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Focusing on a future full of possibilities

Rampant inflation, sky-high interest rates, supply chain issues and skills shortages meant that 2023 was a challenging year for construction. So as we start the year, what can business leaders expect in 2024? Our man looks into his crystal ball…

rom a geopolitical perspective, 2024 is a massive year with major elections taking place in the UK, across Europe and in the USA, India and Taiwan. 

All of these have the potential to create ripples in the UK economy and influence political decision making, with the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza also adding to the uncertainty.

None of this suggests that 2024 will be any less challenging than 2023, but I want to highlight four trends that I believe will become more prevalent over the coming months – and that business leaders need to become more conversant with. 

Not only do they present challenges for business, but they will also present significant opportunities for those with vision and an open mind…

Improved remote and hybrid work models

Before COVID-19, working from home was a rare privilege, but the pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work and hybrid models, allowing employees to work from home and office. In my experience, most employers were forced into making these changes and, unsurprisingly, they’re desperate to get employees back into the office where they can keep an eye on them. Unfortunately, that genie is out of the bottle and I personally don’t see it going back in, certainly not any time soon. 

Leaders now need to be focused on building trust and enhancing employee engagement. This will involve moving away from the typical “command and control” approach and instead focusing on the employee experience.

In 2024, I expect these models will become more refined and widespread, with a focus on providing greater flexibility to employees. 

As SELECT Member Chic Dobbie explains overleaf, many employers now recognise the benefits that flexible working has delivered in terms of better engagement, which has led to productivity improvements and greater retention rates.

Offering flexible working will help keep your people happy and engaged

Focus on employee wellbeing

As ECIS outlines on pages 50 and 51, companies are increasingly recognising the importance of employee wellbeing, including mental health and work-life balance. In 2024, this trend will likely evolve further, with organisations implementing more comprehensive wellbeing programmes and policies.

Remote working doesn’t work for all and leaves some staff feeling isolated and abandoned. Employers need to give greater attention to creating more social connection and investments in employee wellness such as incorporating more health benefits, flexible policies to support mental health such as counselling and stress management workshops, and creating a culture that promotes connectivity and belonging.

“Leaders now need to be focused on building trust and enhancing employee engagement”

Technology integration and automation

In 2023, the talk was all about artificialintelligence (AI) taking over, withscare stories about how the technology would replace people and take jobs. In 2024, firms might be more invested in incorporating AI, machine learning and automation to streamline processes, boost efficiency and enable their employees to focus on more creative and strategic tasks. 

According to Julian Birkinshaw at London Business School: “Generative AI is a cool productivity-enhancer and will have a profound long-term impact on how we access and process information. But it won’t be as disruptive as the internet or smartphone and for most companies will be a ‘sustaining innovation’, reinforcing rather than undermining their competitive position.”  

From my perspective, many construction companies have been slow to embrace technological innovations – building information modelling (BIM) immediately springs to mind. The more enlightened businesses out there will see AI as an opportunity to improve productivity and help generate a competitive advantage over their less innovative and more risk-averse competitors.

“2024 will undoubtedly be another challenging year but there are significant opportunities out there”

Using AI can help businesses make work practices more efficient. © Iryna Imago/ Shutterstock

Increased focus on sustainability

Sustainability was high on the corporate agenda in 2023, with investment in renewable energy exceeding the amount spent on carbon-based energy for the first time ever. And a powerful combination of consumer and social pressure has now heaped more pressure on governments to increase regulation and reporting standards. 

This could be the year for businesses to acknowledge the urgent need to adapt to environmental challenges, either because they face the financial cost of addressing environmental risks themselves or because current and future regulation will significantly impact their business.

This increased focus on sustainability will undoubtedly create opportunities. In the UK, research suggests that more than 80% of our current building stock will still exist in 2050, which offers a huge opportunity for retrofitting to ensure we meet net zero commitments.

This presents a significant challenge for our industry to respond in terms of getting up to speed with current and future renewable technologies and having a skilled workforce with the capacity to install these technologies.

Businesses will face environmental challenges that can lead to new revenue opportunities

In conclusion, 2024 will undoubtedly be another challenging year but there are significant opportunities out there. Business leaders whoare open minded, willing to adapt and aren’t toorisk averse are mostly likely to see these trends as opportunities to thrive. 

Paul McDevitt is Managing Director of McDevitt & Co, an experienced business consultancy that helps to inspire people, improve productivity and increase profits in the construction industry. Find out more and contact him at



Chic DobbiE, Vice Chair, SELECT Ayrshire Branch

Firm’s fab four

A four-day week has proved a major boost in Chic Dobbie’s battle to retain staff and bring stability to his operations. 

Chic, who is Vice Chair of SELECT’s Ayrshire Branch, explained: “At the end of 2022, I was discussing with my son, who is also part of the business, how we could cut overheads and keep our workforce happy. 

“Over the previous six months we’d had lots of guys coming and going. In a lightbulb moment, I suggested a four-day week on our construction projects.”

Chic, who runs C Dobbie Electrical Ltd, said he’d noticed that Fridays on a building site could be unproductive. He told us: “Many close at 12 noon. Our people often travel from Ayrshire to Glasgow or beyond and parking always appears a problem. It made sense to move to a four-day week and the guys involved agreed.” 

Introduced in January 2023, the change meant longer working from Monday to Thursday. Instead of being on site from 7.30am to 4.00pm, Chic’s team now works 7.00am to 5.30pm.

He said: “Initially it was applied over three sites in Glasgow and affected up to 10 people.”

The company retained an element of flexibility, with Chic revealing: “We raised the prospect of a return to ‘normal’ working if necessary. As two of the jobs neared their end the main contractor was keen to have us in on Fridays, so we reverted to a five-day week for a while.”

Chic believes it’s delivered big benefits, telling us: “It’s given our guys a better quality of life, cut our fuel costs and made it easier for us to compete.

“Notably, we’ve only applied it on construction projects. In our domestic business the guys are still working a five-day week.”

If anyone else is thinking about a similar change Chic recommended talking to the client/main contractor first. He said: “Others on the sites where we operate have looked to copy us, but it won’t suit everyone.

“For our part, we’ll continue this on existing and new projects so long as the contractors and our people stay happy.”


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