The Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) is considering introducing a new “mystery shopper” aspect to site inspections, its new executive chairman says, as part of a drive to inject new rigour into its operations.
Isabel Martinson was appointed as executive chairman of CCS in July 2016 and has already begun stamping her mark on the organisation with sweeping changes to the board within a few weeks of her arrival.
She says: “We might do a few different things and we want to come with a whole fresh perspective as well as go deeper. There’s a potential idea still in discussions of a ‘mystery shopper’ approach, but it is very early days and at the moment board members are just out visiting sites and getting a feel of the climate.”
Martinson spent the early part of her career in the Royal Navy, where she was one of the first female naval supplier officers to serve at sea.
Her final appointment was in 1997, when she reached the rank of lieutenant commander. This was a key management post in Europe’s largest naval base, where she was in charge of leading 177 staff and was responsible for a budget of £5m per annum.
Speaking about the navy she says: “I think it relates to my position in construction. With the navy we were doing things differently. There were no women – we were trailblazers and it was about changing perceptions.”
“It was challenging and when I go out to sites now I’m aware it’s a challenging environment so I’m up for the challenge. I’m completely outside – no alliances or pre-conceived ideas about the industry. I’m not beholden to anybody.”
Currently on CCS site inspections a monitor is assigned to visit and write a report at a previously agreed time. Sites are normally monitored twice – usually a quarter and two-thirds of the way through the registration – unless they are of short duration in which case they then receive only one visit.
Martinson took over her new role having held senior positions in the trade association sector and military service (see box below). She was chairman and company director of the Trade Association Forum, and was also chief executive of the Giftware Association until June 2015.
One of her first actions in her CCS role was to replace the entire board of directors, apart from the chief executive. Among the new board members appointed last November were Richard Byrne, a health and safety director at Travis Perkins, Nick Coley from Fitzgerald Contractors, and Simon Harvey, a strategy and marketing director at dry lining and interiors subcontractor the Grays Group. Harvey also has commercial experience in launching consumer products.
There had been industry rumblings that the new board was a deliberate move aimed to bring the CCS into a more commercial way of thinking, and Martinson confirms this: “I was looking for people outside the box and with a range of backgrounds and skill sets.
"I wanted people with a strong commercial background. People with different views, ideas and interests – for example, Simon Harvey has a very different perspective.”
Another area where she is keen to make her mark – and where she acknowledges that the CCS has fallen down – is in engaging and signing up smaller businesses to the scheme.
“We do have a ‘CCS light’ already but it hasn’t quite connected, so we want to refocus on smaller businesses and reach smaller subcontractors, also listen to companies engaged in the scheme and what they want differently, ” she says. “Why are some companies not getting involved? Is it just a cost issue and what do they want out of us?”
Looking ahead, she sees CCS forming more partnerships with industry bodies to promote best practice. As a start, in January it inked a deal with the National Federation of Builders.