Annex A – Resourcing Case Studies
1. Moray Council
Building Standards at Moray Council has benefitted from having an experienced workforce for many years. A team that grew up together but ultimately retired within a 10-year period of each other. Recent times has seen us have challenges in recruiting new and experienced team members into the workforce.
Moray is a great authority to work for, in an amazing part of Scotland; we have a great team and great support from the Council. However, finding experienced staff to join the team has been an issue and we had to move forward and look for different ways to address the challenge, which suits our vision, our service users, and our team.
A route to success has been home grown talent. We identified that when we introduced team members to the role of our Systems Technical Assistant, primarily dealing with the registration of applications on the Idox system, that occupiers of this role developed good knowledge of the building standards systems and the foundations of the service. This has been a route for team members to then move up to a role of Building Standards Assistant and study for a HNC at College part time.
One of the key factors in the success of this progression route has been that these team members started their building standards journey within our admin team. The close working relationships our technical and admin roles fostered developed a shared knowledge and interest in Building Standards. We all worked in very close proximity together, helped each other and above all else, got on well. The rapid movement to remote working and less contact in the office environment over recent times may however be a negative to this going forward and we must be aware of it.
The team members we have recruited have generally been local to Moray, and have a history of working in Moray, with long-term aspirations to continue to live and work in Moray. The service builds on the good working practices and experiences of one another, gives consideration to impart knowledge to all levels of the team to give awareness of the role to benefit understanding and career progression. This has developed a great team approach within our service.
We have also seen success in recruiting designers who have had experience in local architectural practices. Our most recent recruit as a Building Standards Officer had experience in a drawing office and came with a recently obtained degree. This route brought his more advanced qualification and experience into the team. This gives a different dynamic into the team and can act as support to the junior workforce, which remains a key focus in terms of us working towards the national workforce strategy.
Our approaches have been a success for us. It has worked well and has brought some great talent into building standards. We however have to be careful going forward. The charge to ensure we have a flexible, resilient and focused service has to be balanced with the time, resource and impact this can have on the small team we have. Over committing to deliver at an early stage has been a concern with more than half of our team carrying out training in some manner. We have to ensure we have the experience and a capacity to support all trainees to grow into competent Building Standards Surveyors.
Moray appointed their first Trainee Building Standards Officer 30 years ago. The team member has stayed in Moray, progressed their career and been involved in promoting building standards at a national level. We could not have a better advert to the benefits of growing your own and supporting them through a career than this.
2. City of Edinburgh Council
In September 2019, it was recognised by the City of Edinburgh Council’s Building Standards Team that the service faced challenges in relation to service delivery to improve performance against available resource. Historically, the service operated with a majority of experienced surveying staff at Surveyor and Senior Surveyor level, complemented by administrative support (Transactions Team).
Over a two-year period, a number of vacancies at Building Standards Surveyor level became vacant. It was recognised with new ways of working being developed that staff at lower grades would be competent to progress greater aspects of the work within the service, consequently additional Assistant Building Standards Surveyor and Apprentice Building Standards Surveyor posts were created.
Through engagement with LABSS and BSD, recognition of a new post of Apprentice Building Standards Surveyor was created giving flexibility to the appointment of Modern or Graduate Apprentice Surveyors. Three apprentices were recruited under the government’s “Graduate Apprentice” scheme in August 2018, with a further four Modern Apprentices recruited in July 2022.
This is a scheme whereby the staff study for one day per week and work four days in the workplace. All apprentices are appointed on four-year fixed term contracts to match the duration of study.
Due to a number of existing vacancies within the service, an exercise was undertaken to review available resource created by previous resignations. A two-phase approach was taken to recruiting to some existing posts and to recruiting for newly created posts (i.e. Apprentice Surveyor).
- Phase one would include like-for-like recruitment, with some existing vacancies essential to recruit immediately.
- Phase two of recruitment was presented to senior management through a business case, requiring Head of Service, Finance and HR approval.
Proposals were presented to consolidate the total cost/budget for existing vacancies. This would propose an increase in full time equivalent (FTE) staff from 11.5 FTE to 16.0 FTE for an equivalent cost.
Existing Vacancies (11.5 FTE)
2 x Senior Building Standards Surveyor
9.5 x Building Standards Surveyor
Proposal to utilise budget to Recruit (16.0 FTE)
2 x Senior Building Standards Surveyor (Phase 1)
2 x Building Standards Surveyor (Phase 1)
2 x Assistant Building Standards Surveyor (Phase 1)
2 x Assistant Building Standards Surveyor (Phase 2)
1 x Project Officer (Phase 2)
4 x Apprentice Building Standards Surveyor (Phase 2)
3 x Building Standard Support Assistants (Phase 2)
Costing was outlined within the Service Budget for 2020/21 as follows.
Established Structure salary costs £2,304k (including vacancies costed at bottom SCP*)
Proposed Structure salary costs £2,351k
Additional cost £47k
*SCP – Spinal Column Point (The placement of pay for a member of staff on CEC salary scales).
The proposed business case specified that -
“Based on the current costing of the agreed staffing establishment, the proposed new structure would require an additional £47k. 2019/20 budget includes the BS Improvement Team including 0.5 Service Manager and 1.0 Change & Delivery Manager. Both posts are no longer required for these roles. This budget, if available on-going, could be utilised to fund full implementation of the new structure.”
As a result, Apprentice Building Standards Surveyor roles would be embedded in the service structure to ensure talent growth through apprenticeships would be permanently recognised within the organisational structure.
The result of organisational changes is that the service is now delivering improved performance with a greater quality of service for our customers with a higher number of staff in post. The improvements demonstrate the strong rationale for continuing new ways of working and having a staff profile that is more closely aligned.
Further benefits of these decisions include providing opportunities for our ‘rising stars’ to progress through promotion whilst utilising budget provision to recruit at Graduate or Modern Apprentice levels. This approach addresses medium to long term succession planning by reducing the overall average age of staff within the service.
The approach taken also provides opportunities for training and development and more flexible job descriptions to allow the service to better respond to arising pressures. The outcome is an improvement to the customer experience and ultimately reduction of the risk of losing verification for the service.
3. Stirling Council
Stirling Council currently employ 14 full time surveying staff with 3 dedicated support staff as part of our shared Gateway team with our planning colleagues. The staff dynamics and make up has been mainly static in recent years with limited personnel changes and a steady level of performance. However, since April 2022 there have been 4 vacancies within the team and we are currently in the process of recruiting. Reasons for vacancies include:
- A chartered surveyor moving back to the private sector after 3 years as the salary was much less than the level paid in the private sector
- A recently qualified RICS surveyor moving to a larger authority for increased pay at the same position
- A senior team member moving to a promoted position in another authority partly due to lack of career progression within current team structure
- Death in service.
The Building Standards team have made significant improvements to address recruitment and workforce challenges in recent years. Poor recruitment application numbers and calibre of those applying has hindered the team in previous recruitment processes, so a ‘build our own’ long term workforce strategy was implemented and recruited into locally on that basis over the last 5 years. This focussed on backfilled posts being filled with a view to succession planning and a corresponding team restructure implemented. In summary this included:
- New and additional posts at all levels within team (additional graduate, senior surveyor, inspector and co-ordinator)
- Recruitment from sectors other than building standards and without the levels of experience normally anticipated
- A structured succession programme from inspector all the way up to the co-ordinator role was put in place enabling a pathway for progression
- Surveyors and inspectors have been supported in undertaking a Building Surveying Degree at GCU to enable career progression within the team
- Staff have also been supported in achieving professional membership of RICS, CABE and CIOB
- Procurement of flexible agency agreement to employ additional building standards surveying resources as required.
The action points noted above have helped provide resilience and flexibility within the team as well as retaining the expertise within the service over recent years. Crucial to the success of this has been the enhanced support and supervision provided through the new co-ordinator post and increased management support through the additional senior surveyor positions with the allocation of work, peer review and quality checks. It has proven to be a workplace that if you can demonstrate a customer-focussed outlook, technical ability and professional competence, then the opportunity to progress is there. We currently find ourselves starting over on our succession plan for the future and believe we can improve on the next generation from lessons learned along the way.
The restructure and improvements implemented have proven invaluable with our recent most vacancies as we have been able to recruit internally for a co-ordinator post, 2 senior surveyors and 2 surveyor posts. We now have the task of recruiting externally for our lower level backfill graduate, inspector and surveyor roles which are so far proving easier to fill. We hope to have a full complement of staff in place by May 2023. We have also recently created and filled a Building Standards Modern Apprentice position that will integrate as another step into our structured succession programme.
While we have been relatively successful in managing our recent vacant positions, it is important to highlight the workforce challenges that all verifiers face. The wage scale disparity between authorities that can often lead to low interest in vacant posts, is part of Single Status and locks verifiers into the grades they have. Rates of pay in the private sector are traditionally higher and staff that may have migrated to public sector after the last recession may be looking to move back. Finally, the loss of many Building Standards Manager positions over the last decade has resulted in less opportunities for senior team members to progress. It’s always positive when such staff can find that position elsewhere within the Building Standards profession however, there is an increasing risk of losing future leaders to private sector and other fields unless these matters can be addressed.
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