Fast Five: How rigour, grit and a ‘culture of innovation’ helps Aurecon thrive

While a countless number of businesses across the world have struggled during 2020, Aurecon is one of the few that have thrived during the global pandemic. Angus Leitch explains why.

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Welcome to another edition of Fast Five - the Victorian Chamber’s fortnightly series where we ask Australia’s top leaders to answer five questions about how they have managed to become captains of their industry. This week the Victorian Chamber presents Angus Leitch, Managing Director of Victoria and South Australia at Aurecon.

Fresh from their victory after being awarded Australia & New Zealand’s Most Innovative Company at the 2020 Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies Awards, Angus shares his insights as to how Aurecon has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and positioned the company as a global leader.

As a leading international professional services company, Aurecon have been at the forefront of innovation and technology for many years. But how has their ingenuity come into play during the nightmare that has been 2020 and beyond?

Managing Director of Victoria and South Australia at Aurecon, Angus Leitch.#1: What do you see as being the main challenges to your industry in the next 12 months?

The engineering, infrastructure and construction industry was already grappling with an extremely intense workload before the pandemic hit our shores. COVID-19 has created different pressures for our industry in addition to exacerbating the issues that already existed.

For example, the chronic skills shortage that existed pre-COVID is not going anywhere and this will be further exacerbated by the Federal and State Government infrastructure stimulus packages designed to boost economies.

At the same time, we’re not complaining – it’s not a bad problem to have in the middle of a recession and we are leveraging this opportunity to reduce some of the challenges traditionally seen in the industry around employee retention, including gender parity.

#2: How has your business managed to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Fortunately, changes that we made three to five years ago in our strategy planning enabled us to have an agile response to COVID-19 with a culture of innovation underpinning our business.

We didn’t know that there would be a global pandemic but we have been planning for a major disruptive event to up-end our industry for some time. This meant we were already on the front foot with identifying pivot opportunities in the market. The digital platforms available, combined with flexible work policies already in place, meant that, to an extent, COVID-19 accelerated underlying changes already in play.

We are also working differently with clients remotely to visualise designs and engage customers and communities in remote consultation sessions. For example, on a notoriously complex multi-criteria assessment of transit corridors, our team has facilitated the entire process digitally; transforming a formerly convoluted exercise involving multiple designs, maps and issues registers to a seamless and engaging process.

#3: What does your business need to achieve greater success?

A business is only as good as their people, so retaining and attracting top staff is always top of mind.

We need to continue the digital transformation journey that we’ve already embarked on, especially given the pandemic is accentuating the push towards a more digitised economy.

The benefits we have gained from COVID-19 means that our way of working will never go back to the way it was. We are embedding key learnings, leveraging and solidifying the innovations, creativity and digital aspects of the past few months permanently into future work.

Conscientious, strategic planning has gotten us to where we are now so it’s important that we continue that forward momentum in planning.

We are currently in the process of renewing our strategic blueprint for the business which is typically updated biennially. We need to keep challenging ourselves to find new ways to further improve and how we work with clients to make them more future ready.

#4: What is your business doing to separate from the pack?

Our development and leveraging of digital tools and technologies is really breaking new ground for us.

For example, we developed a GIS-based design collaboration toolkit named Aurecon Align. Available online and with a full security and authentication system, it provides an intuitive way to explore design options and view 2D CAD data against contextual GIS information. The system allows for a collaborative environment to support decision making and has been an extremely valuable digital asset to support remote working this year.

We are also proud of Aurecon’s recent progress in increasing diversity in leadership teams and the board. This is part of a longer journey for us in terms of changing the dynamic in the organisation to diversify our leadership pool. We’ve had a strong focus in the past on increasing gender and cultural diversity and are now increasing our focus on awareness of diversity from a LGBTQI perspective and the indigenous diversity of our people and leadership.

#5: What achievement are you most proud of?

Alongside the additional capabilities that we’ve been building within our teams across Victoria and South Australia, I am enormously proud of the care and compassion that has been offered between our teams. People’s experience of COVID has been very different for those who work in South Australia compared to Victoria, but I’ve been heartened to see teams pulling together and offering support as and when it’s been needed.

I am also really proud of how Aurecon’s broader leadership team have adapted to the various challenges of the past eight months. It’s not been an easy year for anybody and there have been difficult decisions we’ve had to make in unchartered territory. A great deal of rigour and grit has been shown on a daily basis by people across Aurecon as we have continued to flex and respond to the challenges that 2020 has thrown our way. 

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