Big firms will feel
the pain of the Apprenticeship Levy this spring when the first wave of levy
payments will be wiped from their accounts unless they have invested them in
Develop Training Limited (DTL), whose customers include household names in
construction and the utilities, says the deadline should focus attention on
making the controversial initiative work.
Companies with payrolls
above £3 million have been paying into the scheme since its launch in April 2017
and continue to do so monthly. They can get the money back if they invest it in
apprenticeship programmes with approved providers such as DTL, but there is a
That means in April this
year, levy payments dating back to the start of the scheme will go to the
Treasury, and funds will continue to be funnelled away each month on the second
anniversary of when they were paid in. So, for example, the levy payments that
companies made in September 2017 will no longer be available to invest in
apprenticeship programmes from September 2019.
The levy was supposed to
encourage firms to invest in apprenticeships but confusion and concerns about
costs meant the scheme initially had the opposite effect.
DTL hosted an Industry
Skills Forum in late 2017 for leading figures in HR in construction and the
utilities that highlighted wildly varying views on the levy, from companies
that were embracing it to train new and existing employees to those who saw it
as a tax.
Since then the government
has tweaked the scheme significantly, reducing the amount of levy payments and
allowing smaller companies to use levy money to help other organisations
finance their own apprenticeship training, typically those in the big
companies’ supply chains.
Now, despite wider political
and economic uncertainty, DTL hopes 2019 could still be the year that kick
starts the faltering programme. The training company has campaigned
vociferously for businesses and government to invest in training in the
construction and utility sectors to address the massive skills shortage faced
by the industry.
Whether by using
levy-funded apprenticeships or by investing directly in learning and
development, DTL is urging companies heading for the looming levy deadline to
meet the challenge and ensure Britain has the workforce it needs to keep the
country’s infrastructure and building projects running into the future.
digital age it’s not uncommon to find marketing campaigns swamped with digital methods.
This includes a most sectors, including construction. But the question is… does
print marketing have its place or is it really its way out? Let’s explore the
subject some more with this insightful discussion piece produced by UK
event signage company, Where The Trade Buys.
Marketing strategies swamped with digital solutions
Many campaigns today are lost without digital. With more
consumers than ever before spending time on the internet, businesses would be foolish
not to get involved with online marketing.
Search engine marketing is one area of advertising that
companies are becoming more involved with. As the name suggests, this side of
digital marketing focuses on driving a business’ site to the top of the search
results around relevant target phrases — from corporate keywords like ‘event signage’ to more fashion-focused targets like
‘dresses’. As a result, this can increase brand exposure and site traffic while
improving sales figures.
Social media marketing is another area of business activity
that wasn’t popular a few years back. From paid adverts to viral campaigns, the
digital world has opened up many doors for small and medium companies in
particular — exposing themselves to an audience that may not have known they
existed and in turn, generating mass interest.
The digital world has made room for businesses to begin
analysing their audience, allowing them to gain a greater insight to their
general behaviour and spending patterns. From tracking analytics, whether this
is across social media platforms or the main website, marketing managers are
able to identify key areas of interest and create campaigns around this to drive
There are many methods businesses can follow to hook an
online audience and stay ahead of their competitors. Through a combination of
search engine and social media marketing, many brands are beginning to run
competitions and deals that are only exclusive to an online following. These
low-cost campaigns will benefit from extensive reach.
Print is still a credible marketing method… fact!
Although more businesses are beginning to take their focuses
online, they shouldn’t neglect the power of print and the opportunities that
can come off the back of it. Print very much has a place in modern advertising
as it can offer a personal touch unlike no other and generally has a longer
life cycle which is always beneficial for the exposure of your brand. Take
printed leaflets for example, once they have been posted through the door,
whoever picks them up will have to acknowledge your materials!
As well as door-to-door print advertising, business
merchandise has not taken a backseat since the sprout in popularity of online
promotions. Brand image has never been more important for businesses and
shouldn’t be ignored — as a result, more companies are making investments in
personalised products that represent what they stand for. Whether this is to
help them externally, with the likes of outdoor banners, or internally for your
office with the likes of customised calendars.
Although printed goods can often be higher in price, they
can drive exceptional ROI to your campaign and create a memorable experience
for the receiver which should be a core focus for your print campaign. This can
be achieved through eye-catching designs and a choice of luxury materials which
will lead to a meaningful engagement.
Where print meets digital: the way forward?
Although online and offline advertising are
two entirely separate entities, they can work well together, and some brands
are already utilising such methods.
Take QR codes for example, more
businesses are trying to audiences in the real world to their online solutions.
As QR codes are unique and can entice people to be more inquisitive, they can
drive immense traffic to online campaigns when printed on banners. Through this
method of advertising, marketing departments can track success and gather data
on users when they’re interacting with the code. With the data collected from
campaigns like this, businesses can record contact information (such as email
addresses) if users decide they want to opt-in.
When looking closer to news publications,
many of them still offer printed versions of their product — blurring the line
between print and digital. With an understanding of the influence they have
online, they’ve been able to merge two channels together and to distribute
stories to a wider audience.
Near field communication is another area
that should be further looked into when it comes to the relationship between
online and offline platforms. Essentially, near field communication is a type
of technology that has the ability to connect two smart devices — often with
the help of a print medium. For example, a section of a poster can be tapped
with a mobile phone which will then take the user to the ecommerce site for a specific
Digital giants are employing print marketing
Online hospitality marketplace, Airbnb has made huge waves
in the way that we now book our holidays. Predominantly a digital business with
its own website and downloadable app, the company decided to launch its own
magazine for registered hosts (those who advertise their property) which is
around 18,000 people. This magazine included personal stories of hosts and
their accommodation, encouraging interaction with the digital business through
print. Although the magazine production has been put on hold since, it’s a good
example of how an online business can promote its services elsewhere.
Remember those iconic Coca Cola bottles that had labels with
your name on? The printed labels for the Share A Coke campaign allowed the
drink manufacturer to become more personal with its customers and as a result,
buyers then shared their bottles on social media which made it an integrated campaign.
As we can see, digital and print both play huge parts in the
marketing of a business. But often, they can be most successful when they’re
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businesses drive change, but the larger you get and the longer you have been
around, the harder that becomes. Reaching its 35th birthday,
expanding architectural practice Maber found a surprising solution – start
Too often, established traditional
businesses see workers confined to delivering management’s instructions. By
contrast, a start-up conjures up images of energy, investment, shared vision
and democracy. That’s the feeling maber set out to recapture.
On the face of it, Maber
doesn’t need to change. With five offices in the Midlands and London, the
practice employs a growing workforce of 80 people and occupies a solid place in
the AJ100 list of the country’s biggest architecture practices.
Yet the firm saw that it
needed to evolve to get to the next level. That led to a management restructure
in 2018, as Ian Harris was appointed Managing Director, leaving Mark Hobson to
take on a strategic role as CEO. Change at the top was accompanied by a
determination to invigorate the business. That manifested itself as an idea to
challenge its 35-year-old ways of working by instilling a start-up culture. It
is a decision that is not only changing the way that people work but also their
physical environment, with new agile working premises replacing one of the
practice’s traditional office locations in January 2019.
Ian Harris takes up the
story: “Lots of businesses want a more agile, more engaged, more productive,
more profitable workplace. We asked ourselves what that would look like, and
what we needed to do to get there. Like everyone else, we are chasing
improvements in productivity, efficiency, quality and the experience of working
He highlights Maber’s
strap-line ‘Great to work with, great to work for’ and says: “That may sound
like a slogan but it is something we actually use to make decisions and measure
ourselves against. The idea is to work in ways that improve our credibility
with our clients and improve our relationships with each other, and the choice
of the word ‘great’ is a commitment that we want to be the best at it.”
covers eight areas of improvement.
Taking on a historic,
quirky, former shopping arcade in Leicester city centre to replace its
traditional offices in the professional district means not only more space but
also an opportunity to think differently about the way people work.
Ian Harris explains: “We
are a knowledge-based business, so it makes sense to treat our talent
carefully. That means creating a workplace where people can take responsibility
for their work and be well supported to tackle challenging projects.”
The new office is not just
a one-off. Maber is using it as a cultural experiment. It will see a mix of
spaces, with some formal areas and a wide range of informal areas, from
stand-up meeting tables to a 3D printing area and a ‘family’ kitchen.
“We are moving away from
allocated desks to a richer variety of spaces and working environments,” says
Ian Harris. “The emphasis is on individuals and teams selecting the spaces that
suit the task they are working on at any particular time.”
Everyone at Maber is part
of at least one of the practice’s 14 working groups that review ideas in key
areas of the business including design quality, virtual reality and
visualisation, BIM (Building Information Management) and sustainability.
Each group reports to
Maber’s associates and directors’ forum with a summary of recommendations. Ian
Harris calls it “the open and transparent engine room of the business”. As well
as being democratic, the working groups give people the opportunity to get
involved with subjects outside their normal working remit, accelerating the
chance of new ideas breaking through.
Giving administrative work
to architects makes no sense, says Ian Harris. Over the past two years, Maber
has brought a dedicated admin team into its Leicester and Derby offices. The
impact has been so good that it is now being replicated in the practice’s HQ in
Nottingham, the city where Maber was founded 35 years ago.
Ian Harris explains: “Our
admin people take a bunch of tasks off the architects’ desks and do it better.”
Maber also employs office administrators to look after the practice’s buildings
and the people within them.
Now that Maber has achieved
a certain size as well as being distributed across several offices, it has to
work to keep everyone connected. Slack is really useful, according to Ian
Harris, and it is starting to connect not just Maber staff but its consultants
and clients as well. Maber is using Trello for visual and collaborative project
planning and management. The practice now has two dedicated IT professionals
who have brought forward plans focused around collaborative working. Change is
the new norm in the practice’s IT, as demonstrated by a recent move of its
entire mail system to the cloud with barely a murmur.
“We have put a lot of
thought into building communications systems that are a pleasure to use and are
as open as possible,” says Ian Harris. “Agile working is now a technical
reality, allowing us to work together on anything wherever we are.”
To ensure that the
practice’s priorities are distributed across all of its locations, each of the
five Maber offices has a champion in each of its key areas, including BIM, eco
and interior design.
Maber is harnessing
technology to drive change. It has implemented new finance and time-tracking
systems, for example. Moving to the cloud is giving its people the opportunity
to work from anywhere, and the practice is now discussing how to manage
providing opportunities for working from home.
Creativity is a watchword
at Maber, as Ian Harris articulates: “We want a workplace where people are
motivated to get engaged and expected to bring their best to work every day. We
want great ideas and we want people to try things out, to learn and to try
again. We want creativity, conscientiousness, collaboration and community. We
want high-performing people to influence and inspire their colleagues to do
To drive ‘creative
conversations’, everyone in the practice gets two days of time and £200 every
year to do something creative away from their desk. People have used their
creativity budget to make stained glass, arrange flowers, write poetry, 3D
print, build in VR, learn blacksmithing, visit great buildings, attend
festivals and carve stone among many other things.
“By sharing their
experiences with the team, we hope to drive up the quality of creative
discourse and ultimately our architecture,” says Ian Harris.
As the business grows over
time, Maber has realised it needs to consider how to communicate across the
Ian Harris explains: “Our
Millennials are starting to think about taking on more influential roles in the
business, so consciously considering cross-generational conversations is
increasingly important. Labelling individuals is actively discouraged in the
practice, but we need to recognise how misunderstanding might arise because of
different priorities, expectations or emphases.”
It is a debate worth
having, as Ian Harris points out: “To harness the best talent and build the
strongest sustainable plan for growth, we need everyone to share a vision for
As well as advances in technology
and a changing culture, Maber is on a journey to refine its more traditional
tools for improvement. These include the practice’s design review process,
appraisals and performance management, training and knowledge sharing. It is
using workshops and online platforms, and working with internal and external
providers, to do that.
Ultimately, the most
valuable advantage from becoming a start-up again may be the ability to see
your business with fresh eyes. “We haven’t previously been very self-aware,”
says Ian Harris, “but we are finding that having discussions about how we
operate is making us challenge old habits and assumptions, which is both
invigorating and exciting. Change is the new normal.”
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