A people-centric vision

11th of January 2024
A people-centric vision
A people-centric vision

Richard Sykes, SVP and president of ABM UK and Ireland, tells us how the facilities services business has become a truly people-centric business. Any growth plans must embrace this position, continuing to cultivate a workplace that strives to support and nurture team members, both professionally and personally.

AT ABM OUR PURPOSE is clear – to create places that are a pleasure to occupy, making a difference to those who use those spaces each day. With around 100,000 employees and over 350 offices in the UK, Ireland and the US we are a big business, with over $7 billion in revenue. Founded in 1909, the ABM brand is well known and well understood in the US but not so much in the UK and the rest of Europe, which is why we need to move the brand along.

Having joined ABM to lead and grow the UK and Ireland business earlier this year, it was clear from my first meeting with the US team that this is a people-centric business. Any growth plans must embrace this position, continuing to cultivate a workplace which relentlessly strives to support and nurture team members, both professionally and personally. Not only is this good business; but it is the right thing to do.

ABM has demonstrated this focus in a number of ways; always recognising this is a journey – something that needs continual focus and improvement.

Mental health first aiders: a shoulder to lean on

In the fast-paced, high-pressure world of facility solutions, the mental wellbeing of our team members and those we come into contact with daily is paramount. As such, one of our significant initiatives is our Mental Health First Aider programme. We have trained over 100 Mental Health First Aiders throughout the UK so far with ambitions for many more. These are dedicated individuals, who are trained not only to lend a sympathetic ear to their colleagues but also to identify when someone may need support but is hesitant to ask for it.

Talent development: changing perceptions

The facilities management industry has an image problem. Technical careers are sometimes perceived to be about ‘oily rags and no prospects’ while  apprenticeships are often seen as a last resort by young people and their parents. Likewise, the words ‘career’ and ‘cleaning’ are rarely used together, with cleaning jobs often seen as an employment stop gap.

We have begun to address this in a number of ways. Upskilling is a priority and we actively encourage our people to use our ABM University as a way to develop their career within the
business and in the sector as a whole from every level. There should be no limits to this progression.

We are also actively working to change perceptions outside of the sector through our Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P.). This grass roots initiative is conducted in schools to
showcase the opportunities available through apprenticeships and in the FM industry. ABM team members from apprentices to directors volunteer to mentor young people.

While the focus has been on technical skills, we are now introducing more around the other areas of our business; purposely promoting opportunities for progression both within service verticals as well as what movement across different areas of FM looks like. It’s our responsibility to raise the profile of the facilities management industry among young people and their parents while creating a pipeline of future talent. The J.E.E.P programme is our investment in the future of our industry and the people within it.

Inclusion: fostering diversity

Our inclusion agenda is extensive and ongoing. We believe in creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and included. Small but impactful projects like hidden disability training for all ABM teams, or voice translation devices for hearing-impaired team members, and support for British Sign Language initiatives across client sites are part of our commitment to inclusion.

To ensure everyone contributes to the development of our inclusive culture, we have formed impact groups that represent underrepresented segments of our workforce and society. Our Women’s Impact Group for instance, aims to promote a culture where all people are valued, empowered and given opportunities to contribute to drive business objectives and goals. The enterprise-wide group, with 20 people already in the UK chapter, is focused on advancing the understanding of what an equitable and inclusive work environment for women should look like.

The Rainbow Group, on the other hand, provides a safe space for members of the LGBTQI+ community and their allies. We are proud that this group has recently supported two transgender team members on their journey to come out at work and happily continue successful careers at ABM. We have given tickets to ABM teams to attend London Pride over the last two years, giving the Rainbow Group an opportunity to engage with more team members, share knowledge and listen to concerns.

We have also achieved Silver Employer Recognition Scheme status as part of our commitment to the Ministry of Defence Armed Forces Covenant in the UK. We actively recruit veterans and reservists and provide ongoing support for service personnel working at ABM. For example, we give paid leave to all reservists on the team, allowing them to continue to serve whilst working for ABM in the UK.

An internal Armed Forces Working Group ensures the challenges and opinions of service personnel working at ABM are heard regularly and action is taken to continually provide support.

Technology for efficiency and engagement

Embracing technology is crucial in making the working day more efficient and pleasurable for our teams. Robotics is one  example - since June 2020 we have been using several robotic floor scrubber machines across our portfolio of retail and aviation clients, allowing our teams to concentrate on more complex tasks, improving health and safety and adhering to building regulations. The robotic solution has replaced the monotonous backwards and forwards that had become part of floor cleaning tasks for personnel, improving their job satisfaction and engagement.

We have also created bespoke solutions for workflow management, particularly in our airport operations. Now with 4,000 users, our workforce management tool has revolutionised the way our team members track their attendance and manage their schedules. The app-based alternative has eliminated the need for manual clock-ins and -outs, improving employee satisfaction and performance.

ABM Awards: recognising excellence

The ABM Awards have become an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions of our team members. In 2023 we are taking this tradition to the next level with five regional awards events, each attended by myself and senior leaders. Leading up to a large celebration ceremony in London for regional winners, these events recognise outstanding individuals and teams across our business.

The awards categories include Team of the Year, Apprentice of the Year, and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) awards, among others. It’s essential for me to attend these events, communicate our vision and connect with the people who make our business thrive. These awards are not just about recognising excellence - they are a testament of our commitment to a people-centric vision.

While the examples here are the tip of the iceberg of our developing people-centric culture, I believe an engaged team is critical to delivering our growth plans, which are ambitious. Our priorities moving forward are to keep the team engaged and for them to demonstrate our unique selling points and outstanding service levels as a result.

My overarching ambition is to establish ABM as one of the key players in the facilities management industry in the UK and Ireland, as well as a fantastic place to work. With our people-centric vision,
we are well on our way to achieving our goals and making a meaningful impact in the industry.

www.abm.com

 

Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited