Specifically, we looked at the significance a good induction has on creating the right impression when a person starts in a new business. The feeling of belonging is crucial in any new employee/employer relationship and a good induction is the start of ensuring this process is effective. Most of us agreed in the different groups that the importance of understanding the business goals and vision as well as culture and values is imperative in achieving individual buy-in. At Cygnet for example, great importance is placed on sharing the family company values that the whole business is based on. Something as simple as the Group CEO meeting every single new employee to set out his own beliefs, values and vision for the business has such a powerful impact and is critical in retaining our top talent. Following this, there is also great importance placed on training plans and succession planning so people know how they will develop their skills and achieve their potential in a business.

Perpetuals role in helping our clients retain top talent

We are increasingly being asked to help with ideas on how we can assist companies with retaining talent. Having seen new employees leave businesses based on simple things such as not having a desk on day one or not having access to their manager in the first weeks, we can focus our attention on the ‘low hanging fruit’ in the first instance. We have been asked by a number of businesses to help broker the initial relationship by providing feedback from candidates on how they are doing in those crucial time periods of one and three months. These ‘harmonisation’ reports have been key in developing both company inductions and also identifying and eradicating the repeat issues which affect employee happiness when they join the business. In summary, the seminar confirmed our feelings and findings from our research, that leaders are hugely concerned about keeping hold of their top talent but were not aware of the true cost if they get it wrong. We believe this will become increasingly as important as attracting talent in the first place and we believe developing the tools, processes and consultancy advice we offer has to be time and resources well spent. Certainly for the businesses we represent, focus on the areas I have discussed in this article to ensure new employees are retained will equally be time and resources well spent.

history of engineering
A Timeline Of UK Engineering

What Is Engineering?

The accepted definition of engineering is ‘the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building and use of engines, machines and structures’.

It isn’t surprising to learn that the term ‘engineer’ was first used in a military context, to describe a maker of machines used for this purpose, e.g. catapults.

The roots of the word ‘engine’ go back a little further, to the 13th century, when the word, derived from the Latin ‘ingenium’ was first used to describe a product of “innate quality, especially mental power, hence a clever invention.” (This description comes from Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of 2006).

So, from these broad roots, it’s unsurprising that ‘engineering’ has come to have such a diverse meaning, but essentially covering innovation in and manufacturing of clever machines, devices and solutions to physical-world problems.

The Three Phases Of Engineering Innovation

Engineering can be thought of as having developed in three waves, and we will split this article to cover one each of these. These are, in chronological order, the industrial/Victorian age, the motor age, and the computer/digital age. To keep these articles reasonably ‘bite-sized’, we will split them into one for each of these categories, beginning with when the industrial development of the UK as we know it is generally considered to have begun in earnest.

The industrial/Victorian Age And The Beginning Of Mass Production

In its earliest days, the evolution of engineering was heavily associated with improvements in practises in agriculture, designed to boost productivity, and remove some of the manual labour involved in planting and harvesting crops.

This led to the invention of new tools which helped greatly improve the health of farm workers through reducing the effort needed to plant and harvest crops, notably the refinement of the seed drill developed by Jethro Tull, and first used in the UK in 1701 – which allowed for even spacing of seeds as they were planted, so greatly increasing yields and productivity.

Unknotting Problems In Textile Production

But the true father of modern industrial methods is generally considered to be Sir Richard Arkwright. Again, his innovations were designed to improve productivity, but his field of specialism was the textiles industry, which was growing strongly in his native Derbyshire and elsewhere across the Midlands and northern England.

Arkwright’s first taste of entrepreneurship came when he tried to set up a business travelling around the country buying human hair to use to make wigs. Although this soon ran into trouble, he had made good contacts among working cotton weavers and spinners, and used these to help him refine James Hargreaves’ original ‘Spinning Jenny’ design, to produce a machine which involved less physical labour, yet produced a stronger yarn. He patented his wool carding machine in 1775.

Before his death, in 1792, Arkwright also became the first man to adapt James Watt’s invention of the steam engine to use it as a means of powering a loom for producing cotton. Arguably the first industrial tycoon, he established factories in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire and Scotland, and became a wealthy man.

Building The Links Between Goods And Their Markets

Once the products of these huge new mills started to be produced in large amounts, the next hurdle to making them widely available to the people was to develop a transport infrastructure which allowed all parts of the country to be accessed reasonably easily.

So the next major development was the development of railways – and again, engineering expertise was the facilitator which enabled them to be developed and spread widely.

Historian David Starkie has argued that the roads, canals, railways and ports which made Britain into the first great worldwide industrial power could not have come about without the foresight of the first generation of consulting engineers: “Shareholders took most of the risks, but specialists took the strategic decisions, initially the consulting engineers,” he wrote.

Foremost among these was George Stephenson, who built the world’s first commercially-viable locomotive, and went on to design and build the world’s first public railway, which ran from Stockton to Darlington, on Teesside, and opened in 1825. He followed this with the first railway to run directly between two major cities, the Liverpool and Manchester railway of 1830.

However, Stephenson only did for the railways what Thomas Telford had achieved for canals, a generation earlier. These provided the first means of transporting bulk quantities of goods over long distances. Compared with railways, canals required minimal engineering, as many were cut in straight lines as far as possible. But the engineering expertise came into its own when they required bridges (aqueducts) and locks, as means of carrying them across valleys and up and down steep inclines. In devising notable means of doing this, such as the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, near Llangollen in north Wales, Telford was the first person to challenge the preconception that man-made structures had to fit in with, and where needed, around, existing natural features. So its opening, in 1805, became a template for the work of Stephenson just a few decades later.

Engineering’s Role In Creating An Empire

In this context, you could argue that the first true engineers to have an impact on our country were, in fact, the Romans. That’s because they realised the importance of being able to travel quickly between their major settlements – not just so that they could stay abreast of what was happening, but also in order to be able to easily transport goods in and out. So they built a network of roads which eventually stretched to more than 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometres), much of which is still in use today.

Roman engineers loved a challenge – they would rather have found a solution to enable them to build a road straight across an obstacle than take a more circuitous route around it.

In many ways, their desire to find long-term solutions to a problem which might only, in itself, be short-term or temporary, has been the founding principle of engineering ever since. It’s certainly what has distinguished many of the great pioneers of the discipline whose work has helped change the face of our country.

So when Britain was itself in expansionist mood throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, it was realised that expertise in building a working infrastructure, and routes which could be used for trade purposes, was one of the most important assets it could spread around the world.

In a second article in this series, we will look at the advent of motorisation and mass production, and examine how these formed the basis for the world we live in today.

Engineering, in its many forms, has been elementary in creating the modern, prosperous society we live in today. If you want to play a major part in keeping that prosperity going long into the future, why not consider directing your talents towards a career in one of the many sectors of modern engineering?

woman engineer
5 Ways To Attract Top Talent To Your Business

5 Ways To Attract Top Talent To Your Business

If you’re running a small business which you want to see expand, are you being held back because it’s an uphill battle to find the right calibre of workers?

Well, you’re certainly not alone, and Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, a professional body representing more than 3,200 recruitment firms all over the UK, said pressure was being felt equally among companies and organisations of all sizes.

One in three out of a sample of 1,000 business people questioned recently for a poll said recruitment of suitably qualified staff was a challenge for their operation, while just a quarter said it was easy for them to find staff with the skills they were looking for.

It said just under three out of 10 employers had hired new staff in the past year, and with unemployment rates in the UK at a near 30-year low, and edging down towards five per cent, “data indicates that it will become increasingly difficult for employers to find staff”.

Money Talks

As a result, pay rises are becoming a vital tool in helping firms hold on to their most valued staff, with just under half (47 per cent) saying they’d had to increase what they were paying to attract and retain the best workers.

But what if you can’t afford to keep upping your staff’s wages, but really want to hold on to the people you’ve got?

A recent Telegraph survey took views from a range of recruitment specialists and business people on their key factors in ensuring that the staff they took on wanted to stay with their firm, and would not be tempted to be constantly looking out for their next move.

You’ve Got To Have A Strategy…

From this, it came up with a list of the five key elements behind a successful hiring and retention strategy, which it listed as follows:

  1. Court your target staff and make the recruitment process as streamlined as possible – With candidates having so much choice over their likely next career move, businesses need to know where anyone looking to change jobs in their sector is likely to look. Once they know that, companies need to assure their target recruits that they won’t hang about over making a decision, so that candidates know where they stand at all stages, and can manage the process of switching from one employer to another as easily and sensitively as possible.
  1. Think laterally – By not being afraid to engage with less conventional people, you could find someone who can become really influential on the direction your business takes and bring some new ideas to the table. Citing computing pioneer Alan Turing as an example, Dr Nasser Siabi OBE, boss of assistive technology company Microlink PC, points out that sometimes, those who don’t appear to immediately fit in with your ideal of your perfect employee can bring on board the creativity and imagination – and the fearlessness to express their ideas – which might take a business to the next level.
  1. Hire someone for their personal skills rather than the number of boxes they tick on a job spec – For many candidates, proving they have experience in most aspects of the tasks and attributes listed on a ‘person specification’ for a job won’t actually show whether they will be good at doing the job. Skills can be taught, so don’t get caught up on them,” advises Ricky Martin, former BBC TV The Apprentice winner who now runs his own recruitment firm. For those looking to recruit a highly skilled set of employees that might be counter-intuitive – but the right person will be keen and happy to learn the fine skills needed to do the job, and will have learned what they need to know ‘your’ way rather than someone else’s.
  1. Don’t overlook the importance of work-life balance benefits – For example, staff might welcome chances to take a sabbatical to go travelling, or just to deal with a personal issue. More mundanely, giving them the flexibility to be able to share in bringing up children, even if it’s just picking them up from nursery a couple of times a week, or going with them on medical appointments is likely to be a big plus in the eyes of many candidates trying to fit in their family duties alongside their work.
  1. Recognise people’s strengths, and ensure that their duties give them the best possible opportunities to use them – Many creative people find administrative tasks frustratingly dull. So give them the help they need to get these out of the way as quickly as possible, so they can concentrate on being creative! Equally important can be ensuring that people have access to the technology they need to work in the ways which suit them best. Provided people know what’s expected of them, and their objectives are measured, they’ll be much happier being left to get on and do their work in the way which works best for them.

Working productively with a group of people requires ‘give and take’ on both sides. But as an employer setting out to recruit and keep together a good team, it can help you achieve your business’s objectives if you keep an open mind about every candidate you meet, and don’t simply focus on what you’re offering them in terms of the work you want them to do. So leave your preconceptions and prejudices at the interview room door – and see where your instinct leads you.
Do you have any individual ways in which you evaluate the suitability of would-be employees? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter.

happy recruitment
How To Build A Better Workplace

Every year, hundreds of companies put themselves forward for recognition for their efforts to attract and retain the right staff through their efforts to create a great place to work.

And from the submissions, a team of assessors from the contest’s organisers, consultancy firm Great Place to Work, whittles down the list to a top 50 in three categories, based on company size: small (20 to 49 employees), medium (50 to 499 employees), and large (500 or more employees).

The finalists in each of these three categories for the 2016 awards come from a variety of sectors, but both recruitment firms and IT consultancies featured heavily in the top 20 of small workplaces, with a number of small manufacturers making it into the medium-sized firms list, with IT, recruitment and not-for-profit/charity organisations also well represented.

At the top end size-wise, familiar names making their mark on the list included McDonald’s Restaurants, pet supplies retailer Pets at Home – based, like us at Perpetual, in Cheshire – and food and confectionery manufacturer Mars UK.


Employee Feedback…

Great Places To Work rounded up views from employees working at 100 of the top-ranked companies across all three categories, and from among those it received the following feedback:

Large category:

  • “Everyone helps out everyone. It’s an amazing store to be working in. It’s practically my dream job”
  • “We are encouraged to step out of our comfort zones and take on new things, but always in a safe environment which accepts mistakes as opportunities”
  • “I joined the apprenticeship scheme after leaving school and have worked in different hotels and cities. There are so many opportunities here.”

Medium category:

  • “The diverse, thoughtful and talented team make it a pleasure to come to work and help us deliver outstanding work every day.”
  • “My colleagues are empowered to constantly come up with new ways to make work fun and inspiring and to create a truly great place to work.”
  • “The company really does create opportunities for employees to have a work-life balance by hosting events and activities for us to get involved in.”

Small category:

  • “I look forward to coming in to work and collaborating with down-to-earth, witty, intelligent people. We’re a small team but together we pack a big punch.”
  • “The levels of trust and autonomy given to employees [are] unique; this is a supportive and progressive workplace.”
  • “[The company] has strong values that everyone lives by. I love that the company cares about me, my family and my personal and professional growth.”Right at the top of the tree, as the best big company to work for is Softcat, a software developer, which has a strong track record of success in similar polls throughout most of its 20-year history.                                                                                                                        

Its founder, Peter Kelly, wanted to create a company which broke away from the mass of “run-of-the-mill, soulless and anonymous corporates”. In this respect, he says, he has removed responsibility for overall staff welfare from a dedicated HR department, and instead invested all of his employees with the responsibility of making their colleagues feel valued.                                                 

As is common with many modern businesses, Softcat doesn’t manufacture or sell any products of its own – instead, it re-sells third party IT solutions. This, said Mr Kelly, means the business has to differentiate itself through “the attitude of our employees and quality and enthusiasm of the customer service we offer.”


Staff Satisfaction

Staff are asked every year for their input into a satisfaction survey, and the boss sets aside a week to pore over the submissions. Ensuring that “staff feel they have a stake in the direction of the company” is high on his priority list, and that applies even though most of its staff are at relatively early stages in their careers.

Meanwhile, the smallest company to take a top spot at the awards, Foundation SP, is also in the tech sector, and develops technology and software solutions for other firms and organisations.

It was also praised for its dedication to ensuring that family life was given a high priority among its staff, ranking equally in importance alongside personal and professional development.


Creating Great Culture

To that end, its CEO, Simon Grosse, introduced a company mantra, which he has called ‘how it feels’, aimed at ensuring that this aspect of the company and its work is always being looked at, from the point of view of both employees and clients.

“Our values focus on creating a great culture in which employees and clients feel engaged, rewarded and happy,” he said.

The result, Mr Grosse added, was “a shared purpose, shared vision and a collective team spirit”. This has even extended to half of the company’s strategic goals being determined as a result of round-table staff meetings.

Lots of the principles applied by the businesses quoted in this article can also be adapted to help other companies make themselves more attractive to their current staff and potential new recruits.

But what sets the companies in the higher reaches of the Best Workplaces rankings apart from most of their contemporaries is that they score consistently far higher in the eyes of their staff in five key criteria:

  • Recognition given to staff
  • Rewards given to staff (not just in a financial sense)
  • Talent management
  • Values and ethics, and
  • Trust in the leadership.

So any business which wants to mark itself out as a great employer, and following on from that, attract the right staff to help it grow and prosper, should check out, for plenty of help and advice, as well as the lowdown on the firms you’ll be competing with to attract, and keep hold of, ‘la creme de la creme’.

To get advice to help you in your business’s growth and development plans, and how to get the right staff to drive them forward, contact Perpetual Partnerships today.

Responsible people
The Outlook For Hiring Staff In 2016

Job interview cartoon

2016 is likely to be the year here in the UK when we really find out how strong the much-touted economic recovery is.

On the face of it, many of the building blocks seem to be in place to enable the country to enjoy a prosperous year – we have a majority government for the first time in five years, inflation is benign, and unemployment is low and still falling.

In fact, in the three months to November 2015, 5.1 per cent of the working age population were jobless – this compares with a long-term average of just under 7.2 per cent throughout the period from 1971 to 2015.


Hooking The Right Fish In A Smaller Pool

When the number of jobless people falls to such low levels, this brings a new set of challenges for any business needing to hire new workers.

It means that the pool of readily-available recruits is small, with skills shortages leaving small and medium-sized businesses facing the prospect of having to pay more to secure the right people.

In such conditions, employers may also have to re-examine the matches between the job roles they are looking to fill and the candidates available, meaning that they may have to take on an employee who does not fulfil all their criteria. As a result, this might also lead to them having to examine the training they offer, as a result of bringing in new people who might not have the optimal amount of directly relevant experience.


David Vs Goliath

The big question for many smaller firms in need of staff as they hope to grow is whether they will be able to compete effectively with better-known, often multi-national concerns for the best people available.

Those smaller companies can expect to have to fight hard to attract and retain their best staff, especially when bigger firms can offer established, attractive packages of fringe benefits, such as pension schemes and flexible working policies designed to suit those juggling their career with family responsibilities.


The Advantages Of A Small Business

This is where the advantages of using a specialist recruitment agency dedicated to finding staff in particular business and industry sectors can come into their own.

These companies survive by virtue of their deep knowledge of the business sectors in which they specialise, and their ability to network effectively and discreetly with employers and candidates working in these fields. They would much rather retain a smaller base of both, and focus really closely on understanding and meeting their needs, than set out to corner the market, and have a wide spectrum of clients to try to keep happy.

Also, as a smaller business itself, such a company will have an instinctive understanding of and connection with other SMEs in their chosen sectors. It will know the challenges facing anyone running a small firm, and this will mean it can find candidates who have the right mentality to fit in, and who appreciate the particular challenges of working in such a setting.

That’s where we at Perpetual Recruitment come in. Our motto: “We don’t just understand your business, we live your business” is backed up by an organisation which is set up to service the respective sectors it works with to the highest standards.

We have dedicated recruitment specialists for the oil and gas, surveying and architecture, engineering, manufacturing, and executive recruitment fields. This means we have a team which truly understands what you do, and the current climate and particular challenges your business faces.

Big isn’t necessarily beautiful when you’re looking for a partner to help you meet the challenges of building the ideal team for your business. In fact, if you want to build a loyal and happy workforce from the bottom up, you should look at linking up with a like-minded agency which can spare the time to really get to know your business.

That way, you can put yourself in the happy position of being able to compete effectively in a crowded market, and choose from a field of candidates who are on your wavelength. So search out a specialist recruitment company, and the road to expanding your business can be made much smoother.

Garry Rogerson
How Engineering firms can get the most from the contractor market

Drawing from a flexible pool of employees

on short-term contracts can help engineering firms iron out the highs and lows of a lumpy business cycle. But the value of using contractors isn’t all about plugging gaps in capacity, explains Garry Rogerson.

Skills injection
Contractors form an essential strategic function for many engineering firms; allowing them to introduce different skills into their business at different stages in their growth or in the evolution of a project. Supplementing their team with specialist design engineers at the start of a project or experienced fitters in the build phase can be a highly effective strategy.

The right contractor will hit the ground running, realise a project quickly, bring new ideas or lead a team with credibility. This can be an extremely successful way to establish a new project or division until that area of the business is developed enough to support a permanent employee.

Widening the recruitment window
With over 70 per cent of company overheads made up of personnel costs, recruiting the wrong people can be a costly mistake. Fast-growing companies are particularly at risk when a permanent position needs filling quickly and they are forced to select staff from a narrow pool of available candidates. Hiring a contractor can take away the pressure of making permanent appointments too quickly and give businesses more time to make good recruitment decisions based on a wider selection of well-matched candidates, as well as helping to define exactly what is needed from permanent recruits to meet longer-term aims.

Managing risk
The contractor market offers a valuable resource for engineering firms that are growing quickly in terms of winning new contracts but don’t yet have enough guaranteed income to support permanent staff. A contractor can bring intensive support exactly when and where it is needed and subsequently step out of the business when they are no longer required, so that they are never an unnecessary financial burden.

Contractors typically cost up to a third more in wage costs than permanent staff at the same level, and this discourages some businesses from using them. But the contractor model involves little or no waste if the contractor enters the business to perform a specific role and leaves as that role is completed. The right candidate will already be experienced in relevant software or operating systems and require little or no training – therefore costing the business less in training and taking less time to settle into their role.

As global manufacturing output gathers pace and new opportunities emerge, the risk of growing too quickly also becomes a significant threat. If a business employs too many permanent staff on its payroll in a short space of time and before guaranteed income is secure, it can find itself in a position where its committed overhead base – which is mostly made up of employment costs – starts to outweigh cash flow. This position is unsustainable and can lead to a boom and bust scenario; typically ending in redundancies.

A flexible resource
The contractor model can be a useful tool for companies that want to increase staff numbers without jeopardising their financial stability. (don’t contractor costs fall onto the committed overhead base, or is this about the ability to release contractors if money becomes tight?) Employing a mix of permanent and contractor staff allows a business to increase and reduce labour without creating uncertainty within its permanent workforce. In a workforce of 100 staff made up of 80 permanent posts and 20 contractor roles, contractor numbers can be increased as new projects come on board, and reduced as workload intensity falls or income becomes secure. In this way, permanent employees never have to be laid off.

The value of hiring a contractor lies in the ability to inject the right blend of skills into a business, precisely where they are needed and only for as long as they bring value. For engineering businesses riding a growth curve or exploring new opportunities, the right contractor can not only provide targeted expertise and fresh inspiration, but also breathing space to make good longer-term decisions.

here to support
Going the extra mile

Recruiters think clients don’t care.

Clients think that recruiters are only in it for the money. Not exactly the basis for a trusting relationship. The truth is, in the majority, we all want the same thing – a mutual win-win result. A partnership that rewards both parties.  Rob Bemment

The image of recruitment is long spoken about and is a continual challenge for professionals in the sector. We work in the engineering space where resources are scarce and hence the competition from ‘CV sending agencies’ has never been more of a threat to ‘traditional’ consultancies like ours.

We believe that charging a fee for simply introducing a candidate just won’t create those long lasting relationships clients crave and the exclusivity quality recruiters need. You have to go the extra mile – creating added value for clients and ultimately building trust which then generates repeat business.

Start by offering ‘pro-bono’ services which will enable clients to trust your knowledge when it comes to recruit. Salary surveys and competitor analysis are relatively simple to put together and will go down well with your clients. Experienced recruiters get involved early in a client’s growth plan allowing them to plan effectively the talent they require.

Initially clients can be sceptical – the only way to be build that trust and ultimately the long term win is by going the extra mile – taking a risk that will pay off.

The recruitment industry is a fast evolving and competitive industry. Like our clients in the engineering sector we must adapt a continuous improvement mentality to ensure we keep one step ahead of the agencies that rely on firing CV’s in a ‘pot luck’ approach.

It’s easy to have some success and think you are the best – maybe you were – but if you stay still for 12 months the chances are you are falling behind.

Written by Rob Bemment

finding people
Paying for Candidate Quality

This month’s REC report

hits home with the struggles facing the UK recruitment market as permanent and temporary staff availability tumbles as the demand rises sharply. This is despite a 17 year high in average starting salaries. A recent KPMG report highlights a ‘vacancy vacuum’ as demand for staff outstrips supply by a considerable margin. Engineering topped both the temporary and permanent staff demand tables, both showing increases in June of nearly 50% compared to the previous month and also over double the same figures tabled last year. Despite this permanent staff vacancy placements have now increased for 21 months in a row and temporary placements for 14 months whilst the availability of staff in both permanent and contract staffing contracted to levels not seen since 1997.

This increase in staff demand and falling of labour levels is forcing employers to attempt to bridge the gap through offering salaries at a 17 year high. The belief that by offering higher salaries alone will result in the labour market voting with their feet is still to be proven as there may be the belief that the levels of salary growth are unsustainable and are still remaining loyal to the businesses which have seen them through tougher times. These labour shortages are specifically highlighted in our very own engineering market as top level technical skills are at a premium and businesses look to offer quality products over cheaper alternatives. Paying a premium for quality will continue in our market but businesses will continue to need to think outside the box to attract and retain the very best individuals through a combination of benefits and career paths which will stand out in the crowd. We will continue to keep our eyes focused on a market which continues to challenge all its combatants.

We have a unique and intricate understanding of the technical recruitment market. We are focused on quality of service rather than on sales and KPI’s.


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