How to ensure continual FM staff development and engagement

by FM Media
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DEBBIE ROBBINS from ISS Facility Services provides guidance on starting and growing initiatives to increase employee engagement and allow for personal development across a business.

As facilities management employees carry out the various services offered by the particular company – such as maintenance, cleaning, catering and security – on customers’ premises and are thus located across many buildings and locations, they may rarely have contact with their manager. It’s important to ensure these employees feel valued, feel part of the wider business and understand the role they play in its success. It’s also important to give them opportunities to grow and develop.
Continually developing employees increases their skills so that they can better serve your customers and enhance the facilities management industry as a whole. Benefits range from increasing safety and boosting morale through to lowering turnover and, ultimately, increasing revenue. But, how can this be achieved in such a dispersed business?
At ISS Facility Services we have learned some good lessons from the number of initiatives we have developed to increase employee engagement and allow for personal development across the business.

It’s important to retain great people and offer them further career opportunities, but don’t forget that great cleaners or security officers don’t automatically know how to manage people. It’s a real benefit to the business and to customers to keep and promote good people, but they need to be upskilled and given the relevant support in order to thrive under additional responsibilities.
An example is providing customer service managers and site managers with mentoring and the opportunity to gain a diploma in management. This has proved to assist us with succession planning and has also filled the skills gap that can occur when good people are promoted. Since we started providing mentoring support and additional training for new cleaning managers three years ago, not one of the 22 managers has left the business.

Using existing skills is a cost-effective way of mentoring and provides both the coach and the employee with a sense of purpose and opportunity to develop or pass on skills. For instance, one of the senior managers within our security business has a coaching diploma and is using his skills to coach three state managers and provide practical guidance and support.
Results include a reawakening of purpose and meaning, increased vitality, an alignment of vision and values, and a commitment to authentic purpose and self-expression. Both gain from the experience.

It’s also important to recognise and reward positive behaviour. This provides great examples of leadership behaviours and gives employees a sense of pride. Scheme such as these work well in a dispersed business. Awareness can be raised through posters on site and by managers visiting sites to give out awards.
Though employees may rarely be exposed to the business, being nominated for an award gives a strong sense of belonging to the organisation, and it’s great to give positive feedback and share examples of their success with others.
In our annual H.E.R.O. program our employees are nominated by their manager, customer or themself for an award and prizes, based on them showing the company’s values of honesty, entrepreneurship, responsibility and ‘our quality’. Last year, we had over 250 nominations from all areas of our business.

Facilities managers should also educate their teams on the danger of working in isolation and providing services out of core business hours. The risk of assault appears to be on the increase and we all have a duty to provide a safe workplace and protect our employees from harm. Employees can be provided with workplace violence training, for instance, to raise awareness. This training can include a worksite risk assessment with the on-site employee, their manager and the customer.

Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. Following our rollout of a new green cleaning program in New South Wales, the trainees were so enthused that they encouraged their colleagues to also attend. Someone taking the time to educate them and being seen as an investment created a huge boost in morale.
It is also important to listen to staff and act on their feedback, so that they feel they can make a difference and are empowered to promote the opportunities available. Employee engagement surveys that ask what the company is doing well and what it can improve are a good way to achieve this. The results should be shared across all levels.

Providing a clear process for employees to find and request training is also important. To promote the educational programs and training available within our business, we have published a Team Member Training Guide to highlight the career paths available and the training needed to support the journey. This is part of a wider plan and strategic approach to identify training needs and development requirements across the business. Having a physical book that can be left at each worksite is a great initiative to increase awareness, encourage conversation between employees and managers, and increase participation.

Debbie Robbins is the marketing manager for ISS Facility Services.

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