Long-term view to developing staff

Attracting people into the construction industry has not been without its challenges, particularly in the north-east where it competes with the perception of well-paid oil and gas jobs.

But with the shift in the local economy, the support of the Scottish Government to grow apprenticeship programmes and promote the construction sector, there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in a human resources (HR) role.

Karen Catto is a HR director who is leading the charge for talent, working at Stewart Milne Group, one of the UK’s independent homebuilders and timber frame manufacturers, headquartered in Aberdeen.

Having just won the most prestigious accolade at this year’s CHeRies Awards, that recognises the best of the north-east’s HR professionals, Karen has agreed to share the secrets of her success.

Karen first joined Stewart Milne Group in 1996, not in a HR role, but as part of the marketing and communications team, delivering the company’s corporate re-branding and launch of their internet and intranet sites.

In 2002 Karen joined the HR department, and five years later she had progressed to HR director. Her responsibilities include recruiting, developing and retaining the top talent required to drive the group’s growth and deliver quality products based on clever and attractive design, craftsmanship and innovation.

Upon receiving the Top Cherry award, Karen was praised for her drive and enthusiasm for her profession, with commitment, passion and people development at the core of her HR ethos.

Karen Catto

Karen said: “It might be a cliche to say that people are your most important asset, but really, they are. Recognising the skills of your people and how to motivate and support them to grow in their roles is vital – not only for the individual, but also for the company.

“Investing in good people and then ensuring that they truly feel a part of your business, will always deliver tangible returns.”

Through her involvement with a range of industry committees, including the Developing the Young Workforce National Group, National Housebuilder Federation HR Forum, the Construction Industry Forum, and the Robert Gordon University Industry Liaison Group, Karen leads the conversation on how organisations can encourage young people to develop a career in construction.

“We have a responsibility to position our industry for the next generation as a great place to be, so we can build the pool of skills we need in the future”, said Karen.

“When others, quite rightly, are focusing on year one budget and the short-term view, we keep our eye on the longer-term prize – the future growth of our people, as well as our company and the wider sector. It all goes hand-in-hand.”

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