In a construction and civil engineering sector that increasingly takes the short-term view, Stockholm-based Frentab wants to invest for the long term. The company has transformed its workforce through leadership programs, fitness, and teambuilding.
This text was originally published in Byggindustrin magazine.
The employees have always been a focus for Stockholm-based contracting company Frentab, which was started in the 1980s by CEO John Fransson’s father Thomas. It is a workplace where the employees are happy. Those who’ve worked for the company longest have been here for nearly 30 years.
“My father always took care of his personnel and made sure everybody was happy. But, in the last five or six years we’ve been working more consciously with personnel issues”, says John Fransson.
About four years ago, Frentab began working on the basis of values. Together with the employees, the company came up with three keywords: respect, innovation, and professionalism.
“This perhaps isn’t the easiest industry for working on the basis of values, but for us it’s contributed to each of us feeling important and proud to work at Frentab”, says John Fransson, who a few years ago also developed a leadership program together with Mia Petré at MP3 Consulting.
“We described our values and how we want our leadership to be. We have enormous engagement, and as a leader you should encourage this rather than micro-managing.”
Everyone in the company who has or will have line management responsibility has gone through the leadership program. It consists of four off-site sessions a year where the participants receive coaching in how to manage with the Frentab spirit.
“This way, we all have the same view of what it means to be a manager inside our company. The participants have become really good at communication and feedback, but also at dealing with tough situations before they become problems. That’s mature leadership”, says John Fransson.
Fitness is another important aspect of looking after employees. Frentab employees jog, play floorball, and badminton once a week. They also l have the option of a free massage once a month.
“We also do a lot of teambuilding trips, which we see as contributing to fitness. In the winter we travel to Hemavan and go on skidoos, this year we’re all going to Dubai”, says John Fransson, who explains that the trips do a great deal to foster a sense of community.
“We travel together and don’t differentiate between white and blue-collar workers. And when we’re on a trip, probably nobody can tell who works with what.”
To keep a close eye on how the employees are doing, Frentab uses &frankly, which allows them to regularly pose questions measuring different trends, such as stress.
“If you do an annual employee survey, you only know how they feel on a particular day of the year. With the app, we have a much quicker dialogue. We send out a question that everyone can answer on their phone. It takes perhaps 30 seconds. And we display the results on screens at sites”, says John Fransson.
By sending questions through &franklys app it is easy accessible and quick for all employees to answer. The results is also available for the managers in real-time.
But, he feels that the construction and civil engineering industry doesn’t generally work like this.
“I'm always astonished that more companies don’t have an active process to take care of their employees. Instead they buy in services and the employees are almost seen as something of an obstacle”, says John Fransson.
He believes that the short-sightedness of the industry, with its demands for returns every quarter, lead to more outsourcing and subcontractors.
“If we were to bring in personnel from outside, we wouldn’t know if they had the same values as us. We work with a long-term view. This is our life’s work, after all.”