Skip main navigation

A client’s perspective

Interview with James Pellatt, Head of Projects for Great Portland Estates
We’re a service provider to our occupiers and to our investors and shareholders. We provide space for them to work, sleep or sell clothes in and unless we do that really well then we’re not satisfying our customers and we can only do that if we work with our supply chain and our contractors to get the best that we can from those points of view so it’s important that we work in an open and a collaborative manner where people can feel secure that we’re not going to be aggressive, we’re not going to be demanding we’re going to be intellectually challenging.
So you were saying that the project over there that we were looking at before you’ve actually been working with these people for five years we have yeah and we’ve built up a real big team ethos and that takes a lot of time to obtain people’s trust so that they can come to us with their problems. It is too macho an industry. We are way too aggressive and that’s not because it’s a male-dominated industry I think it’s just… it’s part of the culture of thinking, ‘that’s how we get things done’. What behaviours do you want to see from your consultants from your contractors and also from their supply chain as well?
We want…what we want really is transparency so we, we try and be clear about what our objectives are Yeah So if we’re going to promise something, we’ll follow through on something it’s a two-way thing and it’s as much about transparency and honesty and integrity, to be able to say I’ve made a mistake or I don’t have enough resources or my team’s been held up for this or whatever is causing it to happen So how do you think the industry’s boom and bust nature impacts on ethical behaviours and practices? I think the boom and bust cycle wherever the pendulum swings in whichever capacity means that… you can’t get…
the best out of people, I think and the trick is to sort of ignore those swings and reduce it to as small a gap as you can because we want people to work with us, again and again and again. If we can smooth that out then actually we get better performance. In the recession, client is king and quite often they’re asked to compromise their values and their ethics. How can we change this in this industry? I think that partly comes from inner confidence and your own values and your own strength to think if you know your own standards, then you know when to say ‘no’. Yeah.
It’s easy for me to say this because I’m not the one faced with losing turnover or losing staff in a recession and you want to keep people together but I think in the long run actually what you get is the loyalty to come through.
What we need is people to work together to deliver the product for us to move on. Quite often the challenge is with the massive organisations and if you’ve got one manager, a pocket in a particular place, that’s causing havoc they’re creating a negative culture in that and it’s hard to keep control of that as a big organisation isn’t it? That’s true and it is hard to keep control but equally those organisations have their place too. Yeah.
It’s not, we can’t, we need…their, financial size and backing for their warranties for us to develop and there are some great examples of global companies that take the lead in employee wellbeing so you feel valued working there but that’s come from the top in that organisation to say that actually, ‘you as an employee are important to me as an employer’. and the shift in wellbeing that we have to put into our workplace to meet our occupiers’ demands is becoming more and more important and again I think the stress side of the business is is really draining on people and people’s lifestyle and their family life and Look, they’re only buildings at the end of the day.
We want to do the best buildings but it is part of… You know a happy workforce, is a productive workforce. You’ve got a group of people who’ve been brought together to deliver a project and a group of organisations with conflicting values, conflicting ethics how do you overcome those challenges to bring people together? I think we wouldn’t work with someone whose values were in real direct conflict with our own. If we feel that somebody is going to breach those then we’d rather we didn’t get into that situation in the first place.
and that’s as much about driving those behaviours of people to work for us Yeah, yeah because what I like about what I’ve seen is that you’ve got a supplier code of conduct. Yes and that brings in ethics as well and also I’ve noticed in your latest annual report you’re talking about working with suppliers across your development, Yes and asset management activities that’s to make sure your suppliers understand and evolve their own standards Yes and I just wondered how you’re going about that?
We didn’t want to put something in it that was so hard to achieve and impossible to achieve but was sufficiently aspirational that it was clear that we could make sure that we’re not specifying products that we don’t know where they’re coming from that people are putting some thought into what they do and that includes the workforce so that’s really important for us to make sure that the workforce is treated well and that they have freedom of movement and they can work wherever they want to work and they’re not enslaved It’s driving a set of behaviours that we can point to say, ‘‘Look when you agreed to work for us you said you would sign up to this” Yes so we’re making the message very clear from the beginning.
Well James thank you so much for No problem having us here today and for sharing your experiences as a client and and obviously being able to see the fantastic projects that you’re working on and I think it’s time for a hot cup of tea. It is definitely. Thank you

In this video Maria Coulter interviews James Pellatt, Head of Projects for Great Portland Estates in London to give a Client’s perspective on ethics and the importance of building relationships with their supply chain.

This article is from the free online

Construction Ethics and Compliance

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now