When leaders work together, great things can be achieved.
Collaboration among leaders can lead to great achievements. While everyone has their own obligations and responsibilities, taking a day to experience someone else’s perspective can provide new insights and improve understanding among team members. This, in turn, can lead to better decision-making.
What is the Trading Places Initiative?
Trading Places is an initiative by Douglas OHI’s Group General Manager, Aaron Hennessy, in 2016. The concept of the programme is to live as a junior employee on site for a day to dive into an immersive experience and further comprehend the realities and challenges that occur in the very demanding and rigorous environment of a construction site.
Last February 15, 2023, Douglas OHI invited their training partner, CIOB and their highly valued client, GS Inima, to the construction site of the Barka V Independent Water Plant project to have firsthand experience as an expatriate field worker. Aaron Hennessy, Caroline Gumble, Almudena Aparicio, Luis Palomino, and Elaine Cooper geared up as junior employees that day, working under the supervision of the site managers.
Trading Places Initiative Expectations
Before heading out to begin their work, the participants shared their expectations.
Mr Aaron, who has experienced this initiative multiple times, shares that he is still as excited but a bit nervous because their client, GS Inima and CIOB were joining him with full access to all areas. Nonetheless, he feels confident to have everyone on board as he knows the capability and quality of Douglas OHI. Hence, displaying full transparency in their work was not an issue.
Ms Almudena, Ms Caroline, and Mr Luis were all thrilled to have the opportunity to tackle such an exceptional day on the construction site. Ms Caroline commended Douglas OHI by inviting the client of the project, GS Inima, to be an insider and a worker on-site. She added that this strongly signals Douglas OHI’s confidence in their practices.
Working As An Expatriate Junior Employee
The new “junior employees” started their day with a tour around the accommodation, changing into their PPEs, and attending the site inductions. The five participants were split into groups, and Mr. Aaron and Ms. Almudena worked on the backfilling. On the other hand, Ms Caroline, Ms Elaine, and Mr Luis were responsible for mixing and offloading concrete and working on reinforcement cages.
The junior employees were eager to contribute to the team’s progress. They showed determination in adapting to the unfamiliar environment and strived to work in harmony with the rest of their colleagues.
It was a long day for the volunteers to live through the boots of the on-site workers. Still, they gladly appreciated this unique opportunity that allowed them to experience firsthand what it is like to work on an ongoing construction site.
The Trading Places Initiative concluded with simple but well-prepared dinner meals in the on-site cafeteria. Afterwards, they all headed to their designated accommodations to wrap up their day.
Trading Places Initiative: Realisations and Observations
The following day, the participants were encouraged to give their thoughts after living through an unforgettable day. The CEO of CIOB, Ms Caroline Gumble, gets candid in her one-on-one interview with Mr Aaron Hennessy as they reflect on the immersive programme they experienced working as a junior employee on-site for the day.
Ms Caroline’s primary motivation at work was not to let the whole team down. She shared that she was cautious and cooperative to avoid disrupting the project’s progress. She also added that her managers and colleagues on-site were very supportive and mindful of them as first-timers.
In addition, she pointed out the observations that left a great impression on her, especially the ones concerning the employees’ well-being.
Ms Caroline was astounded by the on-site cafeteria’s food quality, variety, and generous portions. She highly appreciated how the workers’ welfare and hard work throughout the tiring day are compensated with well-prepared meals daily.
Physical and Mental Health of the Employees
The CEO of CIOB also exclaims her delight to see how the management ensures the health and safety of the on-site team by having accessible medical personnel.
Mr Aaron shares that Douglas OHI initiates regular campaigns to give attention to all employees’ physical and mental health. DOHI uses the medical statistics collected on-site to develop health and safety campaigns and nutritious menus suitable for everyone to provide them with maximum health care.
Finding Comfort in A Foreign Setting
Before 10 pm, all participants retire to their shared accommodations. Ms Caroline admits that she finds it a bit uncomfortable to be in an unfamiliar environment, also disclosing that it would be her first time sharing a room with her colleague. Nonetheless, she realised and appreciated that having a companion to talk to about the extraordinary day they lived through in a foreign setting comforted her.
Implications and Applications of Trading Places in the Construction Industry
Mr Aaron asked if this experience on the front line impacts the management’s perspective and if it will affect their future decision-making and communication with the workforce.
“First of all, I think all people in a leadership role who are making decisions on behalf of a workforce need to have this type of immersive experience to understand the implications,” said Ms Caroline.
Mr Aaron agrees and hopes that the “Trading Places” initiative will spark a movement in the industry, encouraging and challenging other leaders of the built environment to work on-site and immerse themselves into the daily realities of our colleagues in the field.
The one-on-one interview finished with some kind words from Ms Caroline. She praises Douglas OHI for inspiring in leading the way to embed this healthy culture in the organisation. Additionally, through the vast influence of CIOB, Ms Caroline is hopeful that this initiative will launch as a global challenge in the industry.
GS Inima expresses their delight and gratitude in discovering the project’s development and to see in person the close coordination of the organisations–Douglas OHI and GS Inima to deliver a high-quality project that is Barka V Independent Water Plant.
Moreover, Ms Almudena, head of GS Inima’s International Construction Department and Mr Luis, head of GS Inima’s Spain Construction Department, applauds the team’s excellent effort and practices to ensure a healthy and safe working environment and achieve HSSE milestones. The client conveys their satisfaction towards Douglas OHI for prioritising this matter whilst delivering timely progress.
Trading Places Wrap-up
All the volunteers in this initiative now have a better understanding of the practicalities and difficulties of expatriate junior employees. Their daily reality of intensive labour is physically demanding and mentally and emotionally draining, especially since they are far away from family and friends, who are their comfort zone.
For those reasons, they give appreciation to Douglas OHI for doing everything to provide the best possible working environment through:
Watch the video above and learn more about how the three organisations–Douglas OHI, CIOB, and GS Inima worked together as junior employees at Barka V Independent Water Plant project construction site.