The SCSI Connected Conference 18 took place in the beautiful Lyrath Estate in Co. Kilkenny on November 30 and drew surveyors and speakers from around the country.

Chartered Surveyors add value by working with surveyors in different disciplines said SCSI President Des O’Broin in his opening address: “Too often we stay in our bubble, but to stay valuable, we need to remain active”.

Great performance
Before the Connected Conference 2018 started, a rural seminar was held covering the outlook for Irish agriculture and the land market. The Conference kicked off in earnest with SCSI Director General Áine Myler saying it’s all about collaboration and how that helps make connections.
The first speaker was John Ryan, CEO of Great Place to Work Ireland. He said that there are a lot of misconceptions about Great Place to Work and that it is nothing to do with “beanbags and free food”. It means great performance and a workplace that employees enjoy coming to. He spoke about getting the culture, trust and well-being right as these are “absolutely key to high performance”.
He said that qualifications are becoming less important for some companies: “They want people who are adaptable because they don’t know where the future is going”.
John warned not to get diversity and inclusion confused. Diversity is not inclusion. We’re getting better at diversity in Ireland but we don’t do so well with inclusion. A successful company includes everyone in the creation of its strategy.
He noted the old saying that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers and expanded on this by saying employees are loyal to a culture, not a strategy: “you need to provide a culture where people feel psychologically and emotionally safe”.
He advised organisations to ask employees what words describe the organisation. He said that words he often hears are “fear” and “soulless”. People often dread their workplaces so he said ask employees what needs to change. According to John, the three biggest issues in Ireland are poor management behaviours, communication and performance management. Get to know people, talk to them, that’s how you build trust. People need to believe you are fair to them: “Organisations need to focus on inspiring, speaking and listening to people”.

A great place to work makes employees perform at their very best, explained John Ryan of Great Place to Work Ireland.

Out of office

More and more people are moving away from traditional workplaces and the next speaker was Vanessa Tierney of Abodoo, a job website for working from home.
Vanessa calls working from home smart working and said it is about using technology, connectivity and flexibility. At Abodoo, she said: “We don’t match people on CVs because a lot of people who want to smart work haven’t been in the workplace in a few years”.
Vanessa said attrition drops by 40% and productivity goes up by 15% when you embrace smart working and companies may not have an option soon: “Millennials are the ones driving this and this is something they’re going to expect”. She gave some statistics: 77% of working people want this; 9% of companies offer it; and, 50% of employees would leave their current job for more flexibility.
Some managers might be concerned about productivity and time served but Vanessa said the future is about measuring output and projects: “If you’re measuring success on working hours, you’ll die”.

Vanessa Tierney of Abodoo said working from home is smart working and it is something employees will come to expect.

Small towns
The SCSI Working Group report ‘Rejuvenating Ireland’s Small Town Centres’ was launched on the day and featured prominently in the national media. One of the authors, Stephen Purcell of Future Analytics, spoke next and said the objective of the project was to ensure the vitality and long-term stability of small town centres.
He said: “There has been a significant change in consumer behaviour”. Online shopping has increased and will continue to increase. A rise in out-of-town shopping centres and car use has drawn people out of town centres.
The report highlighted cases where small towns are thriving such as Westport in Mayo. He said strong leadership, plan-led change and community support are what can save small town centres. A model needs to be built that other towns can follow.

The SCSI report ‘Rejuvenating Ireland’s Small Town Centres’ was launched at the Conference. Pictured (from left) are: Society Director General Áine Myler; author of the report Stephen Purcell of Future Analytics; and, SCSI President Des O’Broin.

Building and regulation
Kieran McQuinn of the ESRI gave an overview of the economy and said it has been performing strongly. He noted constraints in the labour market and the shortage of housing: “In plain speak, we need to build a lot of houses over the next few years … If we are going to build houses, where will that labour come from?” Immigration is the only answer, but this will put further pressure on the housing market in the short term. The severity of the housing crisis might also have the effect that people don’t want to come here.
Maeve Hogan of the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) was next on stage. The PSRA has been conducting audits for the past year and will be publishing a set of minimum standards regulations: “We’re close to putting together a first draft of regulations”. The PSRA is proposing to introduce timeframes to cover the payment of rents and refunds of deposits. She came down hard on licensees who were charging people to view properties, saying this would be banned with the new regulations: “That’s wrong, that’s improper conduct”.
Overall, 60% of licensees have been audited. A total of 63% of those have been found to be fully compliant, with 33% non-compliant, mostly for minor issues. She warned against using clients’ monies for anything other than their purpose and said this had been an issue. She stressed the importance of letters of engagement: “It avoids a lot of complaints down the road if you and your client know what you are signing up to”.

Get to know people, talk to them, that’s how you build trust. People need to believe you are fair to them.

No blame, no shame
Graeme Tinney of Griffiths & Armour looked at insurance and managing risk without spending a fortune. He recommended the IPI initiative, where parties agree not to sue, where there is no blame culture and collaboration is supported. Tom Phillips spoke about the build to rent sector in Ireland. At the moment for a scheme to be put down as build to rent, the owner must agree not to sell it for 15 years. He thinks this should be changed.
Joanne Hession of Lift Ireland rounded off the day by talking about her organisation, a not for profit that is aiming to improve leadership across Ireland.

Colm QuinnColm Quinn

Journalist and Sub-editor, Think Media