How Laing O’Rourke have used the Impact Evaluation Standard to demonstrate ROI to clients

Social value monitoring and measurement is a requirement for any organisation bidding for contracts within the public sector. But can it be useful outside the bid process too?  

Engineering and construction company Laing O’Rourke think so. Its team have been using the Impact Evaluation Standard to drive successful outcomes within the business that spread far beyond the tender stage. Here’s how they’ve done it.  

When Laing O’Rourke adopted Thrive social value software in 2022 the company also implemented the Impact Evaluation Standard to quantify its social value outputs. This has been game-changing for the business. 

Beyond the obvious commercial benefits of demonstrating effective, quantified social value programmes as part of the work winning process, for Laing O’Rourke the benefits of taking a clearer and more consistent approach to social value measurement include: 

  • Driving credibility with public sector clients by demonstrating real ROI and providing a common language for everyone involved in contract delivery
  • Making more strategic decisions – including, but not limited to, increasing efficiency of resources, project cost control and creating the maximum impact for the community 
  • Driving behavioural change from the ground up, across multiple business functions and driving continuous improvement

In this article we’ll look more closely at how these elements are providing a solid foundation for Laing O’Rourke to use their social value reporting platform, helping to set the business apart from the crowd.   

Demonstrating more credible social value to clients  

As well as demonstrating to clients how they are delivering the baseline of contracted social value – an expectation of any public sector contract now – Laing O’Rourke is able to show the client the extra they are doing on top, demonstrating powerful ROI on any project. 

Laing O'Rourke delivering social value
Students from Edinburgh Napier University visit site

As Alex Mayes, Social Value Business Unit Lead at Laing O’Rourke, explains: 

“To be able to say to a client – by working with us on this project you created an additional 11% social value on your spend – is incredibly valuable to the client and allows them to be bolder and more courageous in their social value aspirations going forward, which ultimately impacts positively on the community, economy and environment.”  

Because the metrics within the Impact Evaluation Standard come from heavily audited, continually up to date and verified sources, Laing O’Rourke can rely on the accuracy and clarity of the impact data they deliver when a project is finished. This is incredibly important.  

 “Using the Impact Evaluation Standard means that our data is always fresh. So, if there is an update from the government or from the Office of National Statistics, we know our measurement tool is also current.”  

This approach provides evidence-based social value ROI for any given project and this is imperative in delivering credible, repeatable work.  

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That credibility is further bolstered by the breadth of data that Laing O’Rourke can access. Not all clients ask for the same evidence – some will want the stats and some are looking for human stories. Using Thrive means whatever the request, the information is easily accessible and clear enough for it to be understood by every stakeholder in the chain.  

“We can give a report to our business development manager, who can talk to the client’s commercial manager, who will then talk to their social value manager,” says Alex. “We might all speak different languages, but, when the information is really easy to get your head around, nothing gets lost in translation.”  

Providing a common language for everyone involved in contract delivery creates a mutual understanding and fosters trust and credibility. It also leads to better decision-making, as impact is better understood. 

Making more strategic decisions 

As well as using the Impact Evaluation Standard to demonstrate a project’s estimated social value to clients, the framework is proving invaluable internally and helping the team to take evidence based, strategic decisions. Gathering data centrally provides insight that can help to guide the types of activities to undertake, optimise planning and obtain feedback. 

This reduces project risk and helps businesses comply with contractual requirements
The Impact Evaluation Standard is different from other social value frameworks in that it can predict real-life outcomes with accuracy. This is because the methodology has been informed by real-life experience in the field from many different sectors. 

Using these more detailed metrics is proving useful when it comes to working out where to concentrate the company’s social value efforts – both for efficiency of resources and cost control on a project and for creating the maximum impact for the beneficiaries.  

For example, Laing O’Rourke has been able to evaluate how best to shape its commitment to reducing barriers to employment.  

“A key theme of our social value strategy is ‘to inspire the next generation’” Alex explains. “We could go into schools and give a few hours of mock interviews or spend time reviewing CVs, or we could deliver more impactful activity such as work placements. The framework gives us the data which challenges current practice and helps us think more creatively about what we can do – it’s no longer just generic ‘school volunteering hours’.”  

Laing O'Rourke deliver social value at CEMC
Laing O’Rourke delivering social value at CEMC

The framework also helps the social value team with detailed planning, giving visibility of key details such as how work placements take place alongside other community investment.  

“Projects are busy workplaces with a range of milestone pressures and I can navigate these more effectively using Thrive,” says Alex. “At a very early stage in the project, I can approach the leadership with a strong social value-led business case, using the metrics to link the activity and resource required to contractual KPIs and wider business commitments.”  

Ultimately, social value is about people. Laing O’Rourke is proud to show leadership in social value; a position its team has reached precisely because their strategy is informed by listening to the people who should be benefiting from the social value they deliver. Having a tool to collate those stories, spot trends and identify needs that might otherwise have been missed is helping the company get the best from its approach.  

Using Thrive to track this progress has been helpful in improving oversight of contractual obligations and identifying potential barriers ahead of time – ultimately making project delivery smoother and more efficient. 

Driving behavioural change  

Showing internal and external stakeholders the potential scope of impact has improved decision making right across the business, bringing more than just the social value team on board; the benefits have been cross functional.  

The data outputs give real detail, visibility and weight to the social value delivery already happening in the business – and clarity around what they might do next. 

“It gives a seriousness to the work that perhaps wasn’t seen before,” says Alex. “It’s really helpful.”   

When the project teams take over, there is already a plan around what has been promised during tender and how that may be delivered. The social value team can use the framework to demonstrate to the business how they will deliver on the promises made, before they start putting “boots on the ground”. 

This is all made possible by Thrive’s estimator tool, which puts a tangible output on something that previously was just paperwork. When staff can see the financial or community impact of upcoming work, all those involved in delivering the project become a lot more engaged.  

Thrive estimates screen
Sample data, illustrative only

“You can tell the project team how much good they’re going to do in the community before they’ve even built anything. You’re able to tell a story before the actual impact has happened.” Alex explains.  

“They start making better decisions on where the money is spent, where the materials are coming from, how to deliver certain aspects of the job and who to employ to get it done. This gives clarity not only to those about to deliver it, but also to HR departments, project directors, onsite managers and finance.  

Using data-centric reporting means projects can track progress over time and the improvements made. Being able to give a clear, comparable figure also helps benchmark projects and drives decision-making around which activities are selected. 

Alex explains: “Staff can look at other projects to see how much social value they have delivered or intend to create. They may try and better it, they may want to improve their own ‘social value score’ from last time, they may want to be seen to be making better, smarter decisions.”  

This benchmarking is crucial for developing best practice, as well as giving weight to the social value work Laing O’Rourke is doing and helping clients and staff buy into the company’s vision. 

“Knowing the impact of actions before you take them is driving the staff to make better decisions and to be more conscious of what they are doing and of the knock-on effect.”  

Finally, the flexibility of Thrive’s reporting also helps Laing O’Rourke fulfil multiple business requirements.  

Generating bespoke reports for clients is a real asset, but that’s not all the platform can be used for. Alex explains:

“Thrive’s flexible and customisable reporting can do everything from highlighting key successes, shining a spotlight on local impact or widening to align with the United Nations Development Goals.”  

Embedding a culture of social value is easier when you have the right digital tools to help you on your way, but when the technology is implemented intelligently and strategically – that’s when the real magic happens. The way Laing O’Rourke has embraced Thrive and the Impact Evaluation Standard and used both to complement and enhance their people-first approach to social value is what really sets the company apart. We’re looking forward to seeing what they do next! 

Read more about social value at Laing O’Rourke or contact Thrive to understand how this approach can aid your business.