HBF Future Talent Conference 2024

07 March - 08 March, 2024

FTC set

HBF Future Talent Conference explores diversity, innovation and success

It is innovation that will drive diversity in housebuilding, according to Oliver Novakovic, Barratt’s technical and innovation director.

Speaking at the Home Builders Federation’s Future Talent Conference today (March 8), Novakovic said that with technological developments such as modern methods of construction (MMC), a range of people would be able to enter housebuilding, with MMC needing a “touch of a button”, not the use of heavy tools.

“Innovation will drive diversity,” Novakovic stated. He also talked of his enjoyment of innovating in low carbon homes delivery which, he said, Barratt had been leading on as a national developer.

“What I enjoy about innovation is proving people wrong,” he said, taking the audience of young graduates and trainees through Barratt’s journey so far on working towards net zero. “Everyone will tell you why [your approach] won’t work. But the ones who resist are your biggest champions if you can turn them.”

Returning to the diversity point, Novakovic stated that the challenge of innovating to meet net zero and halting climate change was a chance for everyone. “There are no rules. Everyone needs to be educated.”

Looking at how construction is faring with diversity, Cathryn Greville, head of fairness, inclusion & respect (FIR) programme at the Supply Chain Sustainability School, said that SME firms appeared to be driving “some of the changes” in improving diversity and inclusion, with an increased number of smaller firms reporting into the organisation’s survey.

This, it seemed, had influenced the slight rise in female representation within the industry at 29.1% - the previous year, this had been at 23%. But this was still a marked underrepresentation, she noted.

FIR was relevant to FTC delegates, Greville explained, as “it’s about everyone from leadership down, bottom up and about the cultures and behaviour you engage in”.

As much as sustainability was about the environment, it also concerned people, Greville reminded delegates- “people and planet. You can’t have one without the other.”

And, referencing data related to sustainable building, Greville said that according to Project Drawdown research, educating women and girls globally would reduce more carbon than solar farms and rooftop solar.

Also speaking at the conference, property influencer Charlotte Edwards told her extraordinary story of accidentally becoming a developer after the deaths of her father and brother who ran a housebuilding business.

Among the challenges of taking on the running of a property developer when I “had never set foot on a site”, was dealing with assumptions as a woman in construction, she said.

“I’ve had people say: ‘I’m looking for the man in charge.’ “I’ve had people who didn’t realise I was the boss chat me up.”

She also pointed out that housebuilding tools were unsuitable for women.

The culture for women in the industry was changing, but slowly, Edwards stated. She said she had found herself having to make her own adjustments to fit in with the culture on site at the firm she had taken over.

But she later said: “I still don’t fit in but I see that as a benefit as I get remembered.”

Edwards advised the young delegates that to develop their careers, social media was a key tool as she had discovered. “You should have your own personal, social media account that comes with you. Show your face behind your professional role.”

The conference also included a speech from Housebuilder Media’s publishing director Ben Roskrow on the importance of keeping abreast of the rapidly changing issues, policies and regulation facing the new homes industry.

And on March 7, delegates heard from keynote speaker Paul Harrison, Former Downing Street Press Secretary. Delegates also rotated through four workshops on reputation management, biodiversity net gain implementation, the impact of sustainability and a HBF group project.


Reputation Management: The role of communications and strength of social media - Rianna Fry, HBF Download Presentation
Biodiversity Net Gain Implementation - Rachel Danemann, HBF Download Presentation
The Impact of Sustainability - Sophie Coyle, Supply Chain Sustainability School Download Presentation
Team Presentation Project - Tracey Hill, HBF Download Presentation
Cathryn Greville - Supply Chain Sustainability School Download Presentation
Charlotte Edwards - @accidentaldemaledeveloper Download Presentation

Paul Harrison
Senior Counsel, Lexington
Paul previously served as Downing Street Press Secretary and will be drawing on his experience to give an overview of where housebuilding sits, now and in the future, in the wider political landscape.

Cathryn Greville
Fairness, Inclusion & Respect in the Housing Sector

Cathryn will explore equity, diversity and inclusion across the sector, the cultural and behavioural changes required to make it one of first choice and success for people from all backgrounds, and the importance of fairness, inclusion and respect within the broader sustainability agenda.

Charlotte Edwards
Charlotte Edwards will draw on personal experience, how she rebuilt a family development business with no knowledge or experience, delivering the most profitable years since the business began 30 years ago. In her session Charlotte will share her career journey with our delegates to inspire and encourage them.

Oliver Novakovic
Oliver will run through the key challenges in delivering zero carbon.

Ben Roskrow
Ben Roskrow, publishing director of Housebuilder Media, will discuss the importance of keeping abreast of the fast-changing issues, policies and regulations facing the new homes industry. How do delegates source their industry information? How do they keep in touch and what media do they use ? Is there still a place for hard copy publications and physical events? Or is the digital world the exclusive realm of modern information provision?


*Four interactive workshops rotating simultaneously during the 1st day, include:

1) Reputation management: the role of communications and strength of social media- Rianna Fry, HBF
From attracting talent to improving customer satisfaction, establishing a positive reputation is a hugely valuable asset to individuals, businesses and industry. This session will encourage attendees to consider the role of reputation in the home building industry, the importance of managing it, role of communication and impact of social media.

The aim of the session is to increase attendees’ awareness of the role we all play in shaping industry’s image, opportunities to strengthen it and risks to avoid.

2) Biodiversity Net Gain Implementation - Rachel Danemann, HBF
The workshop explores how mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain will work in practice. Considering key issues from site selection to scheme design, providing and managing BNG on site and buying units from the emerging BNG markets, participants will gain an understanding of this emerging and increasingly important aspect of new development.

3) The Impact of Sustainability - Sophie Coyle, Supply Chain Sustainability School
An introduction to the core sustainability issues, the impact that these will have for homebuilders over the next 5 years, and more long term, and a chance to consider the drivers for the homes sector to incorporate solutions for these into their business objectives. Through a short workshop participants will explore the relative importance of specific sustainability topics to their organisation and customers.

4) HBF Group Project  - Tracy Hill, HBF
The HBF Group Project workshop is an interactive group task that will require delegate insight and skills to identify and develop solutions to one of the challenges that face the industry of the future. In small groups, delegates will be asked to prepare and deliver a short presentation to a team of judges who will select finalist to showcase it to the wider conference on the last day.


Neil Jefferson - HBF
Neil Jefferson
Cathryn Greville
Cathryn Greville
Head of Fairness, Inclusion & Respect (FIR) Programme, Supply Chain Sustainability School
FRY -Rianna
Rianna Fry
Digital Communications Director, HBF
Charlotte Edwards
Charlotte Edwards
Harrison Paul
Paul Harrison
Director of Public Affairs and Senior Counsel, Lexington
Novakovic - Oliver
Oliver Novakovic
Technical & Innovation Director, Barratt
Rachel Danemann
Rachel Danemann
Regional Planning Manager - Local Plans (Midlands and South West), Home Builders Federation
sophie coyle new
Sophie Coyle
Partner Relations and Sector Manager (Homes), Supply Chain Sustainability School
Tracey Hill - HBF
Tracey Hill
Project and Contract Manager, Home Builders Federation
Ben Roskrow
Ben Roskrow
Ben is the publishing director at Housebuilder Media and editor of Housebuilder magazine


Wyboston Lakes Resort
Great North Road