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Engaging employees has never been more important. Fiona Perrin explores how an application that mirrors those we use as consumers is keeping soft services staff connected.
Carlisle Support Services wants to be ‘the employer of choice’ for everyone who works in the facilities industry according to its MD, Paul Evans – no small ambition. His company launched its Operation Excellence programme 18 months ago in order to help achieve it, aiming to enhance employee experience through leveraging three initiatives: Work IT, Train IT and Engage IT – all underpinned by technology.
But can systems and apps really provide an answer to the last element, the elusive holy grail of engaged employees in services like cleaning, security, event and retail support? Like other providers, Carlisle employees are widely dispersed, need to be contacted at short notice and can be difficult to communicate with. Likewise, when Carlisle needs to communicate with them it can come at an inconvenient time to the employee, interrupting their private life and family time.
The challenge is further complicated when you consider how to keep staff aligned to brand, culture and objectives. Last month, a study by Rewards Gateway of 6,000 employees in the UK, US and Australia listed the top de-motivator as “feeling invisible” to the organisation, with 54% saying their job just “pays the bills”. The consequences of a lack of engagement are significant – it puts 62% in a bad mood, affects mental health in 45% and leads to a reduction in productivity in 46%.
“Engage IT is the model which allows our employees work-life balance so that they can work when they wish to work - and very much supports us in the flexible demand we get from our customers across our portfolio,” explained Paul Evans.
Using Timegate from Innovise, applicants register and then log in to see work opportunities and shifts that allow them to choose when they want to work. A 24-hour helpdesk, with records of all staff training and experience, makes sure that skills are fit for purpose. As soon as they are selected for the shift, ‘work ready’ employees receive a communication back to their phone which gives them all the details required. Similarly, it provides all information on safe working practices and expectations of what is required on arrival. The software also allows precise refinement of communications to individuals and distinct groups of colleagues, making sure that they are always part of the Carlisle community.
Michael Shirt, Carlisle’s FD, said: “It’s all about making sure this is two-way process rather than being an employer or an employee. One of Carlisle’s key values is to encourage all connected to the business to become sector-based experts, and Timegate records their experience, training and so on. The great benefit to our employees is that they have all the information they need at their fingertips, so they are being texted or emailed these opportunities to work and can choose which to take up.”
An app for work
“Individuals are taking popular social and collaboration tools from their personal life and applying them in the workplace,” says Deloitte in its 2018 report Global Human Capital Trends – and 72% of its respondents have seen the benefit. But to drive productivity, Deloitte concludes, “tools need to be seen as a help rather than a hindrance”.
Caroline Cuthbert, HR director at Ward Security, another Timegate user, agreed: “The most important feedback we need to have with people on our Timegate app is that it’s easy to use, they understand it and they can gain their information quickly. It’s as simple as that.
The value is the fact that our employees are empowered to have the ability to own their own information rather than being dependent on somebody in another department.”
Kevin Ward, MD, said: “Our performance is all down to the men and women who work for us. We don’t have the benefit of all our staff in one place and so they feel part of the business and that they are listened to.”
“It completely makes sense – we have an app for every area of our lives so why not have an app for work?” asked Nikil Kamboj, Ward’s business services director. “It’s a medium for us to learn what drives employee engagement.”
Customised to business need
Innovise helps process more than 1m business-critical transactions a day, working with 42 of the top 50 UK FM companies as well others across the globe. Its software builds up through ‘packs’ to meet the specific needs of individual customers and is highly customisable.
“The software becomes part of a brand and culture which encapsulates the whole workforce,” said Graeme Hughes, MD. The Engagement Pack intelligently automates processes and rips out wasted time and motion. “An employee no longer has to wait for face to face contact with their manager to have holiday requests approved or to query a payroll issue – all this can be done via the system, saving time for the back office,” he explained. “Access to increased and highly relevant information when it's wanted or needed, as well as rapid self-service where it matters, translates in to happier employees, better employee retention, reduced effort hiring, on-boarding and training. All of this will lead to improved service delivery. This is the new normal according to our customers. Any organisation not adopting these tools for their employees is likely to lose the battle for attracting and retaining their talent.
“Engagement Pack is for services providers who traditionally find it challenging to engage employees and drive strategic messaging, share ideas or otherwise enable their teams to feel part of the business they work for.”
David Marchio, national accounts director at another Innovise customer, Brooknight Security, said it’s the adaptability of the solution which has helped his company as it has grown rapidly. “What is good about Timegate is that it’s not an off-the-shelf product - we have been able to take the basic principle and add to it. You’ve actually got something you can work with on an ongoing basis.”
Automate for liberation
“The fact is that most HR processes are still very manual and document-driven, and HR specialists waste too much time on administrative paperwork. By automating these processes, streamlining operations, optimising workflows and cutting out waste, your HR employees can spend more time focusing on what they’re passionate about: people,” said Forbes Technology Council member Ashish Deshpande.
He agrees that closing communication gap is key: “Working with HR is often perceived as slow and time-consuming. Automation helps bridge the communication gap between HR, employees and departments. Important information reaches the appropriate party in a timely manner, and each person involved can be notified of real-time progress.”
Tailored to the individual
At Total Security Services, the Engagement Pack helped to ensure that a new employee portal delivered a level of information tailored to their needs. They keep connected to the business by reading news, documents and announcements on their mobile device, tablet or laptop wherever they are.
“It’s helped us improve customer service and employee productivity, increase back-office efficiency and improve employee engagement,” said Raj Chadha, Total’s IT director.
“We spend a lot of time learning from the leaders in connectivity – Facebook and Google for example, and then we distil it down to ask ‘what does this mean for FM?’” said Hughes.
Prioritising user experience to make it as close to the applications we use outside work is key, according to Forbes’ Ashish Despande. “Your employees are also consumers who are used to slick apps on mobile devices. However, you choose to automate your HR processes, make sure the end result looks good. Otherwise, no one will use it. Make sure your solution works on mobile, provides 24/7 access and loads fast.”
Applied to geographically dispersed workforces in soft services, the benefits both hard and soft, can be dramatic. Back office costs reduce, customer responsiveness is enhanced thanks to increased employee productivity, and employees are engaged as they use their work app to stay aligned with their employer’s brand, vision and culture.
It makes for happy employees – and who wouldn’t want that?
28th May 2020
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