Laing O’Rourke hires new head of people for Europe

Laing O’Rourke has appointed Rae Avatar Barnett as head of people for its Europe hub, which includes operations in the UK and the Middle East.

Avatar Barnett joins the construction business from energy firm Centrica, where she has worked since 2009 in the HR delivery, commercial transformation and talent management departments.

As well as being a chief of staff to executive leadership, she has worked in both start-up environments and FTSE 100 organisations, where she has developed and delivered organisational change and culture programmes, reviewed and operated HR infrastructure and built teams.

In her new role, Avatar Barnett will work with established people leadership teams on Laing O’Rourke’s operating model; talent programmes; and inclusion, performance, reward and resourcing strategies.

She is an active speaker on diversity and a mentor with senior-level gender diversity campaign the 30% club and digital sector training body Career Accelerator. Laing O’Rourke said both of these additional roles would support its diversity aspirations, including a sustainability commitment to employ equal numbers of men and women across its 5,500 global staff by 2033.

Avatar Barnett said: “In meeting Laing O’Rourke, I’ve been excited by the genuine commitment to the trades-to-technicians approach to respecting the workforce, delivering sustainably through modern methods of construction, and helping us all thrive at work and home. I’ve been impressed with the leaders I’ve met to date and the genuine and caring approach taken to the people who make it all happen.”

Laing O’Rourke recently reported that it made a £41.4 million pre-tax profit in the year ended 31 March 2021, with revenue increasing to £2.5 billion from £2.45 billion the previous year despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

The business announced last month that Ray O’Rourke, who founded the company 45 years ago with brother Des, would step down as group chief executive in September 2022. Seamus French, the current chief executive of Anglo American’s Bulk Commodities and Other Minerals division, will become managing director of Laing O’Rourke in January 2022 with a plan to become chief executive following delivery of the 2021/22 accounts next year.