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No train no gain

The facilities management sector represents a diverse range of talents, from those on the career management path to front line operatives, many of whom don’t have English as a first language. Kelly Howell, HR Director for Atalian Servest describes how the firm aims to upskill all of its staff

Developing and growing talent is a subject that is very close to Atalian Servest’s heart. As a company that has grown from its humble beginnings in rural Suffolk to becoming part of a global firm that employs more than 27,000 employees in the UK and over 125,000 around the world, we believe in spending time talking about talent management; debating how we can find, nurture and retain the individuals that will drive the business forward now and in the future. For us, it is not about ticking boxes or ‘processes for processes sake’; it is about identifying the people who will make a positive difference to the entire business – and you can only do that by looking at who is out there and having conversations with those who are already working for your company.

Businesses have a responsibility to offer people a progression path. You should, therefore, seek to promote from within whenever possible. What’s more, if you want to attract and retain talent, you need to give your employees something to be enthusiastic about – especially colleagues who are keen to progress and develop their skills base. By focusing on internal learning and development, you will equip your staff with the tools that help them fulfil their full potential. If you only ever recruit from within, however, you will inadvertently hamstring your organisation in the war for talent. People that come from outside an organisation often bring with them different ideas or insights that may prove valuable.

Managerial success is often quantified by the quality of the people coming up from underneath the managers in question. The managers at Atalian Servest, and the supervisors across the divisions, actively question how they can give their staff more access to development. A lot of people at the top of our organisation have grown up through the business – both our CEO and COO for the UK, for example, were promoted internally after being part of our Leadership Development Programme. Nurturing internal talent has become embedded into our culture.

In short, these individuals make a difference to the business and we have seen a real return. This can only be because we have invested in and supported them along their journey. As such, they are passionate about giving back to the business.

Apprenticeships are incredibly important to us. Our levy pot is around £1.5million a year. The impact this has had on our business is indisputable; it has meant we have been able to develop and grow talent and offer our people clear lines of progression. We currently have over 500 colleagues studying for apprenticeships – and this doesn’t just mean school leavers.

Applicants to our Hidden Talent programme can be any age and with almost any background and any career ambition. When someone joins the programme they are given first class training and guidance throughout, while gaining real world experience in their chosen field. We believe it is a great opportunity for those coming out of education and looking to get their foot in the door of our industry. But it is also designed for those looking for a change in career. With Hidden Talent it is possible to study while working all the way up to a fully funded MBA. There are over 60 apprenticeships available at Atalian Servest, with qualifications in leadership and business administration to FM and hospitality.

We also offer functional skills training which is English and Maths training. We often TUPE over staff who do not have English as a first language or, in some cases, do not speak English at all and giving them the opportunity to improve these skills benefits us, our clients and of course the individuals.

There has been a lot of talk around upskilling in the sector – with technology promising to transform the FM profession. This comes down to making sure staff are multiskilled and hold many attributes under their belts, but it can also be specific to what service line you are offering. Security licenses, for instance, are changing and now include cyber security. Having a UK security arm that turns over £52 million, this is something we have needed to adapt to and make sure we implement throughout the division.

We have been working closely with our Chief Digital Officer, Lewis Richards, to find Digital Champions and kick start our own programme for how we roll out digital upskilling. We have pinpointed people from all corners of the business who are enthusiastic about technology as well as those who have digital transformation as part of their roles.

When your offering is built around people, it is crucial that you support individuals in all stages of their career development. This ensures that you have the skills necessary to run the business as and when workforce dynamics change. At every level of an organisation, you need to have people ready to step into other people’s shoes but also people who can adapt and learn quickly or who bring specific skills from elsewhere. Do nothing and your business will come to a grinding halt.

About Sarah OBeirne

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