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Insights A simple guide to adding social value #InsideAtkins

Penny is Associate Director of Social Value (SV) at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. She has worked in SV at project, national and international levels in the construction sector. Her role is to bring our SV Framework to life through everything we do. 

"I want to help demystify the subject of social value and give people the confidence to talk with clients about what it means to them. Everyone at the organization has unique skills, knowledge, and experience that can add value to the communities they work with."

Here are Penny's 8 top tips for uncovering your SV skills and understanding how they can be shared for maximum impact:

1. Think about social value in everything you do

SV was brought into sharp focus when it became a mandatory part of winning government contracts. Atkins responded by looking inwards and outwards. How can we embed SV into everything we do and enable clients to do the same? 

We developed a SV Framework based on six principles: Identity, Inclusion, Wellbeing, Inclusive Economic Growth, Natural Capital and Environmental Resilience. Some of the core ways it helps us add value are: Through the way we work, looking after our own people when recruiting, managing and promoting fairly and inclusively; by weaving SV into our services, making decisions that add value to people and the environment; and, of course, providing SV as a service – helping our clients deliver it.

Employees can look forward to our SV KPI's launching in 2022. Choose one or more that resonate with you and set individual or team goals to help progress them.

2. Become a purpose-led individual

We can all make a difference. Take a step back from your role and look at where you can add SV. It might be more obvious for some of us, but everyone will have opportunities. Using our SV principles as a base, ask:

•How can I do things differently to impact people or planet? 
•What can I do differently to influence decisions on the materials we use or to create opportunities for people? 
•What skills do I have that would benefit someone else, like a charity, a community group or a school? 

Think about how you work and make the small decisions that make big differences. Or volunteer to do something more, for example, supporting our ED&I strategy. Talk to your colleagues and find out what others are doing to help spark ideas.

3. Make positive actions for positive outcomes

When working on a contract, start having conversations about SV as early as possible. Start talking to the client about what SV means to them. Ensure there are people in place to deliver the SV plan. 

It takes time to build relationships, so also reach out to stakeholders ASAP. Get a feel for the local community and shape your strategy around its needs. Agree on how you'll measure and monitor SV and revisit the plan and progress throughout.

An example of recent team success was Engineering in Infrastructure. They looked back at a couple of projects where they knew SV hadn't been considered and felt none had been added. But, when they looked at them through an SV lens, they realized that it was there. The exercise helped them see what else might have been done to add even more value. This has led them to change their processes, enabling teams to incorporate SV appropriately.

4. Take value to the next generation

Become a STEM Volunteer. I'm proud of the team, who have been determined to deliver our school outreach safely even during the pandemic. They adapted our annual programme by delivering virtual placements. In October, we ran the first virtual work experience called 'Future Innovators.' It was hugely successful, attracting 400 students, and we're looking forward to rerunning it in 2022. 

We're now working with our STEM Volunteers to understand where we already add SV and can add even more by changing our conversations with schools. 

5. Discover the social value of mentoring

The most meaningful impact often comes from sharing your skills, knowledge, passion, and experience. I've been a mentor a few times – to an employee, a student, a young SV professional, and a homeless person. Each one of these relationships brought me unique challenges and joys. 

What I've always enjoyed most about being a mentor is working with people I would not usually come into contact with. I enjoy hearing about their challenges, sharing my own experiences and helping them to problem-solve. Each time, it's given me a chance to reflect on my own path while providing a helping hand for someone to forge their own.  

6. Share knowledge for a zero carbon future

Our world faces a host of unimaginably difficult challenges. Working with clients and collaborating across the industry, our organization is uniquely positioned to help shape a positive future. Our employees worldwide have vast collective knowledge about communities, materials, the economy, future opportunities, etc. Sharing this experience and data can help us understand and address the challenges, bringing about swifter change that avoids unintended, negative consequences.

7. Make sure you give communities what they need

This has to be about getting to know communities and our clients. It's also about understanding what delivering SV brings. There are so many benefits from winning work to recruitment and retention, reputation, job satisfaction, and well-being. 

To stay in the game with many clients, SV is a key deliverable. But, many clients are on their own journeys to understanding SV. We can start making a real collaborative difference by working with them to understand what's important to them, the change they can influence, and how to define their own strategy.

I would love to see organizations leading a change in how businesses operate. For example, what if we thought about stakeholders as much as or, dare I say it, more than shareholders? Imagine the positive legacy we could leave to future generations!

8. Get talking to a charity or community group that inspires you.

Here are a few questions to get you going, understanding how your work can benefit the institution and the people it serves:

•What is the organization's purpose, and what are its real needs? 
•Share your skills (including your colleagues, suppliers and clients) and ask, ’how can I/we help’?
•How will the activity help support the beneficiaries or the organizational purpose?
•How long will the impact of the action last?
•What will the money raised or donated mean to them?
•Will the activity save the organization money?
•How can we continue working in the longer term?

Good luck. I hope you enjoy adding value to your world!
Penny is just one of Atkins' many female leaders shaping the future. With gender equality a part of our business strategy, we're proud to be on The Times Top 50 Employers for Women. Read about how we invest in our female employees at all career stages.