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Social Value

FM: it’s all about give and take

The government’s 2013 Social Value Act presents a huge opportunity for the FM sector, which is well placed to deliver a variety of initiatives that can, in turn, honour the guidelines contained within the Act and give back to the community. Business leaders can use the concept of “Social Value” as a catalyst when implementing initiatives concerning employee engagement, local employment, community betterment and sustainability. Robin Hay, co-founder of Bennett Hay explains more.

American poet, Maya Angelou, once said: “If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” I can’t think of a better way to capture the essence of FM. It is, after all, an industry that places people at the heart of everything. In the pursuit of establishing, nurturing and developing lasting relationships, it really is all about ‘give and take’. However, this philosophy can also be applied to the wider business arena, particularly in terms of how an organisation can add social value to its immediate community.

Reduced to its most basic level, the concept of “social value” is a way of thinking about how resources are effectively sourced, allocated and used. This involves looking beyond the pound signs. The Social Value Act (2013) requires all organisations that commission public services to think about how they can also deliver wider social, economic and environmental benefits. It encourages businesses to consider (before they start the procurement process) whether the services they are going to outsource, or the way they are going to procure, could improve prospects for their local area and stakeholders. Aimed at improving procurement effectiveness in all facets of the business arena, the Act indirectly helps commissioners to design and implement better services. The Social Value guidelines, therefore, carry the potential to inspire innovative solutions that can respond to a whole host of economic challenges.

What is “social value”?
Organisations, regardless of the sector, need to consider what the collective benefit is to the community they serve. Businesses would do well to take heed and apply the ideas promulgated in the Act to their own operations. However, rather than just relying on the Act’s definition of social value, business leaders should dig deeper into the multitude of other possible meanings behind the term and apply them accordingly. ‘Social’ refers to a community, and ‘value’ suggests the importance, worth or usefulness of something. Bearing this in mind, we must ask how we can make people – both within our organisations and those on the periphery – feel valued. The concept of social value sits higher than simply sourcing, sustainability and CSR; all of which are already embraced by FM services providers of all size and stature.

The FM sector is already adding value into the social realm, although this positive influence isn’t always recognised or celebrated. For instance, as an industry, there is a real focus on people. Companies nationwide have implemented various learning and development programmes. This has positive repercussions in terms of finding, nurturing and retaining talent, succession planning and future-proofing the industry in its entirety. Providing broad learning opportunities for those not already directly working in the FM can also help to shape the wider opinion of the industry and improve the services on offer. In addition, FM can actively be seen as leading the way when it comes to engaging individuals across the board.

Creating communities
According to Leesman, the global standard for measuring workplace effectiveness, only 58 per cent of 155,000 employees worldwide state that the design of their workplace contributes to a sense of community at work. That means that out of every five people, two don’t experience a sense of belonging. This isn’t good enough. If people don’t feel part of a bigger team, then there will not be the social cohesion necessary to push the business forward. Great ideas only come from great collaboration after all.

The original premise behind Bennett Hay was to start a business where individuals at all levels would feel part of the company. We have a clear wellbeing vision for our guests and our people, for the simple reason that happy people are much more engaged within their roles. In fact, it is a fundamental human need to be supported in the pursuit of unleashing one’s potential. Creating communities at work can facilitate that ambition and drive.

So how can you foster a collaborative culture? Well, we’ve found that bringing people together works wonders. Every quarter we host an ideas forum, bringing together our teams to develop our services and bring innovation across our business. We have found that people are more engaged when they are involved in driving the business forward. Essentially, organisations should get their people talking and actively invite comments from colleagues to contribute to the wider business conversation. If people feel part of a community – if they feel valued – they will, in turn, give more back.

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