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Skilled services

Kim Leahy, HR Director, Corporate Services, Sodexo UK & Ireland explains the importance for services businesses such as FM providers to give people the right skills and attributes to deliver against their clients’ needs now and into the future

Customer service is a core competency required of facilities staff and supervisors as they often act as the referral point for dealing with more complex or technical customer requests, complaints and queries. A specialist in this area gathers and analyses data and customer information that influences change and improvements to the service provided.

Facilities managers are in a vital position within an organisation as the conduit between the senior leadership of an organisation with its objective to ensure the business is a success and their workforce, whose priorities are not only to perform at their best on behalf of their employer but in doing so are directly impacted by the workplace environment.

Many clients, particularly those in the corporate sector are looking for an enhanced end-user ‘experience’, a real focus on great service rather than people simply carrying out the tasks associated with their job function.

In a competitive job market, we want to attract and retain the best employees, so the expectations of millennials and Gen Z employees are a major factor in driving this demand. Structured career pathways, cross segment moves and early talent identification and access to accelerated development opportunities is key with this group.

At Sodexo we believe that our people are the key to success of our business and as such we invest both time and money into ensuring they have the skills required and the opportunity to develop their career with us.

As part of this commitment we have worked together with HIT Training to launch a brand-new development programme to support and develop the next generation of FM leaders.

In the development of the programme Sodexo and Hit Training worked with the IWFM to ensure facilities management principles were integrated into the programme. The programme offers two courses specialising in customer service (practitioner and specialist) with participants of both achieving an IWFM accredited facilities services, level 2 or 3 certification at the end of the programme.

On successfully completing the programme participants will have gained the right skills, capability and attitude to deliver facilities management focused on people and experiences, rather than buildings and services.

They will also have the necessary skills to develop their career with Sodexo with a view to progress to a more senior leadership role within the organisation. This is unique to any other training available and makes this a customer service focused learning experience with a specialism in facilities management.

The new programme, known as Futures, is available to both qualifying existing employees as well as new recruits. Each participant will be directly employed by Sodexo in a permanent role. The programme itself comprises mainly of on-the-job training, with around 20 per cent of the learning completed off-site.

Our corporate services business delivers workplace services to clients in a wide range of industries from pharma to consumer products to professional services. Many clients have multiple sites across the UK and it is essential that our teams collaborate across these sites to ensure the customer experience is second to none. The first cohort of participants includes five employees from one of its largest contracts with a major pharmaceutical company. All five serve a population of some 3,500 of its client’s employees.

Kayleigh Pugh is currently Assistant Customer Services Manager for housekeeping services and has signed up for the new programme. Having started with Sodexo over five years ago as a food services assistant, Kayleigh is keen to continue to develop her career with Sodexo and sees the programme as a great way to help develop her skills and experience so that she can progress to a more senior position. Commenting on the programme Kayleigh said: “I am really looking forward to using this opportunity to continue to develop my career, this new programme will enable me to develop key skills and knowledge which will hopefully help me move into more managerial position.”

Kayleigh’s colleague, Liz Walczack, first joined the company back in 2006, when she TUPE’d across when Sodexo was awarded the contract. At the time she was a floor captain a role she has continued to hold over the years with the exception of a couple of years when she left for a different role and to take time away from work to raise her family. Liz returned in 2013 to her previous role of Floor Captain and has since been promoted to Assistant Customer Service Manager for soft services.

Speaking about the programme Liz said: “Kayleigh and I work closely together and we are looking forward to this new learning journey. With such a large population on site, we as team are vital in ensuring the employee experience is to the highest standard and this new programme will help in our continuous development in achieving this.”

On completion of the programme the graduates will be able to build their career within Sodexo and using the skills acquired from the course will act as a customer service specialist within their team. They will gather and analyse data and customer insight in order to drive innovation and deliver more strategic, employee-focused partnerships.

In short, this new development programme is a really important part of our people strategy. We are committed to supporting and developing the next generation of leaders for our business. To achieve this, we truly believe customer service skills are crucial in the delivery of workplace experience and consumer driven FM.

We acknowledge that to succeed we need to give people the right skills and attributes to deliver against our clients’ needs now and into the future.

Kayleigh and Liz are just two of the first cohort of this new programme and we look forward to welcoming more. It is open for our existing employees as well as new recruits and we are looking forward to seeing them succeed with the programme and for it to kick-start a long and rewarding career with us.

The training and development of our employees is a key commitment for us, which is why, through our Public Service Pledge we have set ourselves a target to engage 850 apprentices every year. We offer apprenticeships at all levels, across a range of skills from chefs and hospitality managers to project management, property maintenance and now customer service.

In the FM industry there is a real need for more trained FM professionals entering the workforce and we are committed to working with bodies to improve skills and highlight the career opportunities for graduates with FM qualifications. We hope programmes such as Futures will help attract new talent as well as allow us to nurture the talent we already have within the organisation.

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